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FAKE Project M for Michael Jackson. Part 2

February 23, 2018

Now that I’ve done some research in and around Darlene Craviotto’s book let me warn those who are ready to repeat this journey together with me: the search for answers to questions arising from this book will be like travelling into a black hole in space. Its gravity force will draw you deeper and deeper inside until you find yourself in a totally different reality – dark and incredible, and totally unknown to those who stay outside and never look in.

A turn at its every corner will open up vast new fields to explore and every new door will have a revelation behind it. The doors and corners will be many, so let us be patient and not surprised if the journey takes us to the vistas and people we have never even imagined to explore.

The subject we are looking into is the movie projects that were supposed to involve Michael Jackson in the 1990s. The question to always keep in mind while looking is whether these projects were real or fictional and meant to only create the impression that something was being done for Michael Jackson in terms of movie projects, following his agreements with various people to the effect.

This somewhat unexpected turn in our research started with Darlene Craviotto’s book who in 2011 claimed that in the year 1990 she wrote a movie script for the top-secret “Project M” – a plan to make a Peter Pan movie with Michael Jackson in the title role.

The first probe into that book has already told us more than the author intended to reveal – her goal to smear Michael Jackson’s name based on her fantasies alone, the fact that she has an unknown sponsor who permitted her to disclose this “top-secret” Project M no one ever heard of, her intention to put the blame for dumping the project on Steven Spielberg, a fake site to support her claims to agoraphobia condition which she probably doesn’t have, a non-existent publisher who nevertheless published her book, and lots of other inconsistencies that make us realize that something is absolutely not right about this book.

Just to remind you of the main storyline: Ms. Craviotto claims that in 1990 a new Peter Pan movie was planned for Michael Jackson by the Disney studio, its head Jeffrey Katzenberg and director Steven Spielberg. She was hired to write a movie script in close cooperation with Michael Jackson, but when the script was ready Spielberg decided in favor of a different project, which eventually turned into his “Hook” movie starring Robin Williams.

This sudden turnabout from Spielberg delivered a very hard blow to Michael Jackson and he was said to have a falling out with Spielberg since then – which indeed seems to be the case as we read in some sources.

Michael Jackson and Steven Spielberg

So the fact that Michael wanted the role but it was not given to him is not a matter in dispute here. What we really don’t know is whether all of it happened the way Craviotto describes it.

And her story is a black and white one – the good project was ruined by a bad guy (inconsistent, unreliable, moody, you name it) Steven Spielberg who was first enthusiastic about the movie, but then betrayed everyone’s best hopes.

Michael Jackson was crushed, the screenwriter was upset and sobbing, and her Disney bosses were shocked by their partner who had so unexpectedly let them down.

Our goal is to learn the truth behind this tale of good guys vs. bad guy in a project involving an even worse guy Michael Jackson (a “molester” according to Craviotto’s fantasies) and to do so we will have to look at all people involved in this project.

BUZ KOHAN

Craviotto’s book contains a few bits here and there that make you suspect that those who designed this project for Michael Jackson didn’t really mean it. One of these tips is Craviotto’s strange unwillingness to mention the true identity of a person who goes in her story by the name of Buddy.

This person is made out to be some obscure character who suddenly popped up at the final reading of her script, together with an unidentified boy, and is described by the author in so ironic and even demeaning way that it never occurs to the reader to check up the identity of this person.

Here is a sample of the author’s interaction with this Buddy.

“Very good,” Buddy finally says.
“It’s wonderful, Darlene,” Michael adds softly.
There words should be enough, but of course they’re not. Buddy begins to ask questions, and Michael simply sits back and says nothing. Everything we’ve worked on together, talked about, and considered is now under Buddy’s microscope. He picks away at a character trait here, a story point here, grabbing at threads and pulling apart what has taken months to weave together. If he were Michael, I’d be taking notes. If he were Steven, I’d be listening. I would make changes; I’d shape the story in the direction they wanted to go. But he’s not Michael or Steven, and so I pretend to take notes, and I nod conciliatorily, just to keep the peace. Pulling inside of myself emotionally, I simply retreat. When an appropriate amount of time has passed, and I’ve fielded as many of Buddy’s questions that I can tolerate, I bring the meeting to an abrupt halt.
“Disney wants to read this,” I say.
“Michael thinks he’d like to read it one more time before you turn it in.”
I look over at Michael, not wanting to hear how he feels, or what he thinks as answers from Buddy, but from Michael himself. He has trouble looking at me, and that says more to me than words.

I’ve done everything in my power to keep Michael 100% happy. I’ve been the perfect little screenwriter: I have nurtured, encouraged, coaxed and enticed. We’ve been playmates together, sucking Jolly Roger candies and giggling over nonsense. But that’s over now. We’ve stopped being kids. Well, I’ve stopped at least. Michael seems content staying just the way he is. He likes having people speak for him. Running his life. Handling his affairs. Ordering his pizzas and making excuses for him. If not Stella, then Buddy…

Stella is the name given by the author to Michael’s secretary. Our perfect little screenwriter manages to find fault even with this woman whose only guilt is that she was properly running Michael Jackson’s business schedule.

And this is in addition to Craviotto’s total disregard for Buddy and his views on her script.

However when we find out Buddy’s real name we are stunned to learn that the person portrayed by the author as a sheer nobody is actually a writer and producer with a great reputation in the entertainment industry who has a sensational number of TV movie scripts (more than 200) and awards (13 Primetime Emmy awards, 3 other wins and 21 nominations) to his credit.

Michael Jackson and Buz Kohan

His name is Buz Kohan and in the year 1990 alone, which is the time of Craviotto’s story, Kohan got two Primetime Emmy awards and was nominated for a third one for the lyrics in Michael Jackson’s song.

This song was accidentally mentioned by Craviotto in the context of Sammy Davis Jr. Tribute she saw on TV and this is actually how we learn who Buddy is.

Later that night, I settle in to watch the previously taped Sammy Davis Jr. Tribute on television, waiting to watch Michael’s performance in it. He sings a song that he wrote just for Sammy, a ballad honoring him as an entertainer. When the credits roll, I’m surprised to see that Buddy also wrote one of the songs performed on the show.”

And here is the list of PrimeTime Emmy awards for 1990 which says that the ballad dedicated to Sammy Davis was “You Were There” and its lyricist was Buz Kohan.

1990

  • Won Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special
    Sammy Davis, Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration (1990)
  • Won Outstanding Music and Lyrics
    From the Heart… The First International Very Special Arts Festival (1989)
    Shared with: Larry Grossman (composer)
  • Nominated Outstanding Music and Lyrics
    Sammy Davis, Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration (1990)
    Shared with: Michael Jackson (composer/lyricist) For the song “You Were There”.

For those of us who are not familiar with the name of Buz Kohan, here is just a small fraction of his scripts for the five years prior to the events described in Craviotto’s book.

1990 The 16th Annual People’s Choice Awards (TV Special)
1990 Christmas at Home (TV Movie documentary) (written by)
1990 Sinatra 75: The Best Is Yet to Come (TV Special documentary) (writer)
1990 Grammy Legends (TV Special)
1990 The 42nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (TV Special)
1989 All-Star Tribute to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (TV Movie)
1989 From the Heart… The First International Very Special Arts Festival (TV Movie)
1989 The 15th Annual People’s Choice Awards (TV Special)
1989 5th Annual TV Academy Hall of Fame (TV Special)
1988 America’s Tribute to Bob Hope (TV Movie documentary)
1987 Dolly (TV Series) (written by – 1 episode)
– A Tennessee Mountain Thanksgiving (1987) … (written by)
1987 We the People 200: The Constitutional Gala (TV Movie)
1987 Andy Williams and the NBC Kids: Easter in Rome (TV Movie)
1986 Liberty Weekend (TV Special documentary)
1986 The 3rd Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame Awards (TV Special)
1986 Living Seas (TV Movie)
1985 Andy Williams and the NBC Kids Search for Santa (TV Special)
1985 The Patti LaBelle Show (TV Special)
1985 Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton: Together (TV Movie)
1985 Motown Returns to the Apollo (TV Special) (writing supervisor)
1985 50th Presidential Inaugural Gala (TV Special)
1985 The Shirley MacLaine Show (TV Movie) (writer)

All of it means that when Buz Kohan came to Michael’s place twice to listen to Craviotto’s final script and make suggestions on how to improve it, he was a much more famous, experienced and obviously better writer than she was and ever will be.

And this is one of the reasons why Craviotto didn’t want her readers to know his true identity – because if the readers did know the scene at the end of the book would acquire a totally different meaning and would betray the real reason why she felt so nervous. Despite the maximal comfort Michael Jackson and Buz Kohan created for her during that final reading, she was still totally overwhelmed by Kohan’s presence and all her feigned worry about the “boy” who was also listening to the script, or her alleged agoraphobia is just a smoke screen to cover up for this plain fact.

Another question readers would ask if they knew Buddy’s real name would be: If all that time Michael Jackson had so renowned a writer at his disposal why did they call Darlene Craviotto instead?

The only possible answer to that is that the script Craviotto was hired and paid for was meant for the wastepaper basket and from the start of it too.

With Craviotto it was a very easy thing to drop the project, but with a heavyweight writer like Buz Kohan it would have been a much bigger problem.

Even if not filmed, Kohan’s script or at least the plan to make a new Peter Pan movie starring Michael Jackson would have been surely mentioned in his biography and would not have been a secret. In this or that way the news of it would have surfaced and since Spielberg was named the villain who ruined the project he would have had to explain and comment – and all this publicity is exactly what the designers of the project intended to avoid.

So, just as the author is telling us, the whole idea of Project M must have been keeping Michael Jackson “happy” and only create the impression that something was being done for him in terms of his movie projects.

The additional bonus for the manipulators was that the blame for this failure was squarely placed on Spielberg’s shoulders and this resulted in a rift between him and MJ which was probably not mended until Michael’s final day.

At the moment the above is only a working theory, and to really see what part in the whole mess was played by Steven Spielberg we will have to look into his Hook project and how it came about.

SPIELBERG, PETER PAN AND HOOK

No matter how hard I tried to find any comment from Spielberg about the alleged secret plan on which he allegedly worked with Michael Jackson in 1990, there is absolutely none.

Frank Sanello, the author of Spielberg’s biography “Spielberg: The Man, the Movies, the Mythology” published in 1996 says that the story about Spielberg’s collaboration with Michael Jackson on an update of Peter Pan is an “urban legend” (p. 293)

The dictionary explains that an “urban legend” is a lurid and widely circulated story that is based on hearsay, but which is not actually true.

We cannot know for sure which project Frank Sanello refers to as an “urban legend”, because five years prior to the 1990 events described by Craviotto, Spielberg indeed had a plan to make a Peter Pan movie and he probably considered Michael Jackson for the title role in it.

But the 1985 project was abandoned by Spielberg, and when he returned to it five years later, the plot of the story had already changed – now it was about a grown-up Peter Pan who forgot that he had once been a boy, and it is for this role that Robin Williams entered the movie which was released in 1991 under the title of “Hook”.

In his March 1992 interview with Cinema Papers # 87 Spielberg provided some details of how the whole thing happened (excerpt):

“Finally, in late 1990, it was announced that Hook, a modern-day retelling of James Barrie’s Peter Pan myth, was firmly under way with Spielberg at the helm, Dustin Hoffman in the title character, and Robin Williams – a natural Pan, if ever there were one.

– Peter Pan stayed with you throughout your career. There are many references to it in E.T.:The Extra-terrestrial, for instance. In a way, it is surprising that you didn’t do this movie earlier.

– I was going to do it as early as 1985. I had been pursuing the rights and in 1985 I finally acquired them from the London Children’s Hospital. I was going to make a Peter Pan movie based on the novel, a live-action version like the 1924 Peter Pan silent movie. But then something happened: my son (Max) was born and I lost my appetite for the project.

-Why?

Because suddenly I couldn’t be Peter Pan any more. I had to be his father. That’s literally the reason I didn’t do the movie back then. And I had everything ready and Elliott Scott hired to do the sets in London.

– What made you pick up this specific project, Hook, after all these years not tackling Peter Pan?

– I decided to do it when I read the Jim Hart script. It was a great idea, even though my first reaction was “This isn’t exactly what I want to do, but this is a great idea for a movie.”

But then I took the idea and I rewrote the script with Jim and another writer [Malia Scotch Marmo] and, based on the rewrite, I went ahead and made the movie.

– What was it about it that attracted you so much?

– I guess I related to the main character, Peter Banning, the way Jim wrote him – a “type A” personality. I think a lot of people today are losing their imagination because they are work-driven. They are so self-involved with work and success and arriving at the next plateau that children and family almost become incidental. I have seen this happen to friends of mine. I have even experienced it myself when I have been on a very tough shoot and I’ve not seen my kids except on weekends. They ask for my time and I can’t give it to them because I’m working. And I’ve been both guilty and wanting to do something about it.

So, when Jim Hart wrote that script, and wrote a “type A” personality in Peter Banning, I related to it. I said, “Gee, that’s quite a character arc for this character. Could this person ever have been Peter Pan? Wow, what an interesting challenge!”

– Could it also be that you were interested in returning to youth-oriented pictures after a couple of adult projects?

– It’s not conscious…  When Hook came by I was actually planning to direct Schindler’s Ark, which is very much an adult film, and which I’m finally going to direct early in ’92.

So Spielberg initially wanted to make a movie following the original tale, the way it was written by James Barrie. He even bought the rights to Barrie’s writings in 1985 from the London Children’s hospital which had received those rights from the author who donated them to the hospital in 1929 as a way to financially support it.

The movie production was to take place in London and when pre-production was about to start Spielberg’s son Max was born (June 12, 1985) and he suddenly “lost his appetite for it”. Now he was no longer inspired by the idea of an eternally young boy and was more impressed by the role of a father – which is an understandable change in any person’s mindset when they have their firstborn.

More detail is provided in Spielberg’s biography written by Joseph McBride:

Steven Spielberg: A Biography, 2nd edition

During the early 1980s, Spielberg developed a live-action adaptation of Peter Pan for Disney and, later, Paramount. He considered Michael Jackson for the title role (as a singing and dancing Pan) and Dustin Hoffman for Captain James Hook. “I decided not to make Peter Pan really when Max was born,” the director explained in 1990, “and I guess it was just bad timing. Peter Pan came at a time when I had my first child and I didn’t want to go to London and have seven kids on wires in front of blue screens swinging around. I wanted to be home as a dad, not a surrogate dad.” (page 409)

~

December 13, 2016

In Steven Spielberg: A Biography, author Joseph McBride writes the filmmaker recalled his mother reading J.M. Barrie’s classic story to him as “one of the happiest memories I have from my childhood.” The tale of the titular boy who never grew up, transported three children to the magical world of Neverland, and stood up against the villainous pirate Captain Hook held meaning for the director even into his adulthood: As he once said, “I still feel like Peter Pan. It has been very hard for me to grow up.”

So it wasn’t all that surprising Spielberg began to consider filming his own version of the tale not long after the smash success of his family film E.T. in 1982. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that Spielberg wanted pop legend Michael Jackson (who was similarly fascinated with the Peter Pan story) to star. By 1985, the director was close to diving into a musical version, with Dustin Hoffman set to play Captain Hook.

Spielberg’s longtime composer John Williams had written a number of songs, and set construction was under way in London when Spielberg had second thoughts. According to McBride’s book, Spielberg, who’d just had his first child, balked at moving to London for the shoot, and seemed to have set his sights on more “mature” material. By 1987, when he released Empire Of The Sun, Spielberg told the New York Times: “I was also attracted to the idea that this was a death of innocence, not an attenuation of childhood… this was the opposite of Peter Pan.”

Even without Spielberg, Paramount Pictures continued on with the Pan project. Nick Castle, who’d played Michael Myers in Halloween before directing ’80s kids fave The Last Starfighter, was now on board to direct. He and writer James V. Hart hit upon a new approach to the story, which saw Peter Pan grown up and working as a lawyer in America, his time in Neverland forgotten, until Captain Hook returns and kidnaps Peter’s own children.

The new spin on the story reignited Spielberg’s interest, and he returned to the project, by that point set up at Sony. Michael Jackson exited: As Spielberg would later tell Entertainment Weekly, “I called Michael and I said, ‘This is about a lawyer that is brought back to save his kids and discovers that he was once, when he was younger, Peter Pan.’ So Michael understood at that point it wasn’t the same Peter Pan he wanted to make.” (Though some reports suggested the singer might have been less understanding: Vanity Fair later alleged that Jackson hired a witch doctor to put a curse on Spielberg.)

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/hook-at-25-how-steven-spielbergs-peter-pan-found-its-magic-with-the-kids-who-grew-up-with-it-203250596.html

A witch doctor putting a curse on Spielberg is another of those urban legends which everyone still promotes despite its total absurdity. However in general the above piece makes things a little clearer.

Now we know that the initial project was handled by Disney, but when Spielberg backed out of it, it was passed over to another studio – Paramount pictures and acquired a new director, Nick Castle. The screenwriter James Hart remained on the project but changed the plot of the story, and this is when Steven Spielberg returned to it.

He called Michael Jackson and told him about the change in the movie concept, but Michael was not interested. On the other hand no word is said about any proposals from Spielberg, so this call could just be Spielberg’s polite gesture towards Michael Jackson, rather than an offer of a role.

We also find that the initial 1985 project was supposed to be a musical, and this is confirmed by Spielberg’s long time collaborator, composer John Williams who had managed to write nine songs for the movie and all its musical themes by the time the project was scrapped. Later on some of those songs made their way in the Hook version of the film.

February, 2000

In 1985, Steven Spielberg took it upon himself to produce a stage musical based on J.M. Barrie’s timeless classic “Peter Pan.” Naturally, it would be John Williams, Spielberg’s longtime collaborator of Jaws and Indiana Jones fame, who supplied the songs and the musical underscore. With his own frequent collaborator Leslie Bricusse (Home AloneSuperman) supplying the lyrics, Williams composed nine songs and all of the themes before the production was ultimately scrapped. It is unknown whether or not any recordings still exist from this time, or how many themes were specifically composed.

Fortunately, Williams was given the opportunity to revisit and expand his musical ideas on a whole new scale in 1991, when Spielberg’s fantasies about the ultimate “Peter Pan” turned into the film Hook. https://www.jwfan.com/?p=3433

The book devoted to various Peter Pan projects and named “Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904-2010” drops a sensation and says that despite all rumors Michael Jackson was never considered by Spielberg for the role of Peter Pan, even in its 1985 version.

The book claims that Spielberg said he would never give Michael this role though they were very close friends.

For several years in the eighties it was rumoured that rock star Michael Jackson was going to star in a Steven Spielberg film, but the producer-director denied this in 1984, telling Variety that while Michael was a very close friend he never was and never would be Peter Pan. The director hoped to have the film ready for a 1986 Easter release, however, plans fell through, and by 1989 he was stating that he would never film the play.  (page 312)

So if we are to believe the above source Michael Jackson’s participation in a Peter Pan movie was just his dream that never came true, and the reports that he would play the title role in the 1985 version of the film were another of those “urban myths”, not to mention a later version of it that was released in 1991.

UPDATE: Nancy Griffin who was present on the set of shooting the Thriller video in October 1983 says that at the time Michael Jackson was in discussions with Steven Spielberg for playing the lead in his Peter Pan musical. We don’t know whether those discussions ended in him getting the role, but do know that in the end Spielberg abandoned that project for other reasons.  Griffin says:

Jackson was driven by the pop star’s occupational affliction: the desire to be a movie star. He had met and befriended Steven Spielberg when he narrated the soundtrack album and audiobook for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. (Jackson cried when recording the part where E.T. dies.) He and Spielberg were in discussions about Jackson’s playing the lead in a filmed musical version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/07/michael-jackson-thriller-201007

ECONOMY FLIGHT

The continuation of that story is even more intricate and winding than its beginning.

By the time Spielberg dropped out of the 1985 project and it was passed over from Disney studio to Paramount Pictures, Spielberg’s rights to James Barrie’s writings had expired.

Those rights were acquired by no other than Dodi Al Fayed.  Yes, the one who later befriended Princess Diana and died in a car accident with her. And when Al Fayed bought those rights (either partially or fully) he flatly refused Michael Jackson any chance to take part in the project.

But in 1986, the Jackson-Spielberg project was declared dead amid reports that Spielberg had lost the rights to author J.M. Barrie’s writings (according to the piece, the rights had been won by Dodi Fayed, the London playboy who would die in the 1997 car crash that also killed Princess Diana). Fayed said he didn’t want or need a prominent director, and claimed that Jackson had priced himself out of the picture with a demand for $10 million.

The link provided in the above piece is taking us an old newspaper article dated December 29, 1986 which says that Al Fayed’s  project was going to be an economy one and that Jackson’s asking price was too high:

“Peter Pan”: Economy flight

Plans are being made for Peter Pan to soar before the cameras late next year – without Steven Spielberg at the helm or Michael Jackson as star. Spielberg allowed his rights to the classic Sir James Barrie work to lapse several months ago; they’ve been picked up by Disney Studios and international entrepreneur Dodi Fayed, who says, “It’s not my posture to spend a lot of money on a director.” It’s also hot the posture of Fayed, who is co-financing and co-producing the feature with Disney, to spend a fortune on a Peter Pan star. He reveals that Jackson’s asking price was more than $10 million and that “the entire budget of the picture is only $20 million.” Fayed expects unknown juveniles to be cast as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, and a major name as the menacing Captain Hook.

Now that the movie was at another studio, made by a different director and produced by Al Fayed the project underwent serious changes.

The genre of the movie was turned from a musical into an action-live feature film and its screenwriter James Hart, who wrote the original script for the movie,  suggested changing its plot. A new idea gripped his mind when he was playing with his son a “what if” game and he asked him what would happen if Peter Pan grew up.

This triggered off a totally new off-shoot from the original story – now Peter Pan will become a hard-nosed lawyer who forgot that he was Peter Pan once and the whole point of the movie will be to make him recapture the spirit of his youth and remember what it is like to be a child and be able to fly. This is when the Peter Pan story turned into its Hook variant.

The “Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904-2010” anthology also says that now the focus of the movie is on the family and children as a priority:

Hook must not be considered a sequel to Peter Pan, for Barrie made it clear that Peter would not grow up. Screenwriter Jim Hart derived the idea from a dinner game with his son, a series of what ifs such as “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Together with Hart and screenwriter Malia Scotch Marmo, Spielberg envisioned a fantasy film with very important message to the materialistic “yuppie” generation: don’t forget your priority – the family! (page 313).

The copyright to Peter Pan/Hook screenplay went on an adventure of its own. First Spielberg lost his rights in 1985 and they were sold to Al Fayed, and three years later, in 1989 Al Fayed sold these rights to TriStar film studio.

The Peter Pan anthology says about it:

In 1989, TriStar bought the rights to an original screenplay entitled Hook. Developed by screenwriter Jim Hart, it was initially presented as a package by producers Gary Adelson and Craig Baumgaren. The script was shown to Steven Speilberg, who became very excited over the prospect only to find out that Nick Castle was included as part of the package as director.

At this point, TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy decided that such an expensive venture could only succeed under Spielberg’s direction. Castle was disappointed, but he was promised another TriStar film and a handsome settlement for his contribution to the story. Finally, Steven Spielberg was going to work on the film that he seemed destined to create.

Now that we are in the year 1989 it is important to remember that:

1) by now the copyright to the screenplay has already gone to TriStar studio and

2) it changed hands at approximately the same time when Ms. Craviotto was writing her script for the Disney secret Peter Pan project with Michael Jackson’s participation in it.

No wonder that their project was so secret – the copyright to the story was held by a different company and Disney studios most probably had no rights to make that movie at all.

Despite selling his rights to TriStar Dodi Al Fayed’s agreement with them had a point that he would stay the executive producer of the Hook movie, and considering his sceptical attitude towards Michael Jackson’s participation in this project, a role for MJ there was most probably not even a subject for discussion.

The Al Fayed family had their connections with Peter Pan project even in 2003 when one more version of the movie was made and it was dedicated to the memory of Dodi Al Fayed. The article below is dated 2003 and it again repeats that Al Fayeds held the film rights including the agreement that a certain percentage of every new adaptation would go to support the London hospital for children.

IN THE DAYS BEFORE the big romance with Princess Diana, Dodi Al Fayed and I talked of his plans to feature film “Peter Pan.” He and his father Mohamed Al Fayed had bought the film rights — including the agreement, per J.M. Barrie’s will, that a certain percentage go to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. And the proviso for all filmmakers was that the amount of the hospital contribution and all ensuing profits be kept secret. (It was in effect as well with the making of “Hook”).

After last week’s preem of the current “Pan” (exec produced by Mohamed Al Fayed) in London, the entire cast paid a visit to the children in the Ormond Street Hospital, producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick reported to me following Sunday’s preem at Hollywood’s Chinese Theater. http://variety.com/2003/film/columns/clooney-to-support-dad-in-congressional-run-1117897193/

Considering that Al Fayed seemed to be always part of Peter Pan projects, in 1985 and forever after, and considering that Michael Jackson didn’t fit his idea of the film, the chances that he would get the role of Peter Pan after Al Fayed had acquired those rights were minimal, if any.

From this point of view the change in the plot of the story was only for the better. It was a plausible pretext for not inviting Michael Jackson which saved him from the humiliation of finding that he was simply not wanted. The news delivered to him by Spielberg was a blow of course, but if he had known the full story the blow would have been a much harder one.

Spielberg explains why Michael Jackson quit Hook

04/12/2011

Michael Jackson pulled out of playing Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s 1991 movie Hook because the director’s vision for the film didn’t match his own.

Spielberg admits Jackson was keen to take on the lead role in the film but baulked at the idea of playing a lawyer who forgot he was the boy who never grew up.

The director tells Entertainment Weekly magazine, “Michael had always wanted to play Peter Pan, but I called Michael and I said, ‘This is about a lawyer that is brought back to save his kids and discovers that he was once, when he was younger, Peter Pan.’ “Michael understood at that point it wasn’t the same Peter Pan he wanted to make.”

The role eventually went to funnyman Robin Williams.

http://www.newshub.co.nz/entertainment/spielberg-explains-why-michael-jackson-quit-hook-2011120510

Now if you think that our adventures with the Peter Pan project are over, you are mistaken. There is one more side to this story which needs to be explored.

SONY STEPS IN

The “Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904-2010” anthology adds some new, seemingly purely technical details to the Hook project and these details open to us amazing new horizons if placed against the background of Craviotto’s story.

Hook was being developed by Hart and director Nick Castle at TriStar when the Japanese electronics giant Sony bought Columbia-TriStar in 1989.

The following year, Sony hired Mike Medavoy to run TriStar. Medavoy, who had been Spielberg’s first agent, sent Hart’s script to Spielberg, who quickly committed to direct it.

Castle, who had worked with Spielberg on “Amazing Stories”, was taken off Hook and given a $500,000 settlement, as well as a story credit with Hart.  Spielberg received unfavourable publicity for what some took to be an arrogant power play against a less prominent director, but Medavoy says, “He didn’t want anything to do with taking another director off a picture. I said, “I’ve already done it.” Because Dustin and Robin weren’t going to work with Castle.” (p.410)

Vanity Fair confirms that at first Al Fayed had “some rights” to James Barrie’s story, but then he sold them to producer Weintraub who later resold them to Sony for $1.35 million. According to their agreement Al Fayed received an executive producer’s credit, though he had virtually no role in making the film.

With the assistance of his father, a benefactor of the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, Dodi had acquired the film rights to Peter Pan, whose author, Sir James M. Barrie, had bequeathed his copyright to the hospital. Dodi had been trying to develop a Peter Pan movie since 1985 (rather appropriate, given his own character). Finally, toward the late 80s, veteran producer Jerry Weintraub bought the rights from Dodi and sold them for $1.35 million to Sony, which had its own Peter Pan project with Steven Spielberg. Weintraub declined to attach himself to the movie, because it was a Spielberg production. Dodi, however, received an executive producer’s credit, though he had virtually no role in making the film. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/1997/12/dodi-fayed-199712

Since no one understands how come Sony suddenly stepped into the Hook project, let me explain.

On September 29, 1989 Tristar and Columbia pictures, previously owned by Coca-Cola were bought by Sony. Together with the TriStar studio Sony also inherited their Hook project.

The Columbia Pictures empire was sold on September 28, 1989 to electronics giant Sony for the amount of $3.4 billion, one of several Japanese firms then buying American properties. The sale netted Coca-Cola a handsome profit from its investment in the studio.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Pictures

At the beginning of 1990 Sony hired Mike Medavoy to head their TriStar Pictures division and entrusted him with the Hook project.

The book “Hit and Run”, which is extremely critical of Medavoy and other managers hired by Sony for running their Columbia/TriStar film business, gives us the exact time when Medavoy took up the job – it was early March 1990.

With much fanfare they appointed Mike Medavory as TriStar’s boss in early March. The job was a godsend for Medavory, who was being edged out of his position as head of production at the financially trouble Orion Pictures Corporation. (“Hit and Run”, page 266)

Before putting the movie into production Mike Medavoy had to settle the matter of Peter Pan copyright with Al Fayed and Jerry Weintraub (who temporarily had those rights before selling them to Sony).

Mike Medavoy says about it in his book:

“Arrangements also had to be made with Jerry Weintraub and Dodi Fayed, who had acquired certain rights to the Peter Pan story when it fell into the public domain, and with the Children’s Hospital in London, which controlled the right held by the J.M.Barrie estate.”

Your head must be spinning with all these details same as mine is, so let us go over it once again, in a slow motion this time.

  • In 1985 the rights to James Barrie’s writings belonged to Spielberg. When he lost them, the rights were bought by Disney studios (?) and Dodi Al Fayed.
  • After Spielberg left the Peter Pan project, it was passed over from Disney to Paramount Pictures where Al Fayed continued with it. The project got a new director, Nick Castle, but retained the same screenwriter, James Hart.
  • In 1986 James Hard thought of changing the story into “Hook” and started rewriting the script.
  • Sometime in “the late 80s” Al Fayed sold his rights to producer Jerry Weintrab.
  • In September 1989 Sony bought Columbia pictures and TriStar.
  • At the beginning of March 1990 Sony hired Mike Medavoy to run the TriStar division of their newly acquired Columbia/TriStar studios.
  • Mike Medavoy approached Jerry Weintrab for the rights to the Peter Pan/Hook screenplay and Sony bought them for $1.35 million. The road to make the movie was now clear.
  • Medavoy was Spielberg’s first agent, so upon taking his new post he sent him the Hook script with a suggestion to direct it.
  • Spielberg got interested and “quickly committed himself” to direct the movie.

And while all that mess was taking place Darlene Craviotto is telling us that all was smooth and fine with their secret Disney/Spielberg “Project M” on making a Peter Pan movie with Michael Jackson in the title role.

FRAUD

The way Craviotto describes it, in 1990 top Disney executives – its president Jeffrey Katzenberg and Howard Fein (“Vice-president-of-something” as Craviotto calls him), Michael Jackson and herself got together with Steven Spielberg to discuss the movie after which she was signed on the job.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, President of Disney Films <> appeared almost on cue as we took a short cut through the interior courtyard.

“Are we doing this?!” he asked, with just a touch of impatience.

“Right now,” Howard tells him, quickly introducing me as we move a little faster back into the building and down a hallway to Steven’s private dining room.

… We arrived at Steven’s private dining room, and the thick ornately-carved wooden doors opened almost like magic. We stepped inside, the three of us, and there sat Steven Spielberg at the head of a long wooden dining table set for lunch. He rose to meet us, his hand outstretched.

…”Have you met Michael yet?”

Steven turned and gestured across the table, and there he sat.

…“Are you ready to fly?” Steven asks, jump-starting the meeting into the reason why we were all in the room. “Ready to strap on the harness and take flight, Mike?”

“Oh yes!” Michael says, breathlessly.

… “Are you sure you want to do this,” Steven teases. “You’re sure you’re committed to it?”

“Absolutely!” Michael says, his enthusiasm clearly evident in the large grin on his face.

“We’re not going to lose you to some world tour…?”

“This is a dream of mine,” Michael assured him.

“…or back to back albums?”

“I want to be Peter!”

“It’s going to be a lot of work, a lot of commitment,” Steven says, seriously.

Michael nods his head. “I’m ready to do this. I’ve been waiting my whole life.”

It is enough to compare the hard facts collected from various sources with Craviotto’s cheesy story to realize that the above scene is something akin to science fiction.

She, Michael Jackson, Katzenberg and other Disney executives were probably there, but all the rest of it is hard to imagine. I mean it is hard to imagine Spielberg to be involved in the Disney project and offer the role of Peter Pan to Michael Jackson on the one hand, and almost at the same time be involved in the Hook project and offer this role to Robin Williams on the other.

Add to it that in this case Spielberg would be working for two rival film studios – the secret Peter Pan script would be for Disney and the not-so-secret Hook project would be for Sony’s Columbia/TriStar.

To make matters worse, Steven Spielberg himself said (in an interview with Cinema magazine #87 mentioned earlier) that at the time he was approached with a suggestion to direct “Hook” he had long gone past the Peter Pan story and was planning to make “Schindler’s List” instead, and it was only because of the new twist to the old tale that he got interested in it.

Now what are we supposed to think when two different people tell us the opposite stories?

Did Spielberg take part in the Disney plan as Craviotto says or did he not?

And who are we to believe here – Craviotto or Spielberg, who never once mentioned it?

The fact that “Project M” did exist doesn’t raise doubt with me and Michael Jackson did indeed have all those meetings with the author, otherwise we wouldn’t have all those lovely conversations between him and her recorded for the book, but the question is a different one – did Spielberg take part in it and was Project M for real? 

While you are deciding whose word to believe in this dilemma, I will give you a definite answer to the latter question.

COPYRIGHT

No, Project M was not real.

It was a scam that did not mean anything and was devised for window dressing only.

To make sure that this is the case all you need to do is introduce the copyright factor into the picture.

Even in the unlikely case Disney studios still had some rights to James Barrie’s writings which they probably acquired together with Al Fayed in 1985, the rights still retained by Al Fayed and resold to Sony in 1989/90 for no small sum of $1.35 million would not have let Disney make a Peter Pan movie anyway.

Disney executives knew it very well, so the only other option we have for them is that they plunged Michael Jackson into a project all the way knowing that it could not be realized.

And despite knowing that the project would go nowhere, they still took Michael Jackson for a ride, and when all of it came to the inevitable end, they made Spielberg look like the only one responsible for the failure and squarely put all the blame on his shoulders.

He was turned into a fall guy while all the others put up a theatrical show of being “shocked, disappointed, frustrated” by what was supposed to be Spielberg’s fault.

Now that I am looking at the smouldering ruins of Craviotto’s story I am not even sure that the notable meeting with Spielberg took place at all and that he even knew of that secret project.

The version that Spielberg took part in that fraud willingly, only to be thrown under the bus by his co-conspirators at the last minute, doesn’t hold water for me. This scam could not end in anything else but the project cancellation, so one day the people who devised it would have had to explain themselves anyway and name those who were to blame for the failure.

They decided to name Spielberg, and this is evidently how the story was presented to Michael Jackson who most probably believed it as rumor has it.

NEW VISTAS

To finish with this Peter Pan scam devised by then Disney executives (Jeffrey Katzenberg et al.) we need to answer the question that yet remains unanswered– why did they decide to take Michael Jackson for so cruel a ride?

Craviotto repeatedly says in her book that she went out of her way to make Michael Jackson “100% happy”, and I wouldn’t rule out that this statement should be interpreted literally.

One of their goals could indeed be keeping Michael happy. However why they wanted to make him happy, all the time knowing that they would deliver him a hard blow in the end, still requires an answer and this is another of those fields which we need to explore.

In the meantime let me share with you a totally mad idea that crossed my mind recently.

It may not be the main reason why Craviotto accompanied Michael to his Hideaway condo and Neverland, but her later moves against him and the nasty gossip she has been spreading since then, vaguely suggest to me that she could be on a “fact-finding” mission there – to see what Michael Jackson thought about “boys” and how he interacted with them if they were around, and look for anything suspicious that she could report back to those who sent her here. Discussion of Peter Pan and his “boys” could provide a perfect platform for such a mission.

This is a mad idea of course but same as Craviotto I have the right to my fantasies too.

 

11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2018 3:35 pm

    “So the questions are:
    1. Was there a bed in the Westwood condo in the bedroom in 1990
    and if so why did Blanca Francia said there was never a bed in that condo?
    2. If there was a bed why would MJ be on or in a sleeping bag with Jason in that bedroom?” – vulcan

    I was sure that you wouldn’t overlook this point. The way I see it Blanca Francia had no reason to lie when in her testimony she repeated again and again that there was no bed in Michael Jackson’s condo. It was true and this is why she mentioned only sleeping bags even when talking about her son Jason.

    By the way initially she said that MJ and her son were lying ON the sleeping bag and watching TV, and only later was “corrected” by prosecutors’ questions and changed it to IN. Since she used those words interchangeably it looked to me that she simply didn’t understand the difference.

    As to the bed in Michael’s condo, Craviotto does indeed mention it there. But she also mentions that Michael’s apartment was a penthouse on the 24th floor and I’ve looked up all high-rise buildings in LA that had been built by 1990 and found only one that more or less fits her description – it is one of the two Century Towers in Galaxy way, which is off Wilshire blvd, built in 1964. Michael Jackson purchased a condo there in 1987. The address is Century Towers, 2220 Ave of the Stars.

    One of these Galaxy towers was also home to Diana Ross and other Hollywood stars. Both are 28-storey buildings and the number of floors is the only point which is different from Craviotto’s description (if she remembers the floor correctly). Or can a penthouse be on the 24th floor of a 28-storey building? (I simply don’t know that)

    But in any case it is clear that this condo was not in Wilshire blvd, which doesn’t have buildings with suitable characteristics built by 1990, so the condo described by Blanca Francia and Joy Robson was a different one. Also, if Joy, Chantal and Wade Robson had been in the Century City condo, Michael would have given his bed to the women – no doubt about it. But in a Wilshire blvd condo there were no beds and that is why all of them slept on the floor.

    From other sources we know that Michael indeed had two condos – one in Wilshire blvd and the other in Century City. Diane Dimond mentioned MJ’s condo in Galaxy way in Century City. Taraborrelli spoke of Century City condo at 1101 Galaxy Way, #2247, but this address is incorrect.

    Darlene Craviotto gave the following description of the Hideaway condo:

    We drove down Santa Monica Blvd, towards Beverly Hills, heading into Westwood and to a place Stella had called “The Hideaway.” It was Michael’s special… well, hideaway: a secret place where he could escape and keep the world at a distance. It was a penthouse located in a building off Wilshire Blvd. that few people knew about or ever saw.
    “Michael goes there at nights after he’s been in the studio recording all day,” Stella had told me. “It’s very private. He doesn’t let many people go there. It’s his secret hideout – somewhere he can unwind, and just be on his own. You won’t be bothered there; there won’t be any interruptions.”

    So even by Craviotto’s description the condo she visited was off Wilshire Blvd., and not in the boulevard itself and this looks more like a Century Tower.

    If you want to do your own research here is a list of high-rise buildings in LA: http://www.skyscrapercenter.com/compare-data/submit?type%5B%5D=building&status%5B%5D=COM&status%5B%5D=UC&status%5B%5D=UCT&status%5B%5D=STO&status%5B%5D=PRO&base_city=1611&base_height_range=0&base_company=All&base_min_year=1900&base_max_year=9999&skip_comparison=on&output%5B%5D=list

    Like

  2. March 3, 2018 3:09 pm

    “it was a way to appease Micheal probably while he was in the midst of signing with new management, it was a manipulation tactic! Or maybe I’m just fantastical at this point.” – LaShondria Kelley

    You are not fantastical at this point. It happened approximately the way you described it. But this will have to be covered in the next posts.

    Like

  3. LaShondria Kelley permalink
    March 2, 2018 2:44 pm

    Great point Vulcan!

    Also why wouldn’t Micheal have offered the bed to Joy and her daughter?
    I don’t believe that he wouldn’t have especially knowing everything that we know about him. He was said to be one of the most chivalrous gentlemen ever yet he wouldn’t offer his bed to two females?
    Though according to Gavin he was offered the bed(after hounding Michael to sleep in bed with him) and michael himself slept on sleeping bags on the floor.

    It definitely doesn’t add up. There are always too many conflicting stories. But that’s what tends to happen when people choose to lie.

    Like

  4. vulcan permalink
    March 2, 2018 10:29 am

    That scene in the Westwood condo where MJ supposedly took Robson to a bedroom after he fell asleep on the sofa in the living room made me think about the Blanca Francia’s testimony. This was in 1990. Francia was still working for MJ and claimed that he was cleaning that condo too not just Neverland. Francia testified that there was no bed in that condo at all during the entire time she cleaned it.

    Jason Francia claimed that he was molested on a sleeping bag or in a sleeping bag (he couldn’t make up his mind about this detail of course) in the bedroom where his mother walked in once.

    Joy Robson in a 2016 deposition claimed that she and Chantal slept in sleeping bags in the living room while MJ slept in a bed with MJ in the bedroom.

    Obviously all of these things cannot be true at the same time.

    So the questions are:

    1. Was there a bed in the Westwood condo in the bedroom in 1990
    and if so why did Blanca Francia said there was never a bed in that condo?

    2. If there was a bed why would MJ be on or in a sleeping bag with Jason in that bedroom?

    Like

  5. LaShondria Kelley permalink
    February 25, 2018 9:29 pm

    Wow
    Reading this, especially what you wrote at the end, had a thought pop into my mind.
    It’s something Frank Dileo said.
    He said that Michael switched management after the Bad tour, end of 89 beginning of 90 and he let Frank go.
    He was told by the new management company to do so and was promised…
    Yep.. A chance to not only act but to direct.

    This time frame has me thinking this is why some no name was tasked with pulling the wool, it was a way to appease Micheal probably while he was in the midst of signing with new management, it was a manipulation tactic!

    Or maybe I’m just fantastical at this point.
    But I do believe I am right.

    Send her out, make him believe there is a film in the works, attach Spielberg to make it seem more believable and get him to fire Frank and sign on with them(their name escapes me and perhaps I should research before I write this comment Buuuut oops too late)
    If I’m wrong I’m wrong.

    Like

  6. February 24, 2018 5:52 pm

    So now it is not only repressed memories but also fake memories published in book format.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. February 24, 2018 3:40 pm

    Friends, here is a little update on the post. Nancy Griffin in the 2010 issue of Vanity Fair says that at the time Thriller video was made (October 1983) Michael Jackson was in discussions with Steven Spielberg for playing the lead in his Peter Pan musical. We don’t know whether those discussions ended in him getting the role, Spielberg could have refused him after all, but in any case he abandoned his first Peter Pan project for other reasons. I thought it necessary to mention it just for the record.

    Here is a quote from Griffin’s article:

    Jackson was driven by the pop star’s occupational affliction: the desire to be a movie star. He had met and befriended Steven Spielberg when he narrated the soundtrack album and audiobook for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. (Jackson cried when recording the part where E.T. dies.) He and Spielberg were in discussions about Jackson’s playing the lead in a filmed musical version of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.
    https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2010/07/michael-jackson-thriller-201007

    Nancy Griffin was on the set of shooting the Thriller video and her account of those three days is informative and rather objective.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. February 24, 2018 10:33 am

    “I suspect fans will have to separate the wheat from the chaff with even greater effort.” – CeeCee

    Of course it is very difficult to separate the grains of truth from lies. It is not only at your place, but everywhere else, and not only for Michael Jackson’s fans, but for everyone too. But I am aiming not for today and not even tomorrow – I am aiming for the day after tomorrow. This is when truth will prevail.
    It is quite a marathon and I am not in a hurry.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. CeeCee permalink
    February 24, 2018 8:55 am

    Helena — with so many upcoming anniversaries and milestones, I suspect fans will have to separate the wheat from the chaff with even greater effort. Given what I’ve read of late, my stomach is already churning. I stopped reading the comment sections on MJ related material a long time ago because I find the lack (or unwillingness) to consider logically some – if not all – of the claims made in ‘journalistic’ material a pretty depressing indictment of critical thinking skills. Being a teen of the 80s, I blame MTV 🙂

    Like

  10. February 24, 2018 4:09 am

    “It must be exhausting.” -CeeCee

    To be frank what’s really exhausting is having to live one’s life amidst lies. But searching for the truth is not exhausting – it is like looking for and finding oxygen in a polluted area. So it is actually much fun and very rewarding. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. CeeCee permalink
    February 23, 2018 10:15 pm

    I’ll start by saying I haven’t read the book nor do I intend to do so, so thank you for providing a synopsis of this work. As far as I’m concerned, the idea that Mr. Jackson had to be treated with velvet gloves and be assuaged or kept “happy” is a preposterous portrayal of a person who was known to be a very savvy businessman. Provided this ‘coddling’ is true, I would be curious to hear why people felt the need to keep “secret” the simple reconsideration of a project. This happens all the time in the industry and Jackson, while disappointed or even crushed, would have simply moved on to his own projects and waited for the next propitious moment to try making this movie again. This, too, happens all the time. There’s something not quite right about this whole story. Not that Jackson fans should be surprised; it’s become second nature for them to have to research thoroughly every piece of information that happens to mention him. It must be exhausting. And I can only imagine how the man himself must have felt throughout his life having to fend off a variety of fanciful tales. As for your concluding theory, I can’t help but think most of what you indicate she’s saying about that particular subject might be solely in light of events that transpired much later. In other words, and this is just an opinion, she, like others, had no reason whatsoever to worry or wonder about the children’s well-being when in Jackson’s company until, to everyone’s shock, other “events” transpired. Her “concern”, therefore, might be a kind of (sort of) ‘a posteriori’ addition to her story. I don’t know if I’ve made any sense; hopefully I have.

    Liked by 2 people

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