Michael Jackson aimed to direct movie about foster children

Wed Jul 22, 2009 8:22am EDT
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By Alex Ben Block

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Three months before his death, Michael Jackson committed to co-directing and financing a movie -- a poignant drama about foster children -- and planned to get started as soon as he completed his London concerts.

The news is the latest in a series of revelations that are helping to shed light on the pop star's passions and projects, even as the investigation into his abuse of prescription drugs and a tussle over custody of his children rage on.

The movie project also is eerily keyed to one of the most haunting aspects of Jackson's life: his apparent feeling that the Jackson 5's huge success robbed him of his childhood.

"He was very excited about making movies and wanted his hands on everything, from working on screenplays to producing, to writing the music. However, he never showed any interest in acting," B-movie producer, writer and director Bryan Michael Stoller said of Jackson, who starred in the 1978 pic "The Wiz."

Stoller said he had a 23-year friendship with the pop star and was his partner in the film company Magic Shadows. He was to have co-directed the movie, called "They Cage the Animals at Night," which Stoller said they had been developing for seven years.


The project was based on a 1985 book about the real-life experiences of author Jennings Michael Burch, who bounced around foster homes as a child. Jackson showed the book to Stoller in 2002 at his Neverland estate and asked if he wanted to produce and co-direct a movie version.

"Michael told me often he felt like he grew up as an orphan, like a foster kid, because he never was in one home," Stoller said. "To him every hotel was like a different foster home. He said he used to sit in the window and see kids playing outside and cry because he couldn't be part of that."   Continued...

<p>Michael Jackson waves to supporters outside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, June 13, 2005. REUTERS/Gene Blevins</p>