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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

from Facebook: WTF, Joseph Fiennes to play Michael Jackson?!

posted in:
talent buzz
  • Jurgan

    Wait, “9/11 drama?”

    By later in his life, Jackson didn’t really look black, but that’s no excuse. I’m sure someone will make that excuse, though.

  • RogerBW

    Well, yeah, if Michael Jackson had been told “you can have surgery to make you look like Joseph Fiennes” he’d probably have gone for it.

  • Danielm80

    Michael Jackson has been portrayed by a white guy before:


    The actor they brought in to play him was a very talented guy who…oh, wait.

  • Bluejay

    Michael so transcended categories that Epic Rap Battles had both a black guy AND a white guy portray him.


  • Bluejay

    I’m okay with this, since they also cast Beyonce and Laurence Fishburne as Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.


    Oh, wait, no they didn’t. Never mind.

  • Danielm80

    Oh dear. Now someone is going to point out that Laurence Fishburne played the Silver Surfer, and we’ll spiral into a wormhole that never ends.

  • Bluejay

    Never fear. I’ve got my Racebending.com links ready.

  • LaSargenta


  • LaSargenta

    Maybe, but that would be a whole OTHER story.

  • See the comments on this post at FB. I argued this very point with two different guys — white guys, as it happens — this morning.

  • Tonio Kruger

    The most charitable explanation that comes to mind?

    Perhaps Fiennes was meant to be cast as Andrew Jackson and there was some sort of mix-up at the casting office…

  • Ryan Gross

    Isn’t this the same as Cate Blanchett play Bob Dylan? I think she played the time brilliantly despite not being of the male gender. I don’t remember seeing an uproar then. The fact is, Michael Jackson didn’t resemble an African American or even a man at this point in his life. I truly believe he had a lot of issues with his image and quite clearly had lots of surgery to make himself look different. The real issue of racism here lies with Jackson’s perception of himself and the sheer insanity of the people who didn’t help him and actually performed the surgery. I won’t go into the issues of whether he had pigmentation issues, because I really don’t believe it.

    This might sound ignorant and simplistic, but I believe the true issue in Hollywood (and life maybe) is that we still refer to people by what gender/race etc they belong to. If we keep using terminology like ‘ethnic minorities’ when they’re really not minorities, how are we ever going to move beyond the categories we limit ourselves to? If there’s one industry that can transcend these issues, it’s acting. One where the whole point is to pretend we’re someone we’re not. Call me naive, but I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed by those who are being discriminated against as much as those who are doing the discriminating.

  • Danielm80

    A lot of what you wrote is hard for me to decipher, so I’ll just make two comments:

    (1.) Michael Jackson never claimed to be any race other than black.

    (2.) The point of I’m Not There was that Bob Dylan was played by multiple actors–most of whom looked nothing like him, or like each other–to show the many different identities he’s assumed over the course of his career. Each character had a different name, to emphasize that none of them was the one, singular Bob Dylan.

    If Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to make a musical in which Michael Jackson is played by a racebending white woman, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. And if the race-swap in this show makes sense in context–if it’s biting satire, for example–the casting might work. But I’ve seen no evidence that it’s anything other than an error in judgment.

  • Ryan Gross

    I’m not sure what part you found indecipherable, but I never made any claims that Michael Jackson identified himself as a different race. Only that he clearly had body issues. Leading to alleged cosmetic surgery. Like Blanchett’s version of Bob Dylan, Fiennes is playing Michael Jackson at a specific point in his life. During a road trip in 2001. I don’t see why this is any less valid than I’m Not There.

  • Apart from what Daniel said about *I’m Not There* offering different and experimental depictions of aspects of Dylan, there is a much larger issue: There is no shortage of roles for white men. But when a black man (and white women and Hispanic actors and everyone else who isn’t a white man) loses a role playing a black man to a white man, something is seriously fucked up.

    So you want Hollywood transcend all these very important racial issues? But it is not doing that. And to suggest that a good way to start is by having a white man play a black man is absurd.

  • Danielm80

    I like this essay:


    Some say there is a move by people of color to keep whites from writing about us, but this isn’t true. This movement isn’t about white people, it’s about people of color. We want the chance to tell our own stories, to tell them honestly and openly. We don’t want publishers to say, “Well, we already published a book about that,” and then find that it was a book that did not speak the truth about us but rather told someone on the outside’s idea of who we are.

  • bronxbee

    it’s the way i feel whenever a man plays the role of an older imperious or interesting women, i.e. the role of Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Earnest is quite frequently played by a man, the role of the mean schoolteacher in Matilda is currently being played by a man, the entire cast of Nunsense was recast as men, playing nuns, called Nunsense: AH men! i make it a point never to go see such productions. i spent many years as an actress trying to get the character roles like these that didn’t depend on being young, thin or blonde or white. (and was often rejected for roles like Juliet’s Nurse, or Mrs. Quickly, when such roles were given to young, thin, white women). it is just one of those things that really irks me.

  • Danielm80

    When Joss Whedon was looking for an actress to play Willow, the timid computer geek on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he didn’t want a conventional, leggy Hollywood actress. A network executive said, “Can’t you cast a 90210 actress and give her a pair of glasses?”

  • LaSargenta

    So what happened? I went and looked at some photos from Buffy (I’ve never seen it). Willow’s actress looks super conventional.

  • Danielm80

    He cast an actress named Riff Regan in the original, unaired pilot. She looked exactly the opposite of a skinny, leggy 90210 star:


    When the network picked up the series, they suggested a different actress, Alyson Hannigan, who has a much more willowy figure but, at least, doesn’t look like a swimsuit model.

  • Yes, that infuriates me too.

  • Danielm80
  • bronxbee

    i didn’t know about original casting for willow but i loved alyson hannigan’s portrayal of a shy, introverted, insecure in everything but her brain kind of teenager. i don’t like the show Criminal Minds, but at least their computer geek doesn’t look like a model or something out of 90210.

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