Michael Jackson´s ´One More Chance´ — A Dream that Turned into a Nightmare — Part 1/4

  by Charles Thomson on sawfnews.com

November 30, 2010

Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare.

Michael Jackson dreamt of a triumphant return to showbiz after years of seclusion with the music video of One More Chance in 2003, only to have the dream turn into his worst nightmare. Charles Thomson speaks to the performer's colleagues, collaborators and co-stars about his little-known final music video.

This is Part 1 of a four part feature.

1. Engineering Michael Jackson's Comeback

2. Michael Jackson's Dream Takes Shape

3.Filming of One More Chance

4. Dream Return Turns into a Nightmare

Engineering Michael Jackson Comeback

In Summer 2003 Michael Jackson and his team were quietly plotting an extraordinary comeback. Amid the tranquil setting of his sprawling Neverland Ranch, Jackson was meeting with his business partners, advisors and publicist on a regular basis to devise plans for a multi-faceted comeback that would re-launch the star into the stratosphere. The comeback would be surprising, seeing Jackson branch into new areas and industries and rehabilitating his image at the same time. Michael Jackson's Fallout with Sony
The past few years had not been kind to Jackson. His 2001 album Invincible had received a mixed critical reaction and had been mocked by the press as a commercial failure. In the Summer of 2002 Jackson had blamed low album sales on his record company, Sony, branding label boss Tommy Mottola 'racist' and 'devilish'. He claimed the label had sabotaged Invincible by failing to promote it and, in a series of speeches, announced his intention to leave the label. However, his public fall-out with Sony had led to further tabloid mockery and his campaign had ultimately fallen flat.

Negative Publicity from Martin Bashir's Documentary
Jackson's confidence had been rocked by two further incidents. The singer found himself at the center of a global scandal in November 2002 after pictures of him dangling his son over a hotel balcony in Germany were beamed around the world. He was dealt another blow in February 2003 when Martin Bashir's documentary Living with Michael Jackson caused uproar, showing Jackson holding hands with young cancer patient Gavin Arvizo and admitting to sharing his bed with other people's children. It was at this point that Jackson's camp decided enough was enough. Damage Control
The concern amongst Jackson's advisors was that the singer's name had become little more than a punchline; an easy target for relentless mockery and abuse. His image was in desperate need of repair. The effort began with damage control. Jackson's camp released a rebuttal to Bashir's documentary, featuring footage of the presenter contradicting the views expressed in his own film and proving that he had omitted vital answers from the star. After exposing Bashir's duplicity Jackson's camp followed up with a second documentary, Michael Jackson's Private Home Movies, in which the star presented funny and interesting clips from his archives.

An appearance at the BET Awards in June 2003 to present his idol and mentor James Brown with a Lifetime Achievement Award contributed to the wave of good PR Jackson was receiving. The star's brief appearance on the show saw audience members burst into tears and it served Jackson well to be seen presenting an award rather than receiving one for once. Things were beginning to look up for the singer and now his elaborate comeback plans could really be put into effect.

Reinventing Michael Jackson
"Michael was regaining much of his self-esteem and self-confidence after dwelling in the shadows of public scandal and scorn," says publicist Stuart Backerman, hired by Jackson in 2002. "In the language of marketing, Michael was about to be re-branded.

"The comeback plan was called the MJ Universe project and it was all about 'the People's Michael', if you want to think of it in political terms. That's what was underpinning this whole scheme. It was about being accessible. After all the years of living as a partial recluse and a tabloid target he wanted to reach out and be seen in an objective way."

The first step towards making Michael Jackson more accessible would be to create a link between the star and his fans. In Vancouver a web design company called Blast Radius was secretly working on a brand new official Michael Jackson website (his old one was owned and controlled by Sony). The website would contain what Stuart Backerman describes as 'the most unbelievable interactive videos' and would serve as a medium for Jackson to stay in touch with his fans.

The next step was to open up Jackson's Neverland Ranch. After the Bashir documentary his sanctuary was seen as a sinister place. In order that people could experience Neverland themselves and enjoy a brief glimpse into Jackson's world, the star planned to launch the ranch as a resort for short breaks, generating income as well as improving his image.

Jackson's merchandising had 'dried up' in recent years, says Backerman, and loose plans were in place to launch several new products, beginning with a Michael Jackson clothing line. He was also in talks with a Japanese investor to design a theme park.

From Music to Movies
But the jewel in the crown of Jackson's comeback plans was a deal he and his camp had recently struck with a motion picture company in Montreal. For years it had been Jackson's desire to move away from the music business and into the movie industry. In 1993 he had a deal in place with Sony to begin making movies but the plans were scrapped after Santa Barbara DA Tom Sneddon raided Jackson's home and the star found himself accused of child molestation. In recent years Jackson had made baby steps towards launching himself as a player in the movie world, first making a cameo appearance in Men In Black II and then guest starring in low budget comedy Miss Castaway. Now he was ready to make the leap.

"He didn't want to really start again with the music," says Dieter Wiesner, Jackson's manager from 1997 until 2003. "After he was done with Sony, he had a whole other plan. His focus was just not that much on the music part anymore. His feeling was that he had really made the best in his life for the music part. He created everything. He made Thriller and things like that and he knew it could be very hard to top these things. For him it was very important to be successful as a director and an actor, directing movies, making short films, things like that. He was really into it.

"He knew he had to do something for the fans but it was very clear that he couldn't go back on tour because he was mentally not into it anymore. He wanted to do big concerts, say, at the pyramids in Egypt - big places - over two or three years. He agreed to do something like that because the fans really wanted to see him, but he felt his real future should be in the film business."

After months of negotiations, Jackson's camp had managed to secure financing so the star could purchase Cinegroupe, a Canadian animated features company, which Stuart Backerman says Jackson wanted to turn into 'a whole Pixar type thing'. In anticipation of the takeover, the company had invited Jackson to begin contributing ideas to an upcoming picture, Pinocchio 3000. A decade after his film-making dreams had been squashed, Jackson was finally about to begin making the transition from music to movies. But before that he had one burning priority, and that was to release himself from his Sony contract.

"He wasn't ever really right back on good terms with Sony," says Stuart Backerman. "The Beatles Catalogue is one thing but after the whole Tommy Mottola business, it was over. It was not gonna really be happening with Sony again."

According to Dieter Wiesner, Jackson had no plans to move to another label after he fulfilled his contract with Sony. The focus was squarely on movie-making and all signs pointed to the fact that Jackson was serious about achieving his goal. One morning at Neverland Ranch, during the comeback discussions, Jackson presented Stuart Backerman with a signed fedora as a thank you for all his hard work. Inside Jackson had written the inscription, "Dear Stuart, many thanks for your kind help and please don't make plans for the next decade."

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