The controversy of Martin Bashir's 2003 Michael Jackson documentary
Oct. 09, 2019
Martin Bashir's Living With Michael Jackson film ended up with the star in court charged with child abuse - here's what he said on camera
The world has been re-evaluating the legacy of Michael Jackson following the documentary Leaving Neverland: Michael Jackson and Me , in which two men talk about their abuse at the hands of the popstar.
In the aftermath, one question seems to arise again and again: how could he have got away with it, seemingly in plain sight?
It needs a very complex explanation to answer, but, according to the documentary's director, Dan Reed, a lot of it was through the character that Jackson created. In an interview with i he said: "Neverland and that whole pantomime of being a child – the Peter Pan thing – was a way to fulfil his twisted sexual agenda."
Not only did he create his own myth of being a boy trapped in a man's body that his fans, his victims, and their families bought in to, but it was also one that the media also celebrated: the eccentric multi-millionaire artist, who lives life as Peter Pan.
Jackson agrees to Bashir documentary in 2002
Jackson rarely gave interviews, especially towards the end of his career - perhaps in hindsight it was so he wouldn't be challenged on his perverse behaviour - but in April 2002, he finally granted a series of interviews to journalist Martin Bashir. The following eight months of time on camera with the two men led to Bashir's February 2003 documentary, Living With Michael Jackson .
Bashir was at first seen in Jackson's studio, learning to moonwalk and then racing around on bumper cars in Neverland, where he conducted most of his chats with Jackson, as well as visiting Las Vegas and Berlin with the musician. It at first appeared the the two men had become friends, and that the documentary was just going to be a sideways look at this bizarre artist.
Bashir notes that Neverland with its zoo and funfair is paradise for a 10-year-old - but Jackson, who at this point was 44, replied: "Peter Pan represents something that's very special in my heart. Youth, childhood, never growing up, magic, flying, everything that I think children in wonderment and magic is what it's all about. To me I've never grown out of loving that, it's very special. I totally identity with Peter Pan. I am Peter Pan. I'm Peter Pan in my heart."
The Giving Tree
Jackson reveals that he climbs a tree - that he calls The Giving Tree - and that's where he gets his songs from. - "I love climbing trees in general...I've been writing so many of my songs in this tree," including Heal The World , Black or White , Childhood . He then climbed up the tree on camera.
His shopping spree
In Las Vegas, the pair go to an antique and furniture store. Jackson walks through and points at various opulent goods, saying: "I bought this. I bought this. I bought this. I bought this one. I bought this one." He then drops $80,000 on a gold chess set.
It then gets a little darker, with Bashir finally tackling the issue of his relationship with kids.
His own children
When his daughter Paris was born, he revealed: "I just snatched her [from the mother in the delivery room] and ran home with her all covered in placenta. I'm not kidding, I got her in a towel and I ran. I felt it was OK. Debbie [the mum] said it was OK."
He revealed that Blanket's mother was someone that he was in relationship with but there was "a contractual agreement" which meant he couldn't say who it was. He said none of the children saw their mothers and said: "How many children do you see living with their mothers and no fathers? And they're fine."
He then dangled his baby, Blanket, out of the window of a Berlin hotel. "I wanted to show them my baby," he said. "He didn't fall".
Bashir then comments: "His behaviour was beginning to alarm me."
He then brings up that Prince, Jackson's son, told him he didn't have a mother. Jackson said: "His mother can't handle it. She prefers them to be with me than her. She did it for me. She's a wonderful person. She said 'you need to be a daddy'. She wanted to do that for me as a present. It's a gift. I used to walk around holding baby dolls as I wanted children so much."
Sleeping with children
In the film, he is asked why he sleeps with children in a bed who aren't his. Jackson said: “Why can’t you share your bed? That’s the most loving thing to do, to share your bed with someone. You say, ‘You can have my bed if you want it. Sleep in it. I’ll sleep on the floor. It’s yours’. I always give the beds to the company.
“Everyone who knows me will know the truth which is that my children come first in my life and that I would never harm any child.”
In one extraordinary scene, he is shown holding hands with 13-year-old Garvin Arvizo, a cancer sufferer who spent a lot of time in Neverland. When challenged about their relationship, Jackson said: "It’s not sexual, we’re going to sleep. I tuck them in… It’s very charming, it’s very sweet.”
He added: "Kids want to be loved, they want to be touched, they want to be held."
The fall out from the film
There was a public outcry following the broadcast of the documentary that lead to the Santa Barbara DA’s office to reopen an investigation into Jackson.
Bashir said: "I don't believe that I've betrayed Michael Jackson at all. I agreed that we would make an honest film about his life. The film was fair to his musical achievement and gave him every opportunity to explain himself. I'm not accusing anybody of being a child molester or a paedophile."
Jackson said at the time: “Martin Bashir persuaded me to trust him that his would be an honest and fair portrayal of my life, and told me he was ‘the man that turned Diana’s life around’,” he said. “Today I feel more betrayed than perhaps ever before – that someone, who had got to know my children, my staff and me, whom I let into my heart and told the truth, could then sacrifice the trust I placed in him and produce this terrible and unfair programme."
After the documentary aired, Arvizo then admitted that Jackson molested him.
In November 2003, Neverland was searched by police, Jackson was arrested, then went to trial in 2005. Bashir was called as a witness, but chose not to answer questions, citing Californian shield law, that protects journalists from having to disclose their sources.
Jackson was later found not guilty by a jury of all 10 counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14.