Michael Jackson saw shows as live stage farewell

Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:12pm EDT
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By Mirja Spernal and Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Jackson intended his run of 50 live concerts in London to be his live performance farewell and an event to share with his growing children, the director of his new movie said on Tuesday.

In the last few days of his life, Jackson appeared to have "gone into another gear" while rehearsing for the concerts and showed no signs of drug dependency, Kenny Ortega told Reuters in an interview.

"This is It," a feature-length film built around footage of the final Los Angeles rehearsals before Jackson's death on June 25 aged 50, hits theatres around the world on October 28 and looks set to be one of the biggest movies of the year.

"This was it, this was his final curtain call. I think that what Michael wanted to do was to retire from performance and focus on film-making and other things," said Ortega, who had been working with Jackson choreographing the This Is It gigs.

"He had said to me before in confidence that he didn't intend to be out there in the world performing for much longer, so this opportunity came along where he thought that he was young enough to be able to do what it was that he loved, he wanted to share it with his children ... to do it for the fans."

Asked whether Jackson had shown any signs of dependency on drugs, Ortega replied: "No."

Jackson died of a prescription drug overdose including a powerful sleep agent and sedatives. His sudden death triggered fevered speculation about his physical state.

"He was excited, looking forward to (it), happy, pleased with what we had accomplished up until that moment and looking forward to finishing up the rehearsals in Los Angeles and moving on to London," Ortega said.   Continued...

<p>Michael Jackson gestures during a news conference at the O2 Arena in London March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>