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Project M and REAL MOVIE PROJECTS for Michael Jackson. Part 3

March 3, 2018

Now that we know that Project M, devised by Disney executives in 1990 for the trusting Michael Jackson was a sham and was not intended to be realized from its very beginning, we can have a look at other episodes in Darlene Craviotto’s book.

An important episode worth our attention took place in March 1990 during the author’s first visit to Neverland where she was supposed to discuss with Michael the concept of their so-called Peter Pan movie.

“HE WON’T LEAVE!”

The problem was that when the author arrived on a pre-arranged meeting with Michael, he was not available to her for half a day because of another visitor there. This other visitor was Jon Peters of Sony studios who had already spent there the whole weekend and was supposed to leave early in the morning, but “wouldn’t go away” though a small red helicopter was already waiting for him.

Ms. Craviotto put much emotion into the scene to show how much Michael Jackson was exasperated by the long-staying and possibly unwelcome guest. 

“I’m so sorry, Darlene…”

“Why?”

“We’re supposed to meet, but I don’t know how that’s going to happen…”

He seems skittish as he meets me in the doorway, and then starts to lead me out of the library, down the hallway towards the living room.

“Is there a problem?” I ask.

“I have a visitor, and he won’t leave!” he says, sounding totally exasperated as he guides me through the beautifully appointed living room with its roughly hewn oak floors and a grand piano covered with silver framed photos of Michael, his family, and numerous celebrities and dignitaries.

“I don’t know what to do!” Michael says, as he leads me next into the largest kitchen I’ve ever seen in my life.

…We have barely entered the kitchen before Michael hands me a phone from behind a counter.

“Talk to Stella,” he instructs, in a quiet, apologetic voice.

…”Jon Peters won’t leave,” she explains, letting out a little sigh.

Jon Peters is Sony Studios, or at least he runs it.

“He spent the weekend, and he was supposed to go home late this morning, but he’s still there, and he doesn’t seem to want to leave.”

… “There’s a helicopter waiting for him, but he’s just not leaving.”

…“What would you like me to do?” I ask Stella, even though Michael is standing right next to me, and we could easily be having this conversation ourselves. “Do you want me to leave?” I ask.

“No!” both Michael and Stella say, almost at the same time.

They finally did manage to sit down for a discussion that day but it started only at 4:30 pm after the author had been taken on a tour of Neverland and waited, waited and waited until the small red helicopter picked up Jon Peters and took him away at last.

When Craviotto later related the scene to Howard Fein, a “vice-president of something at Disney”, his reaction to it was that of anger and anxiety according to Craviotto. He suddenly demanded that she turned in her script as soon as possible, much earlier than the September deadline stipulated in her contract with Disney.

The reason for it? Craviotto says that Disney executives were afraid that a rival studio, Columbia pictures, bought by Sony half a year earlier, would steal Michael for their own movie project – “Pinocchio” to be directed by Coppola with  Jackson in the title role. Disney pushed her to hurry up as they were afraid that the rival movie could kill their lovely (though sham) Peter Pan project.

 “Why are you pushing this?” I ask.

“I’m not going to sit back and watch Jon Peters and Sony come courting in a little fucking red helicopter!” Howard says, angrily.

So that’s what this was about: Disney was afraid of Sony stealing Michael away from them.

“Michael is excited about this project,” I explain, trying to calm his fears. “He loves Peter Pan!”

“He loves Pinocchio too,” Howard says, cryptically.

What’s Pinocchio got to do with this?
I ask him.

“Sony’s flirting with Coppolla for a Pinocchio film,” he explains. “Starring Michael as Pinocchio.”

Suddenly, I remembered that Michael had told me how much he loved Pinocchio. Maybe that’s why Jon Peters stayed so long at Neverland Ranch and didn’t want to leave. Peters wasn’t there because of the beauty; he just wanted to make a deal. But could a Sony Pinocchio deal kill out Disney Peter Pan project?

“You need to come up with a story treatment ASAP,” Howard tells me. “We need to lock up Michael before Sony comes to him with a Pinocchio deal.”

At this point let us recall where we are in terms of the timeline.

TIMELINE

According to Craviotto all of it was happening in March 1990.

From Mike Medavoy’s memoirs and other sources we know that in March 1990 Medavoy was hired by Sony to head the TriStar studios, bought by Sony together with Columbia pictures in September 1989.

By then TriStar already had the rights to the Peter Pan screenplay, but the studio intended to turn it into a “Hook” version. Mike Medavoy’s job was to finalize the copyright acquisition from its previous holders Dodi Al Fayed and Jerry Weintraub and invite Steven Spielberg to direct “Hook”.

For details of that story please look up the previous post. At the moment let us just repeat that since the rights to the screenplay were kept by another film studio, making a similar movie at Disney was impossible and this betrays Project M as a scam meant to just keep Michael “happy” and deceive him into thinking that he was participating in a serious movie project.

Ms. Craviotto constantly mentions this “happiness” factor and when describing her first visit to Neverland even measured it in per cent – according to her their Project M was only 90% about writing the script and full 100% about keeping Michael happy.

…the contract mentioned September. But I will not tell that to Michael. It’s 90% about the writing, and 100% about keeping Michael happy. I want him to think he can frolic as long as he likes in Neverland. He more relaxed he is, the better the work, and the better the product. Besides, it’s only March. September is a long, long way from now.

After Howard Fein, the author’s contact person with Disney, asked her to turn in the script as soon as possible motivating it by the rival studio’s looming project, she tried to speed up things with Michael. However when she approached Michael’s secretary (she calls her “Stella”) for the next appointment, the secretary said she could set it up for the following month only.

“Next month is looking good!” she says, hopefully.

Next month?!

“What about this month?” I ask.

“Already booked. But the end of next month looks possible.”

Possible?!

“This month he’s meeting with the President who’s giving him a medal,” she says, with great reverence. …“He’s “Entertainer of the Decade” she says proudly.

Looking smashing and at his best

This dialogue gives us an opportunity to place the described events in time with finer precision. Michael Jackson was indeed invited to Washington to meet with President Bush and his wife Barbara on April 5, 1990 and was indeed honored with the “Entertainer of the Decade” humanitarian award there.

Michael Jackson at a White House event with President Bush on April 5, 1990

The conversation with “Stella” took place prior to that White House event and since the next appointment with Michael Jackson was possible “at the end of the month” only, this takes us to the end of April or probably early May.

When Craviotto handed in her final script sometime in May/June that year the Disney people told her that Spielberg had taken up another project, and this was evidently true as by then Spielberg must have already begun rewriting the Hook script for Columbia studios – he was invited to direct that movie as soon as Mike Medavoy took his post in early March 1990.

But even the correct timeline does not prove that Spielberg was involved in their Project M in the first place. Nor does it make their sham project any more realistic – the copyright to the Peter Pan/Hook screenplay still belonged to Columbia/TriStar and this is all that matters here.

So all that Disney’s urge to hurry up with the script is just a drama element in Craviotto’s story and a make-believe scenario invented by them both for the reader and Michael Jackson.

«Katzenberg is nipping at my heels!”

Howard had said the magic word: Jeffrey Katzenberg.

“He wants to know what the hell’s taking so long?!”

When the head of a studio says a writer is taking too long, you are taking too long. No matter what your contract says. No matter it is says your deadline is September, and it’s only May. May is September on Katzenberg’s calendar.

“You’ve been meeting for almost two months,” Howard tells me, sounding exasperated. “Where is the story?!!!!”

Well, now we can even determine the approximate date when their sham project began. If by May she had been meeting Michael Jackson for almost two months, this places the start of it on March or February at the earliest.

And again this more precise timeline doesn’t change anything in the overall picture. Since the rights to the screenplay had been with TriStar studios since 1989, whatever time in 1990 their game started it was still a fraud and from its very beginning too.

Okay, but what about “Pinocchio”, the rival project mentioned in the above scene, the one that was supposed to be directed by Francis Ford Coppola at Columbia?

COPPOLA AND “PINOCCHIO”

Interesting, but in contrast to the Peter Pan fraud the Pinocchio project was genuine, however Craviotto and Co. still manage to tell a big fat lie about it. You will wonder how that is possible and how a real project can still be a lie?

The answer to the riddle is in the timeline again and the fact that though Coppola did want to direct Pinocchio and apparently considered Michael Jackson for the lead role, all of it happened much later – Coppola’s project started only in 1991 and at a different studio (Warner Brothers), and was shifted to Columbia Pictures only three years later, in 1994.

So claiming that Columbia was trying to steal Michael Jackson for their Pinocchio project in 1990 is an outrageous lie which Craviotto and her Disney bosses are telling us for seemingly no reason at all, unless they want to embellish their story and make it sound more thrilling.

To find why they are telling us so absurd a lie we need to look a bit closer into Coppola’s “Pinocchio” project.

Numerous articles of that period retell Coppola’s long saga of trying to direct Pinocchio at Warner Bros and then Columbia, but still never making it. The first landmark in that saga came in 1998, when the jury decided in favor of Coppola in his lawsuit against Warner Brothers where he claimed that they were blocking him from making the film, and the second landmark came in 2001 when the appeal court overturned the jury verdict and ruled in favor of Warner Brothers instead.

The morale of Coppola’s story is in the importance of having the rights to the movie and what happens when these rights are infringed. No director and no studio are capable of making a movie if someone else has the rights to it, or when the director still has his obligations to another film studio, and Case No. B 126903 at the Los Angeles Appeal Court is the best proof of it.

The summary of facts in this document gives us all necessary information about Coppola’s “Pinocchio” complete with the dates.

        In the late 1980’s, appellant Coppola began considering concepts for a motion picture based upon the 19th century novel, “Pinocchio.” The story itself is in the public domain. Previously, in the 1960’s, Coppola had had negative experiences at Warner and had not since worked with Warner for many years.

In 1991 Coppola and Warner began discussing the “Pinocchio” project and two others [ ].

In mid-1991 Coppola and Warner came to disagreement over the compensation to be paid Coppola for his directing services on “Pinocchio.”

In May 1992, Coppola wrote a “Pinocchio” treatment, which was registered with the Writers’ Guild. Coppola testified that “I wrote that treatment at Warner’s request. Yes, everything I was doing was on their behalf.”

…Lisa Henson, a former senior creative executive at Warner assigned to the “Pinocchio” project, testified that a producer’s agreement had not been accomplished by the time she left Warner at the end of 1992. After leaving Warner, Lisa Henson became president of production at Columbia.

In early 1993, [screenwriter] Galati submitted his first draft screenplay for the “Pinocchio” film. Warner decided not to proceed with the “Pinocchio” project on the basis of a Galati screenplay. Coppola continued to work on the development of the “Pinocchio” film project.

In mid-1993, Coppola, in collaboration with Borelli, produced a draft screenplay based upon a concept which was significantly different than the Galati screenplay. He also wrote 14 original songs for potential use in the revised “Pinocchio.” Warner was apparently unaware of this new “Pinocchio” treatment until the Coppola-Columbia Pictures relationship surfaced.

…By letter dated June 30, 1993, addressed to Warner, counsel for Coppola “…advised that our clients…do not wish to continue negotiations…in connection with the motion picture project presently known as “Pinocchio” and we are terminating such negotiations on their behalf. This letter returned checks for the fee advance and expenses paid by Warner and demanded return of all “Pinocchio” materials provided by Coppola to Warner.

…By letter dated July 1, 1993, addressed to counsel for Coppola, Warner’s General Counsel advised that “The Producer Loanout Agreement between this company and Coppola has been and remains in full force and effect. We expect all parties involved to live up to their obligations under that agreement…” The checks tendered by Coppola’s counsel’s letter of June 30, 1993, were returned.

…By cover letter dated September 29, 1993, Coppola’s attorney sent various “Pinocchio” materials [ ] to Jared Jussim,Columbia Pictures’ Vice-President, Legal AffairsJussim concluded the rights of and any claims by Warner should be resolved before Columbia could proceed with the Coppola “Pinocchio” project.

…Coppola contends that there was no agreement with Warner; [ ] and, that “Pinocchio” is a public domain story which Coppola was free to develop anywhere, at anytime with anyone.

…Coppola and Columbia entered into an agreement “as of June 15, 1994” for the production of Coppola’s “Pinocchio.”

…A Warner executive, Steven Spira, heard through industry rumor that Coppola and Columbia were discussing a “Pinocchio” film project. Spira sent a letter dated February 17, 1994, to Coppola’s agent with a copy to Columbia, which read: “It has come to our attention that Coppola may be considering making a deal in connection with a PINOCCHIO project at Columbia. As you know, Warner has previously notified Coppola that he has an agreement at Warner in connection with any such project. Such agreement would preclude him from proceeding at Columbia.”

This case was filed September 13, 1995, 19 months following Spira’s February 17, 1994 letter. During this period, Warner, Coppola and Columbia were attempting to resolve the competing claims of rights in and to the Coppola “Pinocchio” project.

…The Warner-Coppola claims were not resolved. The “Pinocchio” project was not financed. Columbia would not proceed. Coppola’s “Pinocchio” was not produced. This litigation followed.

In the end the appeal court ruled in favor of Warner Bros. despite the fact that Coppola’s deal with them was not in writing but oral agreement only, and the rights to Pinocchio story were in public domain and not private property in contrast to Peter Pan screenplay.

Now that we know of the sad fate of Coppola’s “Pinocchio”, we are even less inclined to fall for Craviotto’s soap opera about Disney’s best intentions to make a Peter Pan movie starring MJ, which were ruined by Steven Spielberg who suddenly dumped their project and went to make “Hook” at Columbia instead.

Spielberg was surely not suicidal enough to involve himself in litigation similar to Coppola’s by drifting from one film studio to another and starting a project without first obtaining proper rights to it. And since the rights were with Tristar, Disney was ruled out and that makes this point final.

Was there a chance that Coppola was planning his Pinocchio movie at Columbia in 1990 as Craviotto claims it? Absolutely not. The Pinocchio project began only a year later and at Warner Bros. too, and Coppola himself says that everything he did was solely for that film studio and no one else.

But how do we know that Francis Coppola wanted Michael Jackson to star in his movie?

The media of that period repeatedly mentioned it. The article quoted below, for example, was written at a time when Pinocchio had already been taken to Columbia. And it also says that “at one point Coppola apparently considered casting Michael Jackson in the lead role”.

NOSING AROUND: No Lie: Coppola Eyes ‘Pinocchio’

July 17, 1994|JUDY BRENNAN

George Lucas, Michael Jackson and Francis Ford Coppola working on “Captain EO”

First there was a live-action movie version of the popular cartoon TV series “The Flintstones.” Now there’s a live-action version of a Disney animated classic in the works–“Pinocchio.”

But the master pulling the strings on the latest version of the fairy tale about the puppet-turned-boy is not in the Disney camp. It’s Francis Ford Coppola, the maestro of “The Godfather” trilogy, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and the upcoming Nov. 4 release “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.”

While Coppola’s associates and executives at Columbia Pictures, which would be the film’s likely distributor, are downplaying the immediacy of the project, sources close to the director say it could be his next endeavor.

At one point, Coppola apparently even considered casting Michael Jackson in the lead role.

Fred Fuchs, president of Coppola’s American Zoetrope Studio, insists that the director’s “lifelong dream” to film the fairy tale is only in the embryonic stage at this point.”

Because Collodi’s fairy tale, first published in 1883, is in the public domain, Disney doesn’t have a say about how the filmmaker portrays the Pinocchio characters unless he makes them look like those in its movie version. Only then would there be trademark infringement, a Disney spokeswoman said.

One Columbia source said the studio was a bit concerned that Coppola’s plans might be swallowed up in a dispute with Warner Bros., which several years ago had expressed interest in doing its own live-action “Pinocchio.” But Fuchs said, “it really didn’t go anywhere. . . . There was no deal with Warner Bros. regarding Francis’ script or this project.”

A Columbia source said that the earliest cameras could begin rolling is the spring [1995].

http://articles.latimes.com/1994-07-17/entertainment/ca-16701_1_coppola-pinocchio-writers

It’s funny that in the year 1994 Columbia said that the Pinocchio movie was only “in the embryonic stage” at their studio, while Craviotto tells us that they were stealing Michael Jackson for it already in 1990.

Now what does all this mess tell us about Craviotto’s book?

It tells us that she wants us to believe that in the year 1990 she and Disney knew what Francis Coppola didn’t yet know himself – that a year later he would start a Pinocchio movie at Warner Brothers and three years later would take it to Columbia.

Just as a reminder here is the respective episode from her book:

“Sony’s flirting with Coppolla for a Pinocchio film,” he explains. “Starring Michael as Pinocchio.”

Suddenly, I remembered that Michael had told me how much he loved Pinocchio. Maybe that’s why Jon Peters stayed so long at Neverland Ranch and didn’t want to leave. Peters wasn’t there because of the beauty; he just wanted to make a deal. But could a Sony Pinocchio deal kill out Disney Peter Pan project?

“You need to come up with a story treatment ASAP,” Howard tells me. “We need to lock up Michael before Sony comes to him with a Pinocchio deal.”

When we first read it, it looked okay to us, but now that we know the truth behind it, it sounds totally ludicrous. This piece is a clear invention on her part which sticks out like an artificial jaw that absolutely doesn’t fit.

Apparently, Craviotto invented this lie for her 2011 book on the basis of newspaper reports that surfaced in 1994 about Coppola shifting his project to Sony, or she was told to change the time of those events by her secret sponsors and designers of Project M.

But what can be the explanation for so strange a lie? After all every lie is told not just for the fun of it, but also to reach a certain goal, but what goal could the fairy-tale about “Pinocchio” at Columbia in 1990 aim at?

The key to this riddle is hidden in a totally different place and is connected with the name of the person who arrived to visit Michael Jackson at Neverland in that small red helicopter of his. The name of that person was Jon Peters.

JON PETERS

Jon Peters was a co-chairman of Columbia/TriStar film studios (the other chairman was Peter Guber) and he was the one who visited Neverland when Ms. Craviotto was there, and was said to have “exasperated” Michael Jackson by staying too long.

We’ve never heard of this Jon Peters, but he is a very interesting phenomenon in the film industry. He and his long-time business partner Peter Guber were appointed in 1989 as chairmen of Sony Pictures division after the company bought Tristar and Columbia Pictures, and that nomination sent the whole Hollywood into a hysterical laugh.

The first reason for the elation was the fact that just before taking their posts with Sony, the two film producers had renewed their contracts with Warner Bros. with whom they had been since 1983, and when Walter Yetnikoff lured them to Sony, the Japanese company had to release them out of those contracts by paying to Warner Bros. a staggering sum of $800 millions. This deal even prompted some wags to call it “Pearl Harbor revenged”.

Peters and Barbra Streisand with their Golden Globes in 1977. Peters’ A Star Is Born won for best film (musical/comedy), with Streisand winning best actress and best original song

The second reason for all the mockery was Jon Peters’s character and background. There is no nasty story that hasn’t been told about him in Hollywood – he is a womanizer and a vulgar bully, an illiterate nobody who rose to the top just by being a hairdresser and boyfriend to Barbra Streisand, a rogue whose sole goal was power and laughing all the way to the bank, etc. etc.

However despite all the ridicule the team of Jon Peters and Peter Guber did have a number of successful movies to their credit – A Star Is Born (1976) with Barbara Streisand in the lead role, Caddyshack with Chevy Chase (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Flashdance (1983), The Color Purple (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Rainman (1988) and Oscar-winning box-office megahit Batman (1989) for which Jon Peters was the main driving force.

Jon Peters and Michael Jackson

Jon Peters’ other difference was that he was especially close to Michael Jackson and Walter Yetnikoff, who had invited him and Peter Guber to Sony.

Jon Peters was also credited with facilitating a long-term agreement between Sony and Michael Jackson as their biggest recording artist.

One of those articles that laughed at Jon Peters (and was sarcastic about Jackson) described the way the two of them got acquainted.

Jon had been woken up in the middle of the night by a very whispery voice whose first words were “I love Batman.” Jackson asked if he could visit Jon, that very night, and he soon arrived at Jon’s Beverly Park mansion in his helicopter. Jackson became obsessed by Jon, who spent some of the weirdest times of a weird life at Jackson’s Neverland estate. The parties Jon gave for his new little girls [adopted daughters] became the hottest ticket in town, because Jackson loved to perform for Jon. Jon announced his plans to sign Michael to Columbia in the biggest deal in history, to do records, film, videos, theme parks, whatever he wanted. Here was the “synergy” the studios were all seeking, and here was Jon Peters, putting it all together.

http://deadline.com/2009/05/it-should-be-called-dickhead-jon-peters-book-proposal-sets-new-low-9337/

After joining Sony in 1989 Jon Peter indeed threw himself into a movie project with Michael with the ardor only he was capable of.

The sham Project M described by Craviotto was no match for what Jon Peters’ was planning to make at Columbia – his movie project was called “MidKnight”, the script was well in the making, the film director was nominated and ready to proceed, and it is only Craviotto and Co. who don’t want anyone to know anything about it.

So not only does Craviotto tell a fairy tale about Coppola working for Sony at the time, but the book also lies about Jon Peters coming to Neverland with a Pinocchio project. The truth is that it was his own “MidKnight” project and since the idea of it was suggested by Michael himself, there couldn’t be any talk about any exasperation on MJ’s part – Michael was very much interested in that movie and was keen on making it.

“MIDKNIGHT”

The “MidKnight” movie was supposed to be a musical and was about a shy young man who turned into a singing and dancing hero at 12 a.m.

The media said that “Jon Peters focused a great deal of energy on a Quixotic attempt to make an action movie starring Michael Jackson.” The dictionary defines the word “Quixotic” as both idealistic and having a sense of romantic nobility, and this gives us a feeling that Peters’ s attempt to make MidKnight was indeed a dedicated and chivalrous one.

We learn some details about this project from screenwriter Caroline Thompson who wrote scripts for Edward Scissorhand, the Addams family and other horror films, and who was hired to write a script for MidKnight too.

Her account is rather cynical which is the usual style of this writer, and at times she also sounds pretty mad, which doesn’t surprise those of us who have seen at least her Addams family movie.

Michael Jackson would have loved to have been Edward Scissorhands

Sep 28 2009

Screenwriter Caroline Thompson’s first produced film was Edward Scissorhands. After that she went on to write The Addams FamilyThe Nightmare Before Christmas and last year’s City of Ember. She has also directed versions of Black Beauty and Snow White. She now lives on a ranch with lots of animals in Ojai, Caifornia, and makes films for her website, http://www.smallandcreepy.com. We had a chat with her.

Vice: So you wrote the Michael Jackson movie that never happened?
Caroline Thompson:
 Yes. Larry Wilson, who I wrote The Addams Family with, and I wrote a film for him. The director was Anton Furst, who was the production designer on Tim Burton’s Batman.

Oh yeah, he killed himself, right?
Yeah. And the last words I said to him were, “Grow up, Anton.” So Jon Peters, who produced Batman, went to be the head of Sony and promised Anton a directing gig there. And Anton naively took the gig but didn’t realise that it meant he couldn’t work with any other studio, so couldn’t work with Tim Burton again, which distressed him. At any rate he threw himself into this project for Michael Jackson, which we called MidKnight. I think the reason we decided to do a story about a knight was that a knight usually wears a helmet mask and we wanted to cover up Michael’s face because we thought a film audience wouldn’t take him seriously as an actor. We ourselves had a hard time taking him seriously as an actor. We had a very long and hilarious day at Neverland with him. It was Anton, our executive Amy Pascal who is now one of the heads at Sony, Larry and myself. There was this bathroom, which was full of paper wrappers and candy wrappers, all kinds of shit. It was really small, surrounded by a concrete wall, and Michael looked at it and said to us, “Isn’t it beautiful? It’s my favourite place where I go to be by myself.

… And then, when we finished the script, I got a phone call from Michael. At the time, I thought it was my then-boyfriend Danny Elfman playing a joke on me, so when I heard the voice go: “Hi Caroline, it’s Michael Jackson,” I answered, “Hi Michael!” in this Michael Jackson voice. Then I thought, Oh fuck, and I quickly worked out that it fucking was him, and he realised that I automatically made fun of him, and I don’t have any memory of what he said; I was just blushing and sweating the entire conversation.

Did you like him?
Well, I was fascinated by him. He had this little Band-Aid on his cheek, it was really small, and I just kept fantasising that… You know how you blow up a bicycle tyre? I just fantasised that something like that was under there to blow up his face. I was an admirer of him as a child, and as he aged and went on his weirdy journey, I just thought, How can this be a human being? It’s hard for any of us to imagine what it must be like to be someone who can’t go out of their house without being mobbed. He described to us how he would get in disguises and go out into the world, that was one of his greatest joys. I can’t say he made me feel sad, but it was close to that.

I would imagine that he would have been an Edward Scissorhands fan.
Oh he was a huge Edward Scissorhands fan; that’s why I was hired for the job. I’m sure he would have loved to have been Edward Scissorhands.

So what happened to the project?
Well we turned it in, and Anton didn’t want to, which is when I said, “Grow up, Anton.” I told him it is what it is and we’ll see what happens. Anton was scared, it was his first movie. He had no idea what shape it should be in to go to the studio. In those days, studios were in the development business, which they’re not really anymore, so things were taken and processed, as it were. But Anton was going to rehab, I guess he was a drunk; you’d go out for dinner with him and he’d look at the menu and he’d go, “I’ll have a brandy!” And evidently, none of us knew he was also a very serious Valium addict. Stanley Kubrick had driven him in despair to finding comfort in Valium and he’d never really gotten off it.

What had he worked with Kubrick on?
He did Full Metal Jacket. You know, turning London into Vietnam, which was quite a feat.

What can you tell me about your first novel, First Born?
…I always loved those late-19th century horror novels that were in the form of diary, and I wrote this diary from the point of view from a woman who had an abortion then had the abortion return. It turned out to be a live birth and many years later it finds its way home to her. …He ended up a little homunculus, with a tail. It’s not an anti-abortion story, it was meant to be a black comedy really.

And Hollywood picked up the rights to the book, right?
Yeah, but as most things go in LA, it just sort of withered on the vine, but it was pretty cool to get my first thing that far. And such a strange one. Many years later, William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) wanted to do it, and he’s such a scary creep I told the producer that if he ever left me alone in a room with Billy Friedkin I was not gonna go on with the project. And on the third meeting it was at Billy’s house at midnight with nobody else around and the guy’s really scary, and I said never mind, and walked away. He’s just creepy. And he had this little kid, a nine-year-old boy, that was sleeping in one of the rooms, that he told me he had shown all of his movies to, like at age five. This five-year-old must have been traumatised for life having seen The Exorcist. He just was a person without barriers. Like so many people here. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/7bjmmq/michael-jackson-would-have-loved-to-have-been-edward-scissorhandsARE

It is an off-topic of course, but I can’t help feeling amazed by her and all those others “without barriers” there, who have the cheek to call Michael Jackson “weird”. William Friedkin was traumatizing a child with Exorcist and other horror  movies since age 5 (the boy was sleeping at his place for some reason), but it is Michael Jackson who Craviotto rushes to report to Hollywood because of a nine-year old who listened to the innocent Peter Pan story together with Michael and Buz Kohan?

Indeed, as one wise old book says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

However even this cynical lady has to admit that their MidKnight movie project was to be taken seriously, as the director Anton Furst, same as producer Jon Peters, “threw himself” into it and they went as far as finishing the script, and then everything suddenly stopped when Anton Furst committed suicide.

Please note the irony and scepticism with which this screenwriter is talking about Michael Jackson’s chances in Hollywood: “A film audience wouldn’t take him seriously as an actor. We ourselves had a hard time taking him seriously as an actor”. This was a widespread notion in Hollywood that was repeated in almost every newspaper article that wrote about Michael and his dream of going into the movies.

All of them kept saying that Michael Jackson was too “weird” for a feature length film which was of course a grave exaggeration. In fact he was even less weird than others in that Hollywood crowd. As to his looks he was at his best at the time, and it was only his acting skills which required polishing, to be frank about it.

Whatever the case, while Jon Peters and Anton Furst were working hard on their MidKnight project many others were making fun of it and even called it “window dressing” only.

The book “HIT AND RUN: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood”, by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters, which is an open hatchet job against Yetnikoff and his protégés Jon Peters and Peter Guber, claims that “everyone” at Columbia knew that it was window dressing with the exception of Jon Peters and Anton Furst. For them the project was absolutely real.

Jackson’s much-vaunted deal, brokered by Jon Peters, had amounted to nothing. It had been “all window dressing” from the start, said a Columbia executive. “Everyone knew it as.” Everyone except Peters and Anton Furst, Batman’s brilliant production designer, that is.

While most people in Hollywood had long been convinced that Jackson was simply too weird to put into a feature-length film, Peters and Furst had tried to develop MidKnight for the star.

But Jackson had lost his two collaborators in 1991. Peters had left the studio, while Furst had died tragically in November. On the day he was scheduled to admit himself into a detox program for an addiction to Valium, Furst had either fallen or jumped off the eighth floor of a Culver City parking garage.

When the Jackson scandal broke [1993], the two projects that had been in the works at Jackson’s production company, Jack and the Beanstalk and MidKnight, had been in turnaround for some time. Executives could breathe a sigh of relieve that this scandal, at least, would not tar the studio. (p.407).

Jon Peters and Peter Guber

Photo [unavailable]: Peters and Guber pose with Michael Jackson, who signed a $60 million deal with Sony in 1991 encompassing films as well as music. Although most Hollywood insiders believed that Jackon’s  persona was too weird for him to become a film star, Peters was developing MidKnight, a fantasy project about a superhero, for him. MidKnight was shelved after Peters left the studio.

The idea that MidKnight was shelved after Peters left the studio is actually wrong. Jon Peters left the studio in spring 1991, but was offered by Sony to do an independent job under their umbrella, so he and Anton Furst still went on with their project.

In November 1991 the LA Times reported that the movie was in progress, was set to go into production in the first half of 1992 and was to be distributed by Sony’s Columbia pictures division.

Next on lineup: another movie for Michael Jackson?

November 15, 1991|By David J. Fox Los Angeles Times

Michael Jackson’s new music video, “Black and White,” was scheduled to make its debut on nationwide TV last night, but another of the entertainer’s projects remains under heavy wraps: a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop a movie titled “MidKnight.”

Is it the story of a meek young man by day who secretly changes into a heroic singing and dancing knight at the stroke of midnight? A Sony executive declined comment.

But he did say that the storyline based on Mr. Jackson’s idea would encompass elements of action and, of course, music. And that it will be presented in “different” ways not before seen on the screen.

Based on Mr. Jackson’s unspectacular track record with film acting (“The Wiz” and in Disneyland’s “Captain EO”) some doubt his ability to carry a full-length feature film of his own. But the Sony executive said the company sees Mr. Jackson’s appeal and the film as a means to link up to the company’s software markets.

Produced by Jon Peters, the former co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and by Oscar-winning “Batman” set designer Anton Furst, “MidKnight” could go into production in the first half of next year. The movie would be distributed by Sony’s Columbia Pictures division.

“Now the focus is on the release of Mr. Jackson’s new album, but it will shift soon,” the spokesman said.

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-11-15/features/1991319094_1_sony-pictures-entertainment-michael-jackson-captain-eo

The MidKnight project was really killed when its director Anton Furst fell off the 8th floor on November 24, 1991, just a week after the above article. His death was called suicide but the circumstances accompanying it were strange, though foul play was ruled out by the police. He was just about to check in a hospital for treatment for his Valium addiction and said to his friends that he was going to the car to fetch his cigarettes, but moments later fell off an eighth story parking deck.

Friday 3 July 1992

Anton Furst

….He moved first to New York to design Awakenings, Penny Marshall’s hospital drama based on the work of Oliver Sacks. At the beginning of 1990 he was firmly established in Hollywood, and initially expressed pleasure at his new life. A deal with Sony (which had recently taken over Columbia Pictures) had thrown up several exciting possibilities.

Michael Jackson was apparently keen to make Midknight, a full-length musical, and Furst had ideas for a film version of Candide and a new Frankenstein. Everyone appeared to be in awe of this eccentric with the piratical dress code and Home Counties accent.

Towards the end of November 1991, Furst announced his intention to kick drugs and drink. He cropped his lanky brown hair as a symbol of his clean-up. Nigel Phelps, one of the few of his old friends who had accompanied him to Los Angeles to work in his office, was pleased to take him to Midtown Hospital to check in. But the formalities took a while, and Furst wandered outside. He climbed the eight floors of the garage opposite; he was found in an alley moments later.

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/when-hell-burst-through-the-pavement-and-grew-anton-furst-conjured-up-batmans-gotham-city-in-england-1531040.html

A FEW ANSWERS

Now it is probably time to answer  some questions.

Did Michael Jackson know that Project M was unrealistic? Certainly not, at least until the final stage of that “project” – the numerous dialogues the author had with Michael Jackson sound authentic and none of them would have taken place if Michael had not believed in that project.

Who did he blame for the project failure? Most probably Steven Spielberg as this was the explanation given to him by the Disney executives. Michael had no reason to doubt their word – after all Spielberg did start working on the Hook version of Peter Pan soon after that, and it only confirmed their story. The fact that Disney had no rights to make that movie from the start of it was most probably never disclosed to Michael.

Was Michael really frustrated with Jon Peters’ long stay at Neverland? This I doubt very much as the rival Midknight project was a no less attraction to Michael Jackson than Peter Pan.

Why did Darlene Craviotto’s book portray Jon Peters as a stubborn blockhead who kept staying at Neverland though MJ was allegedly “exasperated” with him and the helicopter was waiting? The answer is lying on the surface – it is important for Craviotto and those involved in this Peter Pan sham to belittle Jon Peters and everything done for Michael Jackson by him and his company (Columbia/TriStar/Sony).

They don’t want readers to know either that Jon Peters’s project was real and suggest the idea that the only real project was theirs, devised by then Disney executives – Jeffrey Katzenberg and others.

To confuse people further they introduced into the picture that Coppola-Pinocchio twist. The Pinocchio project was used by them as a way to explain Jon Peters’s long stay at Neverland and since much later Coppola did indeed take it to Columbia, the episode looked quite credible – no one checks up the dates these days, and this is what they counted on.

Jon Peters and his MidKnight project were meant to be fully erased from public memory or never to be known at all,  and this is one more goal of Craviotto’s story. The reason for that is slightly more complicated than the rest of it, and apparently is not even connected with Michael Jackson. Its most probable origin is in a personal clash of Jon Peters with the biggest power players in Hollywood, namely a Hollywood mogul Barry Diller who once made an oath that “Peters would never work in this town again”.

An interesting fact about Barry Diller is that he was a mentor to Jeffrey Katzenberg and other top executives at Disney, who initially worked for Diller when he was head of Paramount Pictures (one more film studio in Hollywood) and only later took their jobs at Disney.

Jon Peters’ violent clash with Barry Diller is described in his autobiography that was about to be published recently, but was given up due to an uproar in the press, adverse publicity and a threat of lawsuits. Some well-wishers leaked the excerpts from that book to the media and this is how we know that Barry Diller swore that he would turn Jon Peters into a Hollywood outcast.

… at the Malibu home of Michael Jackson’s manager Sandy Gallin, Jon was ridiculed by Barry Diller. “What do you know about movies?” the most powerful, most arrogant gay man in the business (before David Geffen came onstream) derided Jon. “You made Endless Love. What a joke.”

But the joke was on Diller, when the furious Jon lifted Diller over his head, slammed him against a wall and bitch-slapped him for le tout gay Hollywood to see. Then, to create the illusion that he was just playing [] Jon kissed Diller on the cheek.

Unamused, Diller swore to Jon that he would never work again in this town, which Jon laughed off as a joke. The high-style crowd, many Brooke Shields fans, actually cheered Jon, before the normally unflappable Diller was dragged away in shock.”

So the powerful Diller swore to Jon Peters that he would never work again in Hollywood?

This may explain why others were so skeptical about Peters making the MidKnight movie, why it was so idealistic an attempt, why we know so little of Peters and why Ms. Craviotto is trying to portray him as some clown who annoyed and exasperated even the genteel Michael Jackson.

In fact, the whole situation around Jon Peters opens our eyes to the fact that Craviotto’s smooth story is covering up for an intricate power struggle between big Hollywood players in 1990 – then Disney executives and people associated with them vs. the people who began working at the newly formed Columbia/TriStar/Sony conglomerate.

And Michael Jackson happened to be in the midst of that power play. He was probably even unaware of the whirlpool he was in, seeing only the ripples of it and getting the blows that came his way just because of other people’s games and intrigues.

Craviotto is there to express the views of only one faction around Michael Jackson – the one represented by Jeffrey Katzenberg and others in the same team. These people are portrayed by her in the most positive light – they are very well-meaning, having the best of intentions and always ready to help Michael to star in a movie of his dream. The fact that that their project was actually a fake is of little importance, just a minor detail in comparison with the grandiosity of their “help” to Michael. After all they did make him 100% happy, so what more could they give?

The other people who were around Michael Jackson then are described in less benign terms. Jon Peters is a clown not to be taken seriously, Buz Kohan is a nobody who goes as some shady character “Buddy” who doesn’t even deserve a name, and Steven Spielberg – well, what can you expect of these creative geniuses who change their plans every five minutes, do one thing and then another and you never know what they are up to?

When you look at the reality behind Craviotto’s book you start realizing that her story is a kind of a roadmap to untangling all that power play around Jackson, learning who was who in his surrounding and what role these people played in Michael Jackson’s life.

And watching this game would probably be even some fun if it weren’t for one point – the fact that the people who are standing behind Craviotto’s book and are made out as the “good” guys in her story, are also the ones who are trying to portray Michael Jackson as a “molester”.

 DELIBERATE SMEAR

The evidence that she is smearing Michael Jackson on purpose is undeniable.

First she made a mountain out of a molehill over that ten-year boy “from New Zealand” who listened to her final reading of Peter Pan script at Michael’s place together with Buz Kohan. The next morning she rushed to Hollywood with her innuendos about Michael, based on nothing but fantasies alone.

The following year, in 2012 she wrote a piece about Jackson with a focus on his so-called “mistakes”, expressing the ideas very typical of a certain kind of people who first slander Michael Jackson, then call their own lies about him his “mistakes” and then generously “forgive” him with a dismissing sigh saying that “this is not the Michael they will remember”.

Here is an excerpt from Craviotto’s essay about MJ in 2012 (the bold type is mine):

We all have times in life when we make mistakes (some of them big mistakes) that we’d rather forget.  Usually we do forget.  We push those mistakes to the farthest (and deepest) places in our mind.  We make ourselves forget, and unless we’re in the safety of a therapist’s office, or a priest’s confessional, no will ever know.  But if you’re a celebrity, everyone will know.

Michael never had a chance to be a regular person.  It’s tough enough when you become a celebrity as an adult.  But when it’s thrust upon you when you’re a child, and you really have no power over it, it can end up being destructive and terribly sad.

But that’s not the Michael I want to remember.

And in the year 2015, when the lawsuit of a “boy from New Zealand” (a prototype for the now grown-up Wade Robson from Australia) had not yet been thrown out by the judge, Craviotto made her final judgment on Michael Jackson, passing her guilty verdict on him based on nothing she knows about him.

All she saw back in 1990 was a boy at Michael’s place who listened to her final script, then fell asleep and Michael carried him to another room in the presence of two adults, and that was all, however this woman has the audacity to claim that she was “one of the insiders to know the “truth”.

Here is the notable exchange of comments that took place in her blog in 2015 where she shared the opinion of  another MJ detractor:

Reader: Michael Jackson was almost certainly a pedophile. Sorry your movie script wasn’t used but MJ would have been a disaster in that role. The part about MJ and the child creeped me out big time. Very interesting book confirms my suspicions.

Craviotto: I think that I agree with you on this – It would have been a disaster to have Michael play Peter Pan. I am guessing that this must have been a well known fact about Michael and that I was just not one of the insiders to know the truth.

Let us not forget that at least half of Darlene Craviotto’s book is complete fiction, used by her not only to express her own ideas about Michael Jackson, but also the views, wishes, fantasies and lies of those who encouraged her to write the book.

These people drew in Michael Jackson into a sham project of theirs, were untrue about other people working with him, distorted their characters and misrepresented their deeds, and this gives us reason to believe that those who masterminded it also wanted Craviotto to portray Michael as a “molester.” And smearing Jackson was the big idea of it all.

And from this point of view the black-and-white picture painted by this author is even a helpful tool revealing the truth to us – now we know for sure that all those who are made out by her as the “bad” guys around Michael Jackson were actually his friends and supporters, while those who are supposed to be the “good” guys in her story were absolutely not.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2018 4:43 am

    “if these players were in a power struggle with such as Jon Peters then why the active and worst type of smear on their part was/is left for Michael?” – Asma

    Let us unravel it together.

    Like

  2. Asma permalink
    March 16, 2018 5:03 pm

    I agree, CeeCee. Best regards to you as well. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Epistles to the King permalink
    March 16, 2018 3:30 pm

    Sometimes I wish those perpetrating these deeds did ACTUALLY know the meaning of the word ‘shame’. Peace & Love to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Asma permalink
    March 16, 2018 2:58 pm

    This post feels like a real breakthrough. You are amazing, Helena. The question for me, and you very likely will address this in the next post or two, is if these players were in a power struggle with such as Jon Peters then why the active and worst type of smear on their part was/is left for Michael? If at this stage Michael likely wasn’t even aware, then what caused them to come after him even in death with this constant assassination against his legacy and character?

    It is very chilling and angering that they have been allowed to get away with all that for this long. Just looking at the scope of it all is very upsetting. However, reading your research really helps to temper that anger as the truth becomes so needfully unveiled the focus becomes positively directed. May it continue and may all these players who have been involved with these unfair and unsavory actions against MJ finally meet their come uppance. *Shame* on them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. March 8, 2018 7:04 am

    Listen to what his children are telling about their father, Michael Jackson.

    Like

  6. March 8, 2018 7:01 am

    The people who knew him best-just are his children!

    Like

  7. March 7, 2018 12:24 pm

    “Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas don’t seem like they could be written by a jaded personality, given their fragile beauty even with freakish visuals and childlike, innocent nature, even in the face of such adversity. But I guess that’s probably simply because of Tim Burton more than anything else.”- luv4hutch

    I saw only “The Addams family” very long time ago and remember having very mixed feelings about it. As to the other movies, since Michael liked “Edward Scissorhands” its message couldn’t be bad.
    I’ve mentioned Caroline Thomson’s cynicism not only because of her comments about Michael, but also the things she said about her first book (in that long interview of hers which was shortened for the post). Her comment sounded a bit too crazy for me – about the abortion baby surviving the abortion, the mother falling madly in love with it, etc. Caroline Thompson says that even the publisher had not enough courage to publish the book.

    Thompson was evidently a very troubled teenager and in her first book written when she was 20 splashed out all her anger against what she calls “middle-class suburbia”:

    “I wrote the novel in my early-20s, and I was still in angry teenage mode, filled with resentment towards suburbia and all that that entails in America. So it was my sort of commentary on what it felt like to grow up in white middle-class suburbs.”

    It is the same old theme of an unhappy childhood turning people into angry and sometimes troubled adults. Something Michael always warned people about and wanted to prevent.

    Like

  8. March 7, 2018 11:45 am

    “Yetnikoff fought hard on Michael’s behalf during the promotion of Thriller, and he also gave great friendships and advice to the likes of Billy Joel as well. He helped artists because it was good for the bottom line, sure, but he also approached them as friends.” -luv4hutch
    “Totally agree on your comment about Walter Yetnikoff.” – Epistles to the King

    It’s very helpful to hear your opinion about Yetnikoff. I had the same impression of him. Will tell you more in the next post.

    Like

  9. Epistles to the King permalink
    March 6, 2018 8:55 pm

    @luv4hutch — Totally agree on your comment about Walter Yetnikoff. ♥

    Like

  10. March 6, 2018 7:08 pm

    Katzenberg has always struck me as a stick in the mud and someone eager to shiv anyone in the back. His years at Disney were very much proof of this. Michael Eisner had his faults when he was in control of Disney, but Katzenberg was a bull in a china shop, and Eisner made the right call sacking him. Katzenberg has of course been filled with vitriol ever since. In fact, Lord Farquaad in Shrek is Katzenberg, and DreamWorks as a whole, spewing their bile, since he is a representation of Eisner. I’m surprised he didn’t encourage Ms. Craviotto to trash Eisner as well and have him part of the Hook conspiracy.

    Jon Peters and Peter Guber are savaged in the book and by many in large part because of the fact that the Sony conglomerate struggled visibly for the first few years. Every hit, like Hook, was followed with several flops in a row. Sony didn’t find stability until Amy Pascal became head of the division in 1996. Thus, because Peters and Guber had announced they were going to establish Sony as a serious force, and it didn’t happen overnight, they became targets of ridicule. Now, Hit and Run does have valid points in its chronicle of those early years of Sony Pictures, including those of the partners (they weren’t perfect, but no director, producer, writer or studio is, GET OVER IT PEOPLE!), but it goes beyond the facts into clear speculation and filtering their actions into one particular outcome, as if they know this for a fact, when it clearly isn’t the case.

    The sandbagging of Walter Yetnikoff in the book takes the cake. Yetnikoff is well-known and respected in the music industry. He’s an absolute mensch…far different of a personage than Tommy Mottola. Yetnikoff fought hard on Michael’s behalf during the promotion of Thriller, and he also gave great friendships and advice to the likes of Billy Joel as well. He helped artists because it was good for the bottom line, sure, but he also approached them as friends. Whatever you think of Mottola, he was simply business-driven, and it’s no surprise that the Invincible flap occurred.

    Caroline Thompson has written scripts for great movies, but it’s a bit of a shame that she has an overly cynical edge. I would’ve expected her to be the opposite, if anything. Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas don’t seem like they could be written by a jaded personality, given their fragile beauty even with freakish visuals and childlike, innocent nature, even in the face of such adversity. But I guess that’s probably simply because of Tim Burton more than anything else.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. March 5, 2018 3:05 am

    Reblogged this on Michael Jackson's Human Rights.

    Like

  12. Jadz Szuster permalink
    March 4, 2018 4:58 am

    Thank you for a great read as always! How long is it going to take for people to stop reading things that people who what to make $$ I guess the answer to that is Never! Its sad that people can’t be educated there is so much more to Michael that we know!? or every will know? Thank you for your time and the dedication to the TRUTH OF MICHAEL JACKSON.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Epistles to the King permalink
    March 3, 2018 4:15 pm

    Of course! Yet another self-proclaimed ‘insider’ who knows the ‘truth’. They seem to be all the more numerous as time goes by, multiplying like Gremlins. Everyone was his best friend. Everyone was ‘close’ to him. Everyone was his confidante. Sure. Sure. It’d be laughable if it weren’t so terribly pathetic. In addition, the constant portrayal of Michael Jackson as “weird”, given what we know about Hollywood is, frankly, specious. I’m never quite sure what to make of comments of this nature since the definition of ‘weird’ varies according to who’s using it, but those who knew him well (I mean to say those who really did) knew him to be eccentric, yes, but most who interacted with him superficially are prone to exaggeration on this topic.
    The exchange between the ‘reader’ and the ‘screenwriter’ on which you report saddens me deeply. I must confess, I’ve stopped reading comment sections under news items if they involve Michael Jackson because I find one constant in all of them: Jackson admirers are often referred to as ‘blinded’ or bamboozled, or as fanatics who refuse to see ‘the truth’. It appears to me that those who display a visceral dislike for Mr. Jackson are just as ‘fanatical’ — if not more so — and just as reluctant to inquire into the facts of the cases regarding this man. There are current, prime time TV shows celebrating eccentric geniuses who revel in a childlike world, but Michael Jackson is weird because….well…no-one knows….he just is….move on, they say.
    This comment was a bit of a rant, but I feel quite frustrated at times. Thankfully, you spared me from having to read the particular book you’ve been writing about. Hopefully, people who knew Michael Jackson — I mean really knew him — will produce some material soon. I’ve just finished reading one book recommended by someone I trusted, but I’m thoroughly disappointed by (yet more) unsubstantiated and debunked material as well as fallacies from ignorance. But…nothing new to see here…it’s all been done.
    All the best and sorry about the rant ♥
    CeeCee

    Liked by 3 people

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