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Michael Jackson Accusers’ Lawyer Calls Upcoming Biopic ‘Propaganda’

Dave Hogan/Getty Images
Dave Hogan/Getty Images

The plaintiffs going up against Michael Jackson’s estate want their trial before the upcoming biopic on the megastar comes out, but their attorney tells The Daily Beast they’re confident “the truth will prevail” either way.

Attorney John C. Carpenter represents accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck in the case against Jackson’s companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures, which are now owned by his estate, for allegedly enabling their abuse at the hands of the pop superstar from the ages of 7 and 10 years old, respectively. Robson and Safechuck were the subject of the documentary Leaving Neverland, in which they describe, in grueling detail, being groomed and assaulted by Jackson over the course of several years.

Carpenter told The Beast over Zoom that Michael, the upcoming biopic about Jackson that is expected to be released by Lionsgate in the spring of 2025, will be nothing more than “propaganda.”

Even though Carpenter’s clients would prefer to have the trial before the biopic is released and the legal team has taken the steps to request it, Carpenter admits the chances of that happening are “poor—unless the estate changes their tune.”

“We have another status conference in early June where we’ll be discussing that, so we’re going to make another request,” he says.

Even so, he feels their case will hold up, adding, “It complicates jury selection, but it’s not insurmountable at all.”

“We just want to get the truth out there as soon as possible,” Carpenter continues, “and the sooner we get the truth out, then we don’t have to worry about the propaganda.”

“Or maybe the movie’s a flop and no one watches it,” he adds.

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Michael producer Graham King told Variety that he aims to “humanize but not sanitize and present the most compelling, unbiased story I can capture in a single feature film and let the audience decide how they feel after watching it.” A Lionsgate spokesperson also added that the estate “put their trust in Graham King, stepping out of the creative process.”

In Leaving Neverland, Robson and Safechuck describe repeated instances in which they were forced to either kiss Jackson or engage in anal or oral sex with him. Other accusations include bending over for Jackson as he masturbated and being rewarded for sexual acts with expensive gifts. HBO is still in arbitration over the film, which the estate says violates a non-disparagement agreement the network signed with Jackson. A follow-up documentary, After Neverland, is in the works nonetheless (though not at HBO), and will follow the men’s journey to bring the case to trial.

Now adults, both men are suing Jackson’s companies for negligence, and were recently granted the right to combine the two cases into one. But one potential threat to the case could be Michael, the only estate-sanctioned biopic produced about the megastar.

Hollywood is already buzzing about the film, which will be helmed by The Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua and star Jafaar Jackson, Jackson’s real-life nephew in the title role, alongside Academy Award-nominee Colman Domingo and Nia Long as Jackson’s parents.

Jimmy Kimmel even made mention of the film when he hosted this year’s Oscars, as he shouted out Domingo from the stage. “He’s playing Michael Jackson’s father in the upcoming biopic Michael,” Kimmel said, “I can’t wait to see this.”

The upcoming film lists representatives of Jackson’s estate, John Branca and John McClain, as producers. The estate previously told Rolling Stone in a 2019 interview that Robson and Safechuck are making false claims against Jackson for money, but Carpenter says it’s the other way around.

“[The estate’s] sole existence to live and exist is to make money,” he says, “And so the movie is just one piece in their efforts to rehabilitate and rewrite the history of Michael Jackson and what he did to James, Wade, and other children.”

Last week, Matthew Belloni at Puck reported that a leaked version of the biopic’s script does indeed paint Jackson as the victim in the sexual abuse accusations, writing that the film “wants very much to convince you Michael is innocent.” Carpenter hasn’t seen this leaked script, but says he’s not at all surprised by that impression. “I'd very much like to see it,” he tells The Beast. He did see Jackson’s Broadway show, MJ: The Musical in order to “experience” how the estate was representing Jackson amongst the allegations.

“The Broadway show just totally skirts [by] and misrepresents the history,” he says. “When they do this movie, I'm sure it’s going to misrepresent history.”

Carpenter alludes to audiences’ love of Jackson’s music as a roadblock to accepting the child abuse allegations against him. “Reconcile the truth of what he did with Michael’s music,” he says. “Some of the music's not that good. A lot of it is not.” He then admits, “Some of it is.”

The primary thing Carpenter wants the public to keep in mind is that victims’ behavior after abuse can be strange and not to hold that against them when they do come forward. “No one’s surprised when a battered woman or loved one doesn’t testify at trial or lies at trial because they don’t want the person they love to go to jail,” he says. “So why are they surprised when adult survivors of pedophilia do that?”

The bottom line: “We just want the truth out—and we don’t want to be called liars as victims of child abuse.”

The Daily Beast has reached out to Michael Jackson’s estate but has not received a response.

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