HBO's publicity for the upcoming Michael Jackson-centric documentary Leaving Neverland may be damning for the Jackson estate, but with the premiere of the documentary on the horizon, the executors of the estate may have found a loophole to keep it from reaching any more eyes than it has already. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Jackson family has filed a 52-page lawsuit against HBO, alleging that the documentary would "constitute a breach of a non-disparagement clause."
What that ultimately boils down to is complicated. The breach of contract would not particularly in regard to this documentary, but how this documentary affects a contract that the cable channel signed with the estate back in 1992 when it aired Michael Jackson in Concert in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour. Part of that agreement included a clause that the cable network would not portray Jackson in a negative way.
No word on what the statute of limitations on that agreement was, but considering that the suit was filed for amounts that "could exceed $100 million should HBO succeed in the damage it is intending to cause to the legacy of Michael Jackson," it's safe to assume there's some legal ties that bind. Even still, HBO stated to The Hollywood Reporterthat it is still planning to air the documentary as planned.
The complaint filed by the estate, which begins by further asserting Jackson's innocence in the documentary's exploration of sexual abuse, goes on to connect the current documentary to The Dangerous Tour, alleging, "HBO is profiting off the Dangerous World Tour by airing a 'documentary' that falsely claims Michael Jackson was abusing children on the same tour. It is hard to imagine a more direct violation of the non-disparagement clause."
Leaving Neverland, which is slated to air in two parts on March 3 and 4 on HBO, is directed by Dan Reed and follows the accounts of James Safechuck and Wade Robson who claim to have been sexually abused by Jackson. They had filed lawsuits against the Jackson estate before both were ultimately dismissed in 2017.
From: Esquire US