That plan never got the chance to become a reality. “This Is It,” the documentary of the live shows that almost came to pass, could easily have been called, “What Might Have Been.” On Wednesday (October 28), when the film opens for a limited, two-week release, the world will finally catch a glimpse of the greatest comeback that never was — his iconic dance moves, his classic tunes, the stunning stage show and all. MTV News has been assiduously following every development of the film, from its initial rumors to the first footage to the pending red-carpet premiere. As the spotlight shines on the King of Pop’s great adventure, we present our “This Is It” cheat sheet.
Only days after Jackson’s death on June 25, word leaked that concert promoter AEG Live had recorded his final rehearsal at Los Angeles’ Staples Center in multi-camera, high-definition video and multi-track audio. It soon became clear that there were 100 hours of rehearsal footage in total. The possibility that fans might get to see what Jackson had planned became a reality. As AEG chief Randy Phillips said in early July, “At some point, the world needs to see this production.”
The Earliest Glimpses, The Initial Negotiations, The Reality
Shortly thereafter, the first glimpse of the footage surfaced online: a 90-second clip of Jackson performing “They Don’t Care About Us,” apparently singing in full voice and energetically dancing with an all-male troupe of backup performers.
Later in July, insiders revealed that MJ’s estate and AEG were negotiating with several Hollywood studios to work out a deal for the theatrical release of a documentary based on the 100 hours of footage. Sony Pictures won the bidding for the film that came to be titled “This Is It.” After originally announcing an October 30 release date, the opening was shifted up to October 28 .
The Official Visions
During the Video Music Awards in September, we showed off the first-ever trailer for the doc , featuring tunes like “Billie Jean,” “Bad,” and “Man in the Mirror.”
Then another clip dropped : a tuxedo-clad MJ performing “Human Nature,” a top-10 Billboard hit from his 28-time platinum album Thriller. We also brought you sneak-peeks at renditions of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “They Don’t Care About Us.”
The documentary quickly broke international ticket-sales records, and online ticket retailers reported that more than 1,600 screenings had already been sold out via online presales. What’s more, Hollywood gossip guru Nikki Finke reported that AEG had predicted the doc could take in $250 million in its first five days alone, which would make it the biggest opening of all time .
The Insiders and Artists Speak
As the film got closer to release, we began to speak with the folks working with Jackson to bring his concerts to the world, including director Kenny Ortega , choreographer Travis Payne , music supervisor Michael Bearden , guitarist Orianthi and his backup dancers .
“The fans meant everything to Michael,” Ortega explained. “They were his food, his fuel, his life source, his energy, and he was energized by them and he appreciated their loyalty more than I can ever say. This film is for the fans.”
Musicians who worked with Jackson or were influenced by his music and style also shared their thoughts about the movie — artists like Ne-Yo , Omarion , Alicia Keys , Adam Lambert , Common and Justin Timberlake .
“It looks like a more intimate view than anything we’ve seen,” Timberlake said, noting he’s looking forward to seeing the film. “I’m sure it will be good.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Michael Jackson’s This Is It.”