HOLLYWOOD—Back on January 25, after weeks of pushback from Michael Jackson’s estate, HBO’s highly anticipated “Leaving Neverland,” premiered at Sundance Film Festival. For television, it was split into two parts which broadcasted on March 3 and March 4 on HBO. The documentary details allegations of child molestation against the late pop icon.
“Leaving Neverland” is produced by British filmmaker Dan Reed. It focuses on two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege they were sexually abused as children by Michael Jackson. Accusers Robson, 36, and Safechuck, 40, allege that Jackson began sexually abusing them at ages 7 and 10. At the time, both boys were diehard fans with entertainment aspirations of their own.
Robson, who went on to choreograph for Britney Spears and ‘N Sync as an adult, met Jackson after winning a dance contest during the singer’s 1987 “Bad” in Australia. Safechuck, a child actor, appeared with Jackson that same year in a Pepsi commercial and says he began to hang out regularly with the star in Los Angeles. Back in 1993, Michael Jackson was accused of sexually molesting 13-year-old Jordan Chandler.
Jackson denied the claims and settled the civil case out of court for a payment of $15 million plus legal fees; the settlement included a non-disclosure agreement. No criminal charges were filed. In 2005, following further allegations, Jackson was acquitted of child sexual abuse. Robson and Safechuck each filed lawsuits against Jackson’s estate in 2013 and 2014, but judges denied both for technical reasons and did not evaluate the merits of the allegations.
In the documentary, which is almost four hours long, Wade Robson, Jimmy Safechuck, and their families describe their relationship with Jackson. Both Robson and Safechuck allege that Jackson sexually abused them at his Neverland Ranch home, in California, and at Jackson’s apartment in Century City. Fans are not happy and Jackson’s estate said that the project “isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact…The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred.”
Michael Jackson is “The King of Pop.” One of the biggest superstars of all time, his legacy has been called into question after the release of this documentary. Unfortunately, he is not here to defend himself so his estate has denied all the allegations, but the claims have cast a huge cloud over his name now. The family says the allegations are about getting money from the singer’s estate.
“He was under a 10-year investigation by the FBI, he had two raids on his home, he was on a very public trial,” agrees Matt Blank, a spokesperson for the Michael Jackson World Network fan club. “All of this brought up no evidence of any abuse. So there’s a part of you that has to say, ‘With all of this scrutiny, why do we suddenly believe [these] two people… that have come forward and gone straight for the money pot?” The singer died in 2009.
The allegations made in the documentary undoubtedly left many feeling uncomfortable and disturbed. People have been left shocked by the level of detail the two men gave about their time with Michael Jackson and the abuse. Whether the singer is innocent or guilty has divided opinion – both among celebrities and viewers. Yet, others have defended him, and still believe in his innocence. His high profile family members – such as his mother, and sister Janet Jackson – haven’t addressed the claims.
His daughter Paris has kept a low profile since the documentary was shown and hasn’t spoken about it directly. She tweeted about having a calm mind. In the meantime, Michael Jackson’s estate is suing HBO, which showed the documentary in the US, for $100m – claiming the film breaches a non-disparagement clause in an old contract. Some radio stations across the world – including in Australia, New Zealand and Canada – have stopped playing Michael Jackson’s music.
A statue of Michael Jackson has been removed from Britain’s National Football Museum. Thriller Live – the musical which centers around Michael Jackson’s music – has refused to comment on whether the documentary is impacting its shows. They are still taking bookings for the show until the end of September.
Rose’s Scoop: Who would have thought that actress Lori Loughlin, of the sitcom “Full House,” would be allegedly involved in a college cheating scam. Her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in court on Tuesday, March 12, as did “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman. They are among the 50 people charged in an alleged criminal enterprise to get their children into top US colleges.