Michael Jackson Plans To Co-Direct Feature Film

'They Cage the Animals at Night' will be produced by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions.

"King of Pop"-turned-king of projects Michael Jackson has another new venture on his hands — co-directing his first feature film.

Jackson and Bryan Michael Stoller will adapt the Jennings Michael Burch book "They Cage the Animals at Night" for the big screen later this year, according to Stoller, who is also penning the screenplay and producing the project along with Mel Gibson's Icon Productions.

Gibson may take on a role in the film, depending on his schedule at the time of shooting, Stoller said, as may Jackson's close friends Marlon Brando and Liza Minnelli.

Jackson — who had a role in 1978's "The Wiz" and will appear in this summer's "Men in Black 2" (see "Michael Jackson Back Onscreen In 'Men In Black 2' ") — may make a cameo in "They Cage the Animals at Night" but will mostly focus on directing as well as writing and recording music for the movie.

Stoller said Jackson brought the project to him because he liked the book, which is a true story about Burch being bounced around from one foster home to another. Stoller described it as "Oliver" meets "Stand by Me" meets "The Cider House Rules."

"Michael felt that he could relate to the script because of the way he grew up, almost without a childhood," Stoller said.

The co-directors met 15 years ago when Stoller introduced Jackson to child actor Brandon Adams, who went on to appear in Jackson's Moonwalker. Their friendship rekindled when Jackson invited Stoller to screen his 1999 film "Undercover Angel," which starred Yasmine Bleeth and Dean Winters, at Neverland Ranch.

"Michael has a phenomenal vision," Stoller said. "He watches movies whenever he can. He's a visionary. Just look at his short films, his music videos, and that gives you an idea of what he can bring visually. Also, he's very sensitive and sincere. And emotionally this is going to help with the direction."

Although Stoller, who is still finishing the script, said everything is in place to begin filming the $20-30 million movie by the fall, Jackson has garnered a reputation for taking his time on projects and often failing to follow through.

A few years ago, Jackson was reportedly set to star in film called "The Nightmare of Edgar Allan Poe" that has yet to be made (see "Michael Jackson Finishing New Album, Eyeing Film Career"). He has also been linked to other movie projects that never got off the ground, such as "Capricious Anomaly in the Sea of Space" and "The Dragon's Candle."

Outside of movies, Jackson has many promises yet to be fulfilled, including the release of the star-studded September 11 tribute song "What More Can I Give" (see "Post-9/11 Tribute Albums And Singles: Big Plans, Not So Big Results"), various amusement parks (see "Michael Jackson Plans Motor City Resort" and "Jackson South Korean Theme Park Reports Premature") and a Jackson 5 reunion album (see "Michael Jackson To Collaborate With Brothers On Upcoming Reunion CD").

"He's a busy guy. He has so much going on," Stoller said. "But I'm a doer. I'm good at getting things finished. And Michael's been there every time I need him. It's going to happen."

Jackson's spokesperson at Epic Records, which released last fall's long-awaited Invincible (see "Michael Jackson Revisits Old Self, Rails At Press, Tries Bounce On Invincible"), could not confirm the movie, though The Hollywood Reporter printed a statement from the pop star that said he was looking forward to working with Stoller and Icon.

The movie trade magazine also reported that Jackson further ventured into the movie industry by investing $15-20 million in a production and distribution company called MDP Worldwide.