Michael Jackson excelled at a great number of things. He sang. He danced. He leaned over really far without falling down. If you need additional reminders of his lasting contributions to the culture, there's this:
So when we learned that this fabled entertainer was held back from his dream to act -- to do, to perform! -- we were shocked. And saddened. But then we brushed back our tears with a single white-gloved hand and sat down to tap out this loving letter to Michael Jackson, AC-tor, the star that could have been, but never was.
Michael Jackson wanted to be Spider-Man.
And also Professor X in the "X-Men" series. But according to former Marvel comics frontman Stan Lee, he was most interested in the human-arachnoid.
"I knew Michael Jackson. And with the things he discussed with me, I felt he wanted to be Spider-Man" in the 2002 film, Lee told MovieFone in 2012. "I think he'd have been good. I think he'd have been very good." (Interesting.)
Lee also confirmed that Jackson had attempted to purchase the holy Marvel empire in the early '90s, inching closer to his dream role. It was an unsuccessful endeavor, and Lee noted the pop star was "not a great businessman" who probably wouldn't have done the company many favors as its CEO. But imagine, for a moment, Spider-Man strung upside down in a rainstorm after heroically saving the life of manic-pixie poster girl Kirsten Dunst, who slowly unmasks him to reveal -- Michael Jackson!!! Cue the laser beams.
Michael Jackson recorded a soundtrack as leverage to secure the role of Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" reboot.
For his 2012 Jackson biography, Randall Sullivan spoke with music producer Marc Schaffel, who disclosed the singer's wish to play Wonka "in the worst way." Perhaps knowing the odds were stacked against him, Jackson secretly recorded a full soundtrack for the film at a small recording studio in Los Angeles, and sent it to the Warner Bros. executives. They loved it, according to Schaffel, but they didn't love the Earl of Whirl -- as the star of a children's movie, anyway. We agree it may have seemed a wee insensitive.
Jackson, though, took the news poorly, refusing any other role in the film. As Schaffel told Sullivan:
"Michael said, 'If I can't have the Willy Wonka part, they're not getting the soundtrack,' and he just basically shelved it. It was such a shame, because he had done such an incredible job with that soundtrack. I'm sure it would have won him an Academy Award." Now we'll never know.
Michael Jackson wanted to be the phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera." And the hunchback in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
After seeing the play "The Phantom Of The Opera" in 1988, shortly after it opened on Broadway, Jackson met Andrew Lloyd Webber backstage. He was interested in collaborating on a film version in which (surprise!) he would play the masked star. Despite seeing Jackson as a "highly theatrical animal," Webber explained in a 2009 Telegraph piece that it was just too soon to think about a movie. But he saw how Jackson could be attracted to the phantom.
"The story got to him. I think he had a connection with the lonely, tortured musician," Webber wrote. "He found the idea of somebody working through music and having a girl as a muse very intriguing -- and he loved that there was illusion in the show." Why casting directors settled on Gerard Butler for the eventual film adaption remains an actual puzzle, since masks are close enough to dark sunglasses, which were one of the Gloved One's favorite accessories. We would have loved to see some fancy footwork as the phantom stealthily flits away into darkness. The Phantom Walk. See what you stole from us, Warner Bros.?
Continuing Jackson's penchant for dark plots, Sullivan described in his biography how Jackson adored Victor Hugo's 1939 adaption of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." Jackson would watch it with a screenwriter buddy -- lights switched off -- and talk about playing tragic carillonist Quasimodo.
Jackson even wanted to put on a "Harry Potter" musical, but J.K. Rowling put her foot down.
We're not sure his intention was to act in it, or just provide some creative direction. We only know that in a 2010 interview, J.K. Rowling told Oprah Winfrey that her massive commercial empire "could be so much worse. Michael Jackson wanted to do the musical."
"I said 'no' to a lot of things," Rowling explained, telling Oprah how she doesn't have absolute power over the "Harry Potter" franchise, but a strong say. Of the theme park, the capitalist cherry atop her magical sundae, "I only wanted to do it because I knew it would be incredible," suggesting that, in her opinion, a Jackson-led musical would not be incredible.
As if answering a challenge, a "Harry Potter" musical was later written and performed by a group of college theater nerds, and it was totally awesome.