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Bad Jackson doco won t hit big screen
Jackson in Bad 25. Picture: Sony

Spike Lee is in a good mood. His film Bad 25 about the making of Michael Jackson's Bad album has been a huge success.

It's just a pity that a movie made for the big screen will only be seen on television here because watching Jackson so vital on the big screen, it's hard not to fall in love again with the astounding singer and dancer who died so tragically in 2009 at the age of 50.

Lee feels sorry about that too, explaining he had fought for a few gala screenings of Bad 25 in the US.

"I just hope you have a big-a.. widescreen TV with speakers all around," the 55-year-old film-maker says.

Lee's film shows how painstaking the self-styled King of Pop was in every stage of the album's production. Instead of a conventional music video he made a short film for each track and most famously collaborated with Martin Scorsese on an 18-minute movie for the title track.

Lee traces the creation of each of the songs and short films, conducting interviews with those involved, and there are many famous faces along the way.

"I did all the interviews myself," he says."There was of course archival material, but any documentary I do, I conduct all the interviews."

Lee previously directed the short film for They Don't Really Care About Us, a song from Jackson's History album, though he had already known the singer for many years.

"I think there must have been some part of my filmmaking that Michael liked for me to do the short film for him," Lee recalls. "The History album was divided in half, between greatest hits and new material. So he said, 'I am going to come to your house and play all the new material and you get to choose what song you like'.

"Michael played me all the new songs and I chose Stranger in Moscow and he said, 'No, no, you are not doing that one. You are doing 'They Don't Really Care About Us'. I said, 'Michael, if you had just told me I would have done it.' He thought that would be the one I would choose, but I didn't."

So the famously adamant Lee acquiesced to Jackson's request. They didn't come to loggerheads just a little bit? "No, no. We were simpatico," he insists.

While the obvious choice might have been to make a feature film about the creation of Thriller, which remains the best-selling album of all time, Lee explains there were three reasons why they decided on Bad, which itself produced a record five number one hits, only equalled recently by Katy Perry's Teenage Dream album.

"It was to commemorate the 25th anniversary on August 31 during the Venice Film festival; number two, Bad has been overlooked because it directly followed Thriller; and number three, Bad is where Michael really creatively started to stretch," he says.

Jackson also wanted to promote an edgier street image through the album, though as with all his work Bad was above all a huge celebration of African-American culture, notes Lee.

"Several people say in the documentary that Bad was like a signal to black people to remember who they are and where they come from," Lee says. "If you think about the Bad video, having Wesley Snipes in it (in his breakthrough role before Lee cast him in Mo' Better Blues and as the lead in Jungle Fever) and having it take place in Harlem which is the capital of black America, that stuff's no accident."

The final shot in Bad 25 shows Jackson with his arms outstretched in 1988 at London's Wembley stadium. He was performing a poignant and now chilling rendition of his signature song Man in The Mirror in what Lee considers his best concert during the Bad world tour.

Has Lee ever thought to make a fictional film about Jackson? "About him?" the pint-sized powerhouse bellows in response. "Who's going to play Michael Jackson? What, are you gonna get some Michael Jackson impersonator? I can't do it. I can't talk about anybody else, but I cannot do a biopic of Michael Jackson. That's not for me."

'Who's going to play Michael Jackson? What, are you gonna get some Michael Jackson impersonator? I can't do it.'