LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After months of industry hype, Hollywood on Tuesday rolls out the red carpet for Michael Jackson movie “This Is It” showing the final performance of the fallen King of Pop.
Culled from 80 hours of videotape taken of the pop star’s final days of rehearsals for a series of London concerts in July also titled “This Is It,” director Kenny Ortega has called the film “a story of a master of his craft.”
Jackson, who grew up as one of Motown legends The Jackson 5 and still has the highest selling album of all-time with 1982’s solo effort “Thriller,” died suddenly on June 25 in Los Angeles after suffering cardiac arrest at age 50.
Officials have since ruled that his heart stopped due to an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol, which is utilized in surgery, as well as the sedative lorazepam, often used to treat anxiety and sold under brands of Ativan and Temesta.
But “This Is It” was never meant to delve into the details of his death, which could result in criminal charges being filed against his doctors.
“It’s a privileged path to observe Michael as the creative architect and mastermind behind his work,” Ortega told Reuters. He called it “raw” and “unguarded” and said “it’s a unique behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of putting a show together,” referring to the “This Is It” concerts.
The shows, 50 of them planned for London’s 02 arena, had been dubbed Jacksons’ “comeback tour” by the media after the superstar had left the stage in the 2000s.
In the 1990s, Jackson was the subject of child molestation allegations and in 2003, he was arrested and charged with child sex abuse. After a 2005 trial, he was acquitted of all charges. Still, the negative publicity took him out of the spotlight.
He was said to be as much as $400 million - $500 million in debt when he died, but the value of his assets -- principally his music and his ownership of a song catalog that held rights to old Beatles tunes -- outweighed his debts.
After his death concert promoter AEG Live, which bankrolled the London concerts, struck a $60 million deal with Sony Corp.’s Columbia Pictures movie studio to use the videotapes and make the film. Ortega, the shows’ choreographer and a long-time Jackson friend was hired to direct.
“This Is It” sees it’s world premiere in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. pdt (1 a.m. GMT), and numerous celebrities are expected. Celebrity TV show Access Hollywood said Jackson’s brothers, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Randy will be on hand.
Simultaneous premieres will be held in 15 cities around the world including Seoul, Johannesburg, Rio De Janeiro, Berlin and London, and the film will then begin its worldwide rollout.
“I want to see what his life was like behind the scenes so that maybe I can understand his death,” said Ruben Prada, 33, in San Isidro, Peru, a suburb of Lima.
In the United States, online ticket seller Fandango.com reports that more than 1000 shows are sold-out and “This Is It” is the No. 3 top-selling advance ticket of 2009, so far.
Global box office estimates vary from more than $600 million over its planned two-week run down to $100 million -- still a large amount for a movie that is part concert film, part documentary and all Michael Jackson.
Additional reporting by Dana Ford in Peru; Editing by Jill Serjeant