Michael Jackson biopic Michael: Release date, cast, soundtrack and more revealed

26 March 2024, 10:22

Michael Jackson’s Thriller to be explored in new documentary

By Mayer Nissim

Michael Jackson is finally getting a major big-screen biopic.

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During his stellar career and especially after his death, it feels as though Michael Jackson has never been away from our screens.

There's been groundbreaking music videos like 'Thriller' and 'Black or White', the quirky Moonraker and Ghosts, concert films, the posthumous non-concert film This Is It, and countless documentaries covering the good, bad and controversial.

But there's yet to be a proper feature film biopic about the King of Pop... until now.

A decade and a half after Michael Jackson died, his life story is coming to the big screen with the full approval of the MJ estate, and the to-the-point title of Michael.

There's been a few delays due to the Hollywood strikes, but the film is very much underway now. Here's everything you need to know.

Who will play Michael Jackson in the MJ biopic Michael?

Jaafar Jackson in 2014
Jaafar Jackson in 2014. Picture: Getty Images

The most important question of the lot, surely. Stepping into the role of Michael Jackson is no easy task, and is the sort of role that could make or immediately destroy an actor's career.

Rather than go to a major or even up-and-coming acting star, the producers of the film have decided to make it a family affair, and hired relative unknown Jaafar Jackson for the job.

Jaafar Jackson as his uncle Michael Jackson in the upcoming biopic
Jaafar Jackson as his uncle Michael Jackson in the upcoming biopic. Picture: Kevin Mazur/Lionsgate

We've gone through his past credits and backstory here, but what you really need to know is that Jaafar is the son of Michael Jackson's brother Jermaine Jackson, who was a key member of The Jackson 5 and The Jacksons.

"I'm humbled and honoured to bring my Uncle Michael’s story to life," he said. "To all the fans all over the world, I’ll see you soon."

As we've already said, the film has the enthusiastic support of Jackson's estate, and that includes regarding Jaafar's casting.

Jaafar Jackson - Got Me Singing

“Jaafar embodies my son," said MJ's mum Katherine. "It's so wonderful to see him carry on the Jackson legacy of entertainers and performers.

Producer Graham King (more on him later), added: "I met Jaafar over two years ago and was blown away by the way he organically personifies the spirit and personality of Michael.

"It was something so powerful that even after conducting a worldwide search, it was clear that he is the only person to take on this role."

While he's not had any significant acting experience before, Jaafar is an accomplished singer who released his own track 'Got Me Singing' in 2019, and also appeared in 2015's The Jacksons: Next Generation and Tito Jackson's 2021 music video 'Love One Another'.

Playing the younger Michael Jackson is nine-year-old Juliano Krue Valdi, a young Instagrammer who has over 150,000 people following him for his Jackson-inspired dancing and outfits.

"This opportunity is really important to me because Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, and he is very special in my heart," Valdi said.

"I’ve been dancing to his songs for five years now. He makes me feel really special and makes me feel good about myself. I love the energy of Michael Jackson."

King added: "When Michael was very young – 11 years old – he astounded the world, possessing the spirit and talent of an adult. He was truly an old soul. He and Juliano have that in common

"Beyond being a phenomenal young talent, Juliano is deeply inspired by Michael and his music, and has managed to translate that inspiration into a presence and performance that captures the true magic of young Michael Jackson.”

Who else is in the cast of Michael Jackson biopic Michael?

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5
Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. Picture: Getty Images

Confirmed as Michael's father Joe Jackson is Euphoria Emmy-winner Colman Domingo, who confirmed his casting not long after he picked up an Academy Awards nod for his lead role in Rustin.

“I’m excited to be a part of a film that explores both the complicated soul of the legendary Michael Jackson as well as his impact on music and culture as a global icon," said Domingo in a statement.

"Not only am I fortunate to have a rich, complex and flawed character to portray in Joe Jackson, but I also have a front row seat for Jaafar’s incredible transformation."

Colman Domingo at a Rustin screening
Colman Domingo at a Rustin screening. Picture: Getty Images

Nia Long will play Michael's mother Katherine Jackson, with Whiplash star Miles Teller as lawyer John Branca.

When it comes to Michael's brothers, as with Michal himself each role will be played by two actors (The Jackson 10?) to cover their younger and older days.

Jermaine Jackson will be played by Jamal R Henderson (old) and Jayden Harville (young); Marlon Jackson by Tre Horton and Jaylen Lynon Hunter; Tito Jackson by Rhyan Hill and Judah Edwards; and Jackie Jackson by Joseph David-Jones and Nathaniel Logan McIntyre.

Kat Graham, who'll play Diana Ross
Kat Graham, who'll play Diana Ross. Picture: Getty Images

And there are plenty of other famous faces who'll be represented in Michael.

Larenz Tate will play Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, while Kat Graham will play the legendary Ms Diana Ross, Variety reports.

Rounding things out are Jessica Sulaas La Toya Jackson, Liv Symone as Gladys Knight; Kevin Shinick as Dick Clark, Kendrick Sampson as Quincy Jones and KeiLyn Durrel Jones as Jackson’s security guard turned closed friend Bill Bray.

Who is directing Michael Jackson biopic Michael?

Director Antoine Fuqua in 2023
Director Antoine Fuqua in 2023. Picture: Getty

While its lead star is a newbie, the key figure behind the camera is very much a known quantity.

The director is Antoine Fuqua, best known for 2001's critically acclaimed thriller Training Day, which earned a Best Actor Oscar for its lead Denzel Washington.

As well as featuring Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn and Eva Mendes, that film also had roles for musicians Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Macy Gray.

The film is being produced by Graham King, who was also the man behind the monumentally successful Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody, with Jackson's estate repped by John Branca and John McClain.

The script should be solid, coming as it does from three-time Oscar nominee John Logan, who wrote The Aviator and co-wrote Gladiator. He was also in the gaggle of screenwriters for Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre.

What is the release date of Michael Jackson biopic Michael?

Michael Jackson in concert in 1986
Michael Jackson in concert in 1986. Picture: Getty Images

Like pretty much every movie going through Hollywood, Michael has had delays as a result of the screenwriter and actors' strikes.

Originally set to shoot in mid-2023, filming was postponed and eventually began shooting in late January 2024.

The release date for the film is April 18, 2025.

It'll be distributed by Lionsgate in the US, and Universal everywhere else.

What is the plot of Michael Jackson biopic Michael?

Michael Jackson at Santa Barbara County Superior Court in 2005
Michael Jackson at Santa Barbara County Superior Court in 2005. Picture: Getty Images

With it being an officially sanctioned film from the producer of Bohemian Rhapsody, it's fair to assume that Michael will tread lightly around the most controversial aspects of his life.

From the casting of the 27-year-old Jaafar Jackson as its lead, we can guess that it'll mainly focus on Michael's life around the same age... so the mid-1980s and his heyday of Thriller and Bad.

With Juliano Krue Valdi – not yet ten – on board, there'll certainly be some coverage of MJ's time in the Jackson 5, too.

The blurb states: "Michael will bring audiences a riveting and honest portrayal of the brilliant yet complicated man who became the King of Pop.

"The film presents his triumphs and tragedies on an epic, cinematic scale — from his human side and personal struggles to his undeniable creative genius, exemplified by his most iconic performances.

"As never before, audiences will experience an inside look into one of the most influential, trailblazing artists the world has ever known."

What Michael Jackson songs will feature in the biopic Michael, and who will be singing them?

Michael Jackson CDs, DVDs and merchandise at HMV
Michael Jackson CDs, DVDs and merchandise at HMV. Picture: Alamy

There hasn't been a soundtrack announcement for Michael yet, but with it having the blessing of the Jackson estate and family, we imagine all his very biggest hits will be present and correct – so we're expecting the likes of 'Billie Jean', 'Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'', 'Thriller', 'Beat It', 'Black or White' and many, many more.

As for who sings them, we know that Jaafar is more than capable of getting his vocal cords around his late uncle's songs, but it's yet to be seen (or heard) if producers would rather have him lip-synching to the real deal.