Because we will never satiate our collective appetite for Michael Jackson’s sordid personal life, Netflix is reportedly closing a deal to acquire a movie told from the perspective of the singer’s chimpanzee.
Maybe you remember Bubbles? Here’s a refresher course.
Jackson adopted the young chimp in 1983. By the late ‘80s, Bubbles was wearing diapers, traveling with Jackson on tours, sitting in on recording sessions and sleeping in a crib at Neverland Ranch. It was once rumored that Bubbles would serve as ring bearer at Elizabeth Taylor’s 1991 wedding, held at Jackson’s home, but Taylor’s spokeswoman denied it. Contributing to Jackson’s media mockery, the chimp’s presence helped to cement the singer’s lingering Peter Pan persona. In the early 2000s, Bubbles had become an aggressive adult, as apes are wont to do, and he was relocated to an animal sanctuary.
Now, back to the news: The movie is a stop-motion coming-of-age story called, well, “Bubbles.” The script, written by Isaac Adamson, topped the 2015 Black List, an annual ranking of admired screenplays up for grabs. In a bidding war with Hollywood studios, Netflix bought the rights for a hefty sum nearing $20 million, according to Deadline. (HuffPost asked a Netflix rep to confirm that figure, but we didn’t immediately receive a reply.)
Taika Waititi, best known for “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, and Mark Gufaston, who supervised the animation on “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” will co-direct “Bubbles.” Waititi and Gufaston’s clout lends the project a credibility that, say, Lifetime’s seemingly exploitative Jackson biopic cannot claim.
The stop-motion aspect of “Bubbles” is another mark in its favor, primarily because the project can avoid the controversy that’s inevitable when selecting an actor to portray Jackson. Things didn’t go well earlier this year when footage showed Joseph Fiennes playing the singer in the British comedy series “Urban Myths.” The European network Sky yanked the episode after Jackson’s family called Fiennes’ casting “shameful.”
“It’s an idea that fascinates me and one I want to develop further,” Waititi reportedly said in February, upon first signing on to direct the movie. “Most people know I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so the main thing for me is to make sure it’s respectful of him and his legacy. I’m not interested in making a biopic; I want to focus on telling a story that blends fact and fantasy, about an animal trying to make sense of the world.”
No release date has been announced.
UPDATE: A Netflix rep responded to say the news is “not confirmed at this time,” which implies it will be confirmed in the near future.