The ‘Shakespeare in Love’ star took on the role of the late superstar for a proposed episode of ‘Urban Myths’, telling the infamous tale - never confirmed - of how Jackson was reported to have shared a car with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando and hot-footed it out on a road trip of Manhattan, following the 9/11 tragedy.
One glimpse at Joseph in his Michael Jackson garb in a production still was enough to send critics into orbit with outrage, cemented by Jackson’s own daughter complaining “It makes me want to vomit.”
The episode, which co-starred Stockard Channing as Taylor and Brian Cox as Brando, was pulled without being aired, but Joseph Fiennes has spoken out in defence of his decision to participate.
“Well, it’s a satire, so we have to look at it through that lens,” he said in an interview with Vulture. “The depiction of the three characters is very satirical, comic, lighthearted, to examine the disconnect of iconic celebrity.”
“But it’s good that people stand up for [what they believe], and I’m all for that. I’m all for that discussion, and it means a lot to me and my fellow actors to talk about casting, getting it right, getting it wrong, and then if there’s a mistake, to examine that mistake and talk about it. Maybe the controversy is good if it brings about discussion.”
Joseph also pointed to other portrayals of Michael Jackson in the years since his death, including that by Amy Poehler on ‘Saturday Night Live’:
“It’s no less offensive than anything on SNL. That’s the level of offence.”
And he remained philosophical about the problems it had caused him - “In life, you can’t avoid getting into hot water. It’s all lessons and learning.”