TIFF 2011: Toronto International Film Festival

Wednesday | November 26, 2014

Spike Lee brings MJ doc to TIFF


U.S. director Spike Lee poses during the photocall of the movie "Bad 25" at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 31, 2012. (REUTERS/Max Rossi)

TORONTO - It might have appeared that the 2009 documentary, This is It, would serve as the final cinematic statement on the legacy of Michael Jackson, but Spike Lee has gone a step further with Bad 25, his thoroughly detailed look at the singer's 1987 album Bad.

With unprecedented access to never-before-seen video from the King of Pop's estate, Lee wanted to pay homage to what was perhaps the most challenging record in Jackson's career.

"Michael was my guy," the director said ahead of the film's North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. "The first time I saw him was with the Jackson 5 on The Ed Sullivan Show, and since then, I've always been a huge, huge fan of Michael Jackson."

Bad 25 catches up with Jackson as he wrestles with the runaway success of 1982's Thriller.

"The thing that made this intriguing to me was answering the question: How do you follow up Thriller? How do you follow up the biggest-selling record of all time?" Lee said in a glittery MJ T-shirt and matching Air Jordan's.

The film shows Jackson's fervent perfectionism. We see footage of his dancing and we're told how he wrote notes with the number '100,000,000' to remind himself how many albums he wanted Bad to sell.

"Making Bad 25 reaffirmed to me what a great artist he was and how much he worked. Michael Jackson worked," Lee said, pausing for emphasis. "So often, we as human beings think that when someone has God-given gifts, they can just skate by. Even if you're talented, you still have to bust your ass. Michael spent hours in front of the mirror dancing, he spent hours doing vocal lessons while on tour."

To coincide with Lee's film, Bad is being re-released in a new deluxe edition this Tuesday. The new three-disc set includes a remastered version of the original album, B-sides and a DVD of Jackson's performance at London's Wembley Stadium.

"All those new songs are great," Lee said. "They are as good as the songs that were already on the album," he added, poking fun at Jackson's maligned collaboration with Stevie Wonder, Just Good Friends.

The two-time Academy Award nominated director, who is in pre-production on Oldboy with Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley and Elizabeth Olsen, doesn't address Jackson's personal life in Bad 25. But the film shows some of the various disguises the singer used so he could have some semblance of a normal life.

Ultimately, Lee wanted Bad 25 to focus squarely on Jackson's dedication to making music.

"There's stuff in this documentary people have never seen before… And by the end I want them dancing and singing, and running out to get the album."

Bad 25 will air on ABC this November.

 

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