LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - By now, most anybody who has read of the upcoming Michael Jackson movie, “This Is It” which debuts globally October 28, knows it was directed by Jackson’s friend and dance choreographer Kenny Ortega.
Ortega had been hired to stage the King of Pop’s London concerts, also called “This Is It,” which would have begun last July had the “Thriller” singer remained alive. Jackson died, of course, on June 25 from a lethal combination of drugs.
After Jackson’s death, Ortega was hired to edit together 80 hours of video taken on stage and behind the scenes of the “This Is It” rehearsals for the 111-minute movie. Many of the recent interviews with Ortega have been about Jackson’s sudden death and the events around it, so Reuters took a minute to talk about the movie and what fans will actually see.
Q: How about for a change of pace, we focus on the movie:
A: (laughs). Thank you.
Q: It has been called part documentary, part concert film, but what does that mean? What’s the “It” in “This Is It”
A: It’s such a unique idea. I call it a “musical mosaic.” We took the remnants of what we had and constructed a musical story that I think will help fans appreciate what Michael was putting into “This Is It”, what his dreams for it were, what his goals were for it.”
Q: Does it have a plot or themes? What happens onscreen?
A: It doesn’t have a plot line. There is not a narrative, however there is definitely a story. It is a story of a master of his craft, a great genius in his final theatrical work and creative process. You see him interacting. It’s a privileged path to observe Michael as the creative architect and mastermind behind his work. And this is something that I don’t think people knew he did, let alone ever seen him do.
Q: So, we get a picture of Michael as a creative force.
A: Yeah, as the conductor.
Q: Not only in music and dance, but also in his own words as he’s talking about the show and his reasons for including different songs or staging different dances?
A: That’s right, and in other people’s words, too ... Nowhere near the 80 hours did we have Michael in rehearsal. However, we had enough to be able to cut together a pretty big portion of what Michael was planning for the tour. The film is somewhat wall-to-wall music. The band, the singers, Michael live. You see it, you really feel it, you sense it. It’s raw, unguarded, it’s a unique behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of putting a show together.
Q: When you were sitting in that dark, editing room looking at the video, were there times where you said to yourself, “I have to show that. That is pure Michael”? And what were they.
A: Absolutely. First of all, when I assumed this and took on the responsibility to direct this ... I realized it was my responsibility, the journey wasn’t over, and then I called upon Michael immediately, and I was just like, “you’re not letting me go in there alone.” And everyday, I really did bring Michael with me as best I could. And never forgot he was there. He was in my mind and in my heart, Michael, along with some of the other creative friends that worked with us on the concert.
We started to look at the footage and we had two things in mind: most importantly Michael’s integrity and secondly, what is going to serve the fan base. And the footage talked to us. It jumped out at us. There were times, I swear, when we heard Michael say “Use it all; do it all.” And I’d look at (my collaborator) and say, “did you just say that?” And he’d say, Michael said, “Do it all.” And I’d say, “that’s what I thought. I thought I heard Michael say “do it all.”
Q: The opposite question is, were there parts of Michael you didn’t want to show?
A: It’s unguarded, and it’s raw, and it’s real and it’s truthful, and it’s not always pretty and he’s not always lit, you know. We weren’t really overly protective. It has soul and heart and truth and warmth and magic. The real answer to that question would be “no.”
Q: For all that has been said and written about Michael, what don’t people know that comes through in the movie?
A: That he did it all. He did it all. He wrote the music. He understood the music. He knew every part that everybody was supposed to play. He could sing you the bass line or the guitar part. He could play the horn line or the string line. He knew the harmonies, he sang them all.
I think what we walk away with, for those that might have forgotten ... I think this will remind people, I hope it will remind people, of this incredible talent that existed, you know, and the tremendous legacy he left for us.
Editing by Deena Beasley