The telemovie, which focuses on the time the famous trio supposedly drove from New York to Ohio, is under fire for contributing to a “diversity problem” in the acting industry.
In a week where #OscarsSoWhite was trending online in response to no black actors being nominated for an Academy Award, commentators were aghast that British star Joseph was cast to play the late Michael – an African American.
“So Joseph Fiennes (A WHITE DUDE!) is gonna play Michael Jackson. I say Denzel Washington plays Elvis in the next movie just to be fair,” blasted Twitter user @_nicomadden.
Grease star Stockard Channing has been cast to play Liz, while Scottish actor Brian Cox has signed on for the part of Marlon.
The film, which will air on British channel Sky Arts, is based on an unconfirmed rumour that, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York which grounded all planes, the superstar trio decided to drive back to California on their own.
A former Jackson staffer told Vanity Fair that they made it as far as Ohio, with Marlon allegedly stopping along the way at roadside Burger Kings and KFC.
While no one has ever confirmed the trip actually happened, that one throwaway line was the birth of a Hollywood urban legend.
Joseph, the youngest brother of Harry Potter star Ralph Fiennes, says the movie will be a “dramedy”.
“It’s a lovely thing about Michael’s friendships with Liz and Marlon,” says the 45-year-old.” [It’s] a fun, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like.”
The film is in post production and is expected to air later this year.