Jaafar Jackson, the 26-year-old nephew of Michael Jackson, will portray the late king of pop in a movie biopic, studio Lionsgate announced on Monday.
The casting marks Jaafar’s screen debut and looks set to catapult him into the Hollywood spotlight.
The movie, titled “Michael,” is being made with the cooperation of Jackson’s family and estate, offering “audiences an in-depth portrayal of the man and our brother who became the King of Pop,” said a Jackson family statement in February last year.
The movie will be directed by Antoine Fuqua, produced by “Bohemian Rhapsody’s” Graham King and written by three-time Oscar nominee John Logan.
Production will begin this year.
King conducted a “worldwide search” for the role, he said in a statement, and “was blown away by the way he [Jaafar] organically personifies the spirit and personality of Michael.”
“It was clear that he is the only person to take on this role. I am beyond thrilled that he has come on board to portray his uncle and cannot wait for the world to see him on the big screen as Michael Jackson,” King added.
The Jackson family voiced their support for the production’s casting choice, and Michael’s son, Prince, said that Jaafar “embodies” so much of his father.
“Truthfully I couldn’t be happier and prouder for him, he’s been working his ass off and I know he’s going to do an amazing job,” Prince wrote on Instagram. “I’m confident we are all going to do our best to show the world a part of my father they’ve never seen and that they deserve to see.”
Jackson, whose hits include “Thriller,” “Smooth Criminal” and “Billie Jean,” died in 2009 aged 50.
But his legacy has been tainted by a series of child sexual abuse allegations and a 2019 documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which featured two men who claimed Jackson sexually abused them over a period of several years when they were children.
Jackson’s family and estate refute the allegations and point to previous sworn testimonies by the subjects of the film that Jackson did not abuse them.
Jaafar, son of Jermaine Jackson, said on Twitter that he was “humbled and honored” to bring his uncle’s story to life.