HBO is standing by its controversial Michael Jackson documentary that reveals the horrific alleged sexual abuse of young boys he took under his wing and invited to stay in his lair Neverland.
Despite rumors that HBO is reconsidering acquiring the rights to Leaving Neverland, the network’s boss Casey Bloys says he has every intention to continue with the film.
‘There is no hesitation, there are no plans to not air it,’ Bloys, HBO’s programming president, said to The Wrap.
He added that despite challenges from Michael Jackson’s estate attorneys, the network will proceed with airing the film on Sunday March 3.
HBO is standing by their recently acquired film Leaving Neverland, a shocking documentary that follows the story of two men who say they were molested by Michael Jackson when they were children . Director Dan Reed (center) and alleged victims Wade Robson (left) and James Safechuck (right)
‘There is no hesitation, there are no plans to not air it,’ HBO boss Bloys said on the controversial film (Jackson above with accuse Wade Robson)
Jackson’s estate has challenged the film and asked HBO to reconsider airing it (James Safechuck pictured above as a child with Jackson, who he claims raped and molested him)
‘All I ask of this is that people watch it and judge for themselves. I think you will see a very powerful, very moving, disturbing documentary. Once people see it, they can decide for themselves,’ Bloys said.
‘We’re not dealing with any legal issues or concerns. It’s going to air and we have not edited it,’ he said when asked about any possible ramifications.
‘We have a very, very experienced legal team. This has been vetted,’ he added.
The bombshell four-hour documentary, directed by Dan Reed, was first screened at the Sundance film festival in January and HBO and Channel 4 quickly scooped up the rights for the shocking film.
The film follows the story of Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck who claim that they were molested by the pop star while they were children.
The abuse alleged in the film was so appalling there were counselors on hand for traumatized viewers.
Since airing, the film has sparked backlash and outrage among Jackson fans and the king of pop’s estate.
Jackson’s estate has slammed the abuse claims as false and sent a 10-page letter to HBO executives to discredit Robson and Safechuck’s accounts in the documentary.
The estate released a statement last month calling the film ‘yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson’.
‘Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. This so called “documentary” is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project,’ the statement added.
Estate lawyer Howard Weitzman offered to meet with HBO executives in his letter and says that if the network cares about ethical standards ‘this documentary will never air on HBO’.
James Safechuck, left, pictured as a child holding hands with Michael Jackson, received a standing ovation from the audience at the film’s Sundance festival premiere last month
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California pictured above
‘We know that this will go down as the most shameful episode in HBO’s history,’ he said in the letter.
‘We know that Michael’s devoted fans, and all good people in the world, will not swiftly forgive HBO for its conduct,’ he added.
Afterwards, HBO released a statement defending the film.
‘Our plans remain unchanged…Dan Reed is an award-winning filmmaker who has carefully documented these survivors’ accounts. people should reserve judgement until they see the film.’
Director Dan Reed also defended his movie.
‘Anyone who sees the film will know it is solely about hearing the stories of two specific individuals and their families in their own words, and that is a focus we are very proud of,’ he said in a statement.
Michael Jackson’s estate’s full statement on explosive new documentary Leaving Neverland
Statement in full:
”Leaving Neverland’ isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.
‘The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge.
‘The two accusers testified under oath that these events never occurred. They have provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.
‘Tellingly, the director admitted at the Sundance Film Festival that he limited his interviews only to these accusers and their families. In doing so, he intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them.
‘By choosing not to include any of these independent voices who might challenge the narrative that he was determined to sell, the director neglected fact checking so he could craft a narrative so blatantly one-sided that viewers never get anything close to a balanced portrait.
‘For 20 years, Wade Robson denied in court and in numerous interviews, including after Michael passed, that he was a victim and stated he was grateful for everything Michael had done for him.
‘His family benefitted from Michael’s kindness, generosity and career support up until Michael’s death. Conveniently left out of Leaving Neverland was the fact that when Robson was denied a role in a Michael Jackson themed Cirque du Soleil production, his assault allegations suddenly emerged.
‘We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse. This film, however, does those victims a disservice.
‘Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money – millions of dollars — dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael’s Estate.
‘Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself, Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive.’