Living with Michael Jackson

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Living with Michael Jackson
Living with Michael Jackson titles.jpg
Directed byJulie Shaw
Presented byMartin Bashir
StarringMichael Jackson
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Executive producerJeff Anderson (Tonight)
ProducerJames Goldston and Julie Shaw
Production companyGranada Television
Original networkITV (UK)
ABC (U.S.)
Original release3 February 2003 (UK)
6 February 2003 (U.S.)

Living with Michael Jackson is a television documentary, in which Martin Bashir interviewed Michael Jackson over a span of eight months, from May 2002 to January 2003, about different aspects of his life. It was shown first in the United Kingdom on ITV (as a Tonight special) on 3 February 2003, and in the United States 3 days later on ABC, introduced by Barbara Walters.[1] In November 2003, the BBC aired "Louis, Martin & Michael", a documentary by British filmmaker Louis Theroux who originally tried reaching out to Uri Geller to interview Jackson, after losing out to Bashir.[2] In December 2003, following controversy raised from Bashir's documentary, Jackson was charged with seven counts of child molestation and two counts of intoxicating a minor with alcoholic drinks,[3] all of which he was acquitted of in a court of law in June 2005.[4]


Living with Michael Jackson begins at Neverland Ranch, where Michael Jackson and Martin Bashir tour the estate's grounds and face off in a race car match. Later, Jackson explains 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, the singer 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 and physically abuse them if they made any misstep. He states that he felt a deep fear of his father, and 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 speaks 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 $1 million 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, using implants in his cheeks, having a cleft put in his chin, having his lips enlarged, or having 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, Gavin Arvizo is 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 sleep in his bed while he slept on the floor. This was corroborated in a separate, unrelated interview by Frank Cascio who confirmed Jackson had insisted he be present in the room as a chaperone. Frank slept on the floor next to Jackson. 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 about which 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[1] 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".[5]



Michael Jackson felt betrayed by Martin Bashir and complained that the film gives a distorted picture of his behavior and conduct as a father.[6][7] He said that in the final version of his interview, Bashir used only material that supported the negative view Bashir was 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 his grace under pressure.[8]

"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."[9]

Bashir stated: "I don't believe that I've betrayed Michael Jackson at all. I agreed that we would make an honest film about his life. The film was fair to his musical achievement and gave him every opportunity to explain himself. I'm not accusing anybody of being a child molester or a paedophile."[10] Following Jackson's death in 2009, Bashir said Jackson "was never convicted of any crime, and I never saw any wrongdoing myself, and whilst his lifestyle may have been a bit unorthodox, I don't believe he was a criminal."[11]

Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher slammed the documentary as "typical British journalism", stating in Jackson's defence, "Any man that has got a fairground in his backgarden and can say to a child, 'I'm going to build a water park behind that mountain', give him a round of applause. He seems like a very passionate and caring father so let's not tear him up".[12][13]

Rebuttal video[edit]

In an attempt to repair his image following the Martin Bashir interview, Michael Jackson released a second interview, called Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See (also referred to as "the rebuttal video"), which was seen on Fox in the United States and Sky One in the UK.[14][15] 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, parents Joseph and Katherine, brother Jermaine and close friend Elizabeth Taylor. 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, though he had made previous statements that Neverland Ranch was a "dangerous place" for children [8] (a direct contradiction of his later statement that he didn't believe Michael Jackson was a criminal).[16]

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.[citation needed]

Part of the footage was not aired because videographer Hamid Moslehi refused to hand it over, owing to a financial dispute with Jackson.[17][18] It was found by police in a search of Moslehi's home in November 2003, and showed the accuser's family praising Jackson.[18]

Bashir said a 16-second clip[further explanation needed] was being used to portray him as being unfair when he had interviewed Jackson for more than 10 hours.[19]


The UK airing had 15 million viewers while 38 million watched the 2-hour special on ABC.[8]


On 14 March 2003, BBC produced a special spoof parody of the documentary entitled "Lying to Michael Jackson". The sketch showed Michael Jackson played by comedian Lenny Henry being interviewed and followed around for the documentary by Martin Bashir played by Rowan Atkinson.[20]


  1. ^ a b Stanley, Alessandra (6 February 2003). "TELEVISION REVIEW; A Neverland World Of Michael Jackson". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ ""Living with Michael Jackson" – Excerpts from the programme transcript (from". Michael Jackson's House. Retrieved 7 October 2007.
  6. ^ "Michael Jackson's statement". CNN. 6 February 2003. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  7. ^ "Jackson complains to TV watchdog". BBC News. 6 February 2003. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  8. ^ a b c Low, Valentine (27 June 2009). "Michael Jackson: PR suicide with the help of Martin Bashir". The Times. London. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  9. ^ Rees, Paul (May 2003). "Listen very carefully, I will say this only once". Q. p. 84–92.
  10. ^ "Jackson acts over legal claim". BBC. 17 February 2003. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  11. ^ Kadri, Anisa (16 July 2009). "Jackson documentary to air tonight". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ The Michael Jackson Interview: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See (2003) at IMDb
  15. ^ Johnson Jr, Billy (21 February 2003). "Michael Jackson Interviewer Contradicts Himself In Behind The Scenes Footage". LAUNCH. Archived from the original on 19 June 2003.
  16. ^ Kadri, Anisa (16 July 2009). "Jackson documentary to air tonight". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  17. ^ Time Waster (20 December 2004). ""Hero" Videographer Sues Jackson". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 23 March 2012.
  18. ^ a b "Inside The Michael Jackson Grand Jury". The Smoking Gun. 15 February 2005.
  19. ^ "Bashir defends Jackson interview". 13 February 2003 – via
  20. ^ "Lying To Michael Jackson - Starring Rowan Atkinson for Comic Relief BBC 2003" – via

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tonight with Trevor McDonald
RTS: Television Journalism
Programme of the Year

Succeeded by
Home: Panorama – A Fight to the Death
International: This World – Access to Evil