The director of the film Leaving Neverland, which details heartbreaking painstaking allegations of sexual abuse against Michael Jackson, has hit back at the Jackson family criticism of his movie.
“They have a very precious asset to protect,” the film’s director Dan Reed tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview. “Every time a song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching.’ It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve come out fighting in defense of their asset.”
The film, which previewed at Sundance to a standing ovation last week and was described by The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon as, “disturbing but essential” was labelled “a tabloid character assassination” by the Jackson estate, which also branded the two accusers whose testimony is featured at length in the movie, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, as “opportunists.”
Reed also hit back at claims by the Jackson estate that the movie wasn’t a genuine documentary, saying: “It is a four-hour documentary by an experienced documentarian with a long track record in investigation and telling complex stories and this is a complex story. So I’d say it’s beyond doubt a documentary. Anyone with any knowledge of that form would recognize a documentary. A four-hour piece, is that a tabloid?”
Reed said he deliberately “didn’t characterize Jackson at all in the film” saying it was about “about these two families and Jackson is an element of that story. But I don't seek to characterize him at all. I don’t comment on Jackson. It’s not a film about Michael... The film itself is an account of sexual abuse, how sexual abuse happens and then how the consequences play out later in life.”
Robson, 36, claims he was molested by Jackson from the ages of 7 to 14. Safechuck, who appeared as a child alongside Jackson in a Pepsi ad, says he was sexually abused by the singer beginning at the age of 10.
The Jackson family called the movie a “public lynching” and said, “The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact.”
HBO is planning a March premiere for Leaving Neverland, possibly splitting the four hour epic over two nights.
Reed also told THR: “Over a week I had about a thousand emails from China and then they stopped about as suddenly as they’d begun, saying vile things to me, making threats. I know that there’s a level of organization. Some of the email writing is cut and paste because we found a webpage that explains to people what to do.”
Reed stressed that the two men “were not paid in any way, directly, indirectly.”