Living with Michael Jackson
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|Living with MJ|
|Directed by||Julie Shaw|
|Presented by||Martin Bashir|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Executive producer(s)||Jeff Anderson (Tonight)|
|Production company(s)||Granada Television|
|Original channel||ITV (UK)
|Original airing||3 February 2003 (UK)
6 February 2003 (US)
Living with Michael Jackson is a television film, in which British journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson over a span of eight months, from May 2002 to January 2003. It was shown first in the United Kingdom on ITV (as a Tonight special) on 3 February 2003 and in the United States three days later on ABC, introduced by Barbara Walters.
Living with Michael Jackson begins at the Neverland Ranch, where Jackson and Bashir tour the estate's grounds and face off in a race car match. Later, he explains that he writes the songs by composing lyrics and not the music, because the music "will write itself." Upon being requested by Bashir, he demonstrates that through dancing, he becomes the physical embodiment of the music. Afterwards Jackson admits that the house's theme of Peter Pan is so inspirational, because he feels he is Pan. They go out to the "Giving Tree," a tree in which Jackson gets inspiration to write his songs. While watching footage of the Jackson 5, he gets emotional upon recalling how his father Joe would watch his sons rehearse the dance steps with a belt in his hand. He states that he felt a deep fear of his father, and that that is why he never laid a hand on his children. Bashir notes that this must have left a deep impact on the young Michael.
After Neverland, Bashir followed him to the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, Jackson spoke about his love life, his changing appearance, and his children. When Bashir inquires if he had any girlfriends when he was young, Jackson recounts a time when one-time girlfriend Tatum O'Neal wanted to make love to him, but he backed down because he was not ready. Bashir and Jackson also visited a shopping center where Jackson reportedly spent over a million dollars in one store on furniture for a new house. The subject of his changing appearance is brought up, but an agitated Jackson denies deliberately bleaching his skin, getting implants in his cheeks, having a cleft put in his chin, having his lips enlarged, or getting his eyelids reconstructed, claiming that the media is ignorant of what they do not understand. Jackson mentions he suffered horrible bouts of acne as a teenager, and his father would repeatedly insult him by making fun of his nose. Afterward, Bashir gets to meet the Jackson children Prince and Paris, who wore masks to conceal their appearance. Jackson then went to Berlin, Germany. This is where the "baby dangling" incident occurred. Jackson also visited Berlin Zoo and a charity auction, and received a humanitarian award at the Bambi Awards.
Back in Neverland, Jackson reveals to Bashir that not only does he invite disadvantaged children to his ranch, he lets them stay in his bed while he sleeps on the floor. Gavin Arvizo is also interviewed and states that it was Jackson's support that helped him beat his bout with cancer. Jackson admits that sometimes when Gavin stayed with him, Jackson let him have the bed while he slept on the floor. When asked what he gets out of his involvement with children, the singer replies that he gains joy, because "my greatest inspiration comes from kids". After this, Bashir says he feels uneasy about what he views as an apparent obsession with children. He says that he will have to confront Jackson on certain areas of his life that he feels he had been less than honest.
During January 2003, Bashir meets with Jackson in Miami for the final interview and brings up the subject of his face. A visibly upset Jackson says that he has only had two operations on his nose in order to facilitate his singing, to which Bashir tries to ask how he looks so much different from when he was an adolescent. After the singer states that there is nothing wrong with plastic surgery, and that it was "not invented for Michael Jackson," Bashir comes to the conclusion that Jackson wanted to change his appearance as a result of his troubled youth and father's insults. When he asks about a comment Jackson's son Prince made that "I haven't got a mother," Jackson tells him that Deborah Rowe bore his two children as a gift for him, because he wanted to be a father so badly. On the subject of Blanket's mother, Jackson contradicts his earlier statement that he had Blanket with a woman with whom he had a relationship by stating that Blanket's mother was a surrogate mother and that they did not know each other. Bashir also repeatedly questions Jackson why he invites children into his room. Jackson defended himself stating that such activity is natural when the children are of close friends or family, and that "many children," including the Culkin family children (Macaulay and Kieran) have slept in the same bed as him. Jackson strongly denied that there was any sexual motivation for this. During these defensive comments he also stated that he would allow his children to stay with his friends including Barry Gibb, saying that they are "sweet people" and are not "Jack the Ripper". Due to the confidentiality agreement, he refuses to talk about the 1993 allegations, but he reveals that he paid the accuser a settlement, since he "didn't want to go through a long, drawn-out affair, like O.J."
Responding to concern after the airing, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Thomas W. Sneddon Jr. said that, under California law, merely sleeping with a child, without "affirmative, offensive conduct," is not considered criminal.
Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir and complained that the film gives a distorted picture of his behaviour and conduct as a father. He claimed that Bashir, in the final version of his interview, used only that material which supported the negative view Bashir portrayed as holding towards Jackson. In response, Jackson and his personal cameraman released a rebuttal interview, which showed Bashir complimenting Jackson on his abilities as a father and grace under pressure, thus contradicting the journalist's previous statements.
"I haven't seen that documentary," remarked Madonna, "but it sounds disgusting, like [Bashir] exploited a friendship. Publicly humiliating someone for your own gain will only come back to haunt you. I can assure you, all these people will be sorry. God's going to have his revenge."
Following the broadcast, several media personalities accused Bashir of yellow journalism, claiming that he deliberately doctored the recordings in order to paint Jackson in an unflattering light, as well as emphasising the allegations of child molestation made against Jackson. The New York Times called Bashir's journalism style "callous self-interest masked as sympathy."
In an attempt to repair his image following the Bashir interview, Jackson released a second interview, called Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See (also referred to as "the rebuttal video"). This was presented by Maury Povich and contains material which Bashir omitted. It also features new interviews with people close to Jackson, such as his former wife Debbie Rowe. In this interview, she claimed it was on her request that the children wore masks in public. She also pointed out that the concept of "sharing a bed" can be misunderstood: for example, she herself likes watching television in bed; when she has a visitor, they both watch television together in bed. It also contains interviews with Bashir giving much different opinions than he gave in past interviews as well as in the voice-overs. He is shown praising Jackson as a father as well as saying that he thinks it is wonderful that he allows children to come to Neverland, directly contradicting the journalist's previous statements that Neverland Ranch was a "dangerous place" for children.
The footage that they show in this documentary was filmed by Hamid Moslehi privately. He states that he was not "secretly" videotaping the interviews, as was popularly believed. He said Bashir knew they were also filming, but that Bashir probably did not know that when he told his camera crew to cut, that he was still filming.
Part of the footage was not aired because videographer Hamid Moslehi refused to hand it over, owing to a financial dispute with Jackson. It was found by police in a search of Moslehi's home in November 2003, and showed the accuser's family praising Jackson.
The UK airing had 15 million viewers, while 38 million watched the two-hour special on ABC.
Shortly after Jackson's death, the documentary was aired again on several occasions, but with the more controversial scenes excised.
- Stanley, Alessandra (2003-02-06). "TELEVISION REVIEW; A Neverland World Of Michael Jackson". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- ""Living with Michael Jackson" – Excerpts from the programme transcript (from ITV.com)". Michael Jackson's House. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Thomas W. Sneddon, Jr., District Attorney, Santa Barbara County (February 6, 2003). "RE: Michael Jackson BBC Broadcast" (Press release). County of Santa Barbara. Archived from the original on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
- "Michael Jackson's statement". CNN. 2003-02-06. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Jackson complains to TV watchdog". BBC News. 2003-02-06. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- Low, Valentine (2009-06-27). "Michael Jackson: PR suicide with the help of Martin Bashir". The Times (London). Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Rees, Paul: 'Listen very carefully, I will say this only once', Q, May 2003, pp84-92
- "Bashir: Jacko was the greatest". The Sun (London). 2009-06-27.
- The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See (2003) at the Internet Movie Database
- Johnson Jr, Billy (2003-02-21). "Michael Jackson Interviewer Contradicts Himself In Behind The Scenes Footage". LAUNCH. Archived from the original on 2 July 2004.
- Time Waster (2004-12-20). ""Hero" Videographer Sues Jackson". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
- "Inside The Michael Jackson Grand Jury". The Smoking Gun. February 15, 2005.
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