Graham King, a seasoned hand at biopics with the Oscar-winning Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody under his belt, is producing along with John Branca and John McClain, who are the co-executors of the Michael Jackson estate. John Logan, who penned Gladiator and The Aviator, wrote the script.
“The first films of my career were music videos, and I still feel that combining film and music are a deep part of who I am,” said Fuqua in a statement. “For me, there is no artist with the power, the charisma, and the sheer musical genius of Michael Jackson. I was influenced to make music videos by watching his work — the first Black artist to play in heavy rotation on MTV. His music and those images are part of my worldview, and the chance to tell his story on the screen alongside his music was irresistible.”
Jackson, who won 13 Grammys and rose from child stardom in the Jackson 5 to become the biggest pop star in the world, died in 2009 at age 50.
According to Lionsgate, the film will address all aspects of Jackson’s life, though it is unclear how the film will address the many controversies involving the late music icon, given that the film is made in conjunction with his estate, which has defended him against accusations of sexually abusing children. Those accusations were returned to the public discourse thanks to the 2019 HBO documentary Leaving Neverland.
Lionsgate will handle domestic distribution on Michael and will seek an international partner on the feature. Music biopics have proven lucrative in recent years, with the pre-pandemic Bohemian Rhapsody earning $910 million globally and Baz Lurhmann’s Elvis managing to lure older audiences back to theaters and rake in $287.3 million globally last year. December’s Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody had less luck and has grossed $49.2 million globally.
Fuqua last directed Will Smith’s Emancipation and is filming The Equalizer 3 with Denzel Washington. His long career has also included Training Day, which won Washington an Oscar. He is repped by LBI Entertainment and Johnson Shapiro.
Logan, repped by CAA, has also penned Skyfall, Hugo, The Last Samurai and Sweeney Todd.
King, who is also developing a Bee Gees biopic, previously produced best picture winner The Departed and Sandra Bullock’s Netflix hit The Unforgivable.