EXCLUSIVE: Bohemian Rhapsody producer Graham King has secured from the Michael Jackson estate the rights to make a film of the complicated pop icon’s life with access to all of his music, sources say. King’s GK Films has retained three-time Oscar-nominated writer John Logan to pen the script. It is not set up at a studio at this point.
I’m told that the film isn’t intended to be a sanitized rendering of Jackson’s life. King and Logan worked together on the Martin Scorsese-directed The Aviator, another complex look at the life of a genius. In that film, Howard Hughes was in a race to innovate before his mental illness and germaphobic obsessions overtook him.
In this case, the complexity of Jackson’s life is well known and will not be ignored in a film that will span his entire life, which ended with his tragic death in June 2009 at age 50. He became a star as a child and a global icon as an adult, but his childhood was not an easy one, and in adulthood he had to defend himself and paid out settlements over allegations of sexual abuse of child companions who routinely stayed at his house for sleepovers.
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This most recently cropped up in the Emmy-winning HBO documentary Leaving Neverland which is now involved in a $100 million lawsuit with the Jackson estate. Despite the controversies, there is demonstrable evidence that there is a strong appetite for Jackson’s story and music, with a Broadway musical also currently in the works.
Deadline hears Logan, Oscar-nominated for writing Aviator, Scorsese’s Hugo and Ridley Scott’s Best Picture winner Gladiator, and King will shape the script before setting it at a studio. The pair’s other collaborations include Hugo and the animated Rango.
King is coming off last year’s blockbuster Bohemian Rhapsody, which found a way to deal with Freddie Mercury’s complex life and sexuality in a satisfying way. Fueled by the stadium-rock standards of Queen, it grossed $903.7 million and won star Rami Malek the Oscar for playing Mercury. The pic scored six Oscar noms total including Best Picture.
King and his GK Films recently made a deal with Paramount for a film on the Bee Gees, with King producing alongside Sister and Amblin after finally making a deal with the Gibb estate and Barry Gibb, the sole remaining member of that iconic band. Bohemian Rhapsody scribe Anthony McCarten is penning that script.
Logan most recently wrote the Broadway show Moulin Rouge The Musical. He is repped by attorney James J. Bagley.