Joseph Fiennes, a British actor known for playing William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, will portray the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in a drama-comedy about a road trip that took place on Sep. 11, 2001.
The casting comes as the entertainment industry is being criticized for its treatment of non-white actors. The industry faces a serious backlash after the list of this year’s Oscar nominees for acting contained only white people. The same was true last year, as well. Fiennes’ casting was quickly greeted with scathing remarks:
The as-yet untitled movie is being produced by Sky Arts, a British television channel dedicated to cultural shows, documentaries, and independent movies. So far, neither Fiennes nor Sky Arts has not addressed the issue of casting a white man to play a black person. Fiennes has described the film simply as “a fun, light-hearted tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like.”
According to a 2011 Vanity Fair article, Michael Jackson was in New York with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, when terrorists crashed airplanes into the Twin Towers. Wanting to get home as quickly as possible despite all airplanes being grounded, Jackson reportedly hired a car and the three celebrities drove cross-country. They got as far as Ohio.
Vanity Fair explained in the article that Elizabeth Taylor’s assistant denies the actress took part in the road trip, choosing instead to stay in New York and go ”to a church to pray.”