Michael Jackson estate sues HBO for $100 million over sexual abuse documentary 'Leaving Neverland'

File photo of Michael Jackson. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 22, 2019, 01.08 PM (IST)

Two days after HBO released the trailer of documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’ that is based on the alleged sexual assault of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck by Michael Jackson when they were children, the makers have been served with a lawsuit by the late star’s estate. 

Michael Jackson’s estate has sued HBO for US $100 million over the network’s plan to air the documentary next month. It claims that the film if aired, would breach non-disparagement language in a pact that allowed the channel to show ‘Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour’, in 1992.

According to the report published in The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit reads: "HBO promised that 'HBO shall not make any disparaging remarks concerning performer or any of his representatives, agents, or business practices or do any act that may harm or disparage or cause to lower in esteem the reputation or public image of Performer. Other provisions in the agreement require HBO to notify and consult with Jackson and Optimum Productions if it wishes to air additional programming about Jackson.”

The lawsuit opened with: "Michael Jackson is innocent. Period."

The documentary first came to the news when the director of the film, Dan Reed, took the documentary to Sundance Film festival where it received rave reviews. Many critics were left shocked. 

The film deals with longtime accusations of sexual abuse raised by Wade Robson, now 36, and James Safechuck, now 40. 

The estate had then too slammed the film and condemned the director for not speaking with anyone from the late singer’s family before making it. “Leaving Neverland isn’t a documentary, it is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact,” the estate had said in an earlier statement.

The estate also called Robson and Safechuck “admitted liars” who “provided no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers.”

Meanwhile, HBO has responded to the lawsuit and said that this will not affect their support of the documentary. The statement read: "Despite the desperate lengths taken to undermine the film, our plans remain unchanged. HBO will move forward with the airing of 'Leaving Neverland', the two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4. This will allow everyone the opportunity to assess the film and the claims in it for themselves.”

‘Leaving Neverland’ is set to air in the format of a two-part documentary, on March 3 and 4, 2019. 

Story highlights

The documentary deals with the alleged sexual assault of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck as children, by late Michael Jackson.