Leaving Neverland director Dan Reed has responded to Michael Jackson Estate and family members who called the joint HBO and Channel 4 production – “a tabloid character assassination”, “an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson”, “public lynching” and so on. Leaving Neverland centres on Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who accused the pop icon of sexually abusing them when they were children.
While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Reed slammed the statements. The director defended his film by saying that he has extensive prior experience in making documentaries. He also added that Leaving Neverland is about the accusers and not the accused.
“It is a four-hour documentary by an experienced documentarian with a long track record in investigation and telling complex stories and this is a complex story,” he said. “So I’d say it’s beyond doubt a documentary. Anyone with any knowledge of that form would recognize a documentary. A four-hour piece, is that a tabloid?”
He went on to add, “I didn’t characterise Jackson at all in the film — I think if you watch it you’ll have noticed that it’s a story about these two families and Jackson is an element of that story. But I don’t seek to characterise him at all. I don’t comment on Jackson. It’s not a film about Michael. … The film itself is an account of sexual abuse, how sexual abuse happens and then how the consequences play out later in life.”
Leaving Neverland contains the testimonies of the two men who recount their relationship with Jackson and detail their alleged sexual abuse.
Reed says economic interests are behind the reason why the Michael Jackson Estate are defending Jackson. “They have a very precious asset to protect,” he said. “Every time a song plays, a cash register goes ‘ka-ching.’ It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve come out fighting in defence of their asset.”