It seems hard to believe that we are about to celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest albums of all time, and the inarguably best seller. Thriller has sold more than 70 million copies since its release on November 30, 1982. Its iconic title track and video remains the most iconic and influential music video in history. It broke viewing records when it aired on December 2, 1983, and then broke sales records when it was released on home video. The climactic zombie dance routine is endlessly imitated and even Jackson’s red leather jacket remains instantly recognizable nearly forty years later. So why the hell would the star be so desperate to destroy her, especially when it was all her idea in the first place?
Thriller was released as the seventh and final single from the album of the same name, and Jackson had only one goal.
He wanted to restore the album to its number one position on the charts and decided that an attention-grabbing video would do the trick. A big fan of the horror comedy An American Werewolf in London, he approached its director John Landis.
The rest is history, except it almost wasn’t. Two weeks before the short’s debut, Jackson demanded that it be destroyed, for deeply personal reasons, and went to extraordinary lengths to try.
Everyone involved in the project immediately agreed that the negatives needed to be protected, so they were removed from the labs and locked away in Branca’s office to prevent Jackson from taking matters into his own hands.
When she discovered what she had done, the distraught star locked herself in her bedroom. He was dedicated to his church, as is well known, he even came to the door wearing a hat and fake mustache as a canvas for new converts, but he also loved the Thriller video he had helped create.
Finally, Jackson’s head of security, Bill Bray, called Landis concerned about his charge, who hadn’t eaten for days. The director described the sad and broken man he met when he arrived at Jackson’s Encino estate, Hayvenhurst House.
Landis said, “Bill and I kicked the door in, kicked it down, and Michael was laying there. He said, ‘I feel so bad.'” I said, ‘Michael, have you eaten?’ He hadn’t eaten. It was weird. I just said, ‘Look, I want you to see a doctor right now. ”
The next day, Landis returned to see the star to tell him that the Thriller negatives had not been destroyed. He was nervous about how the King of Pop would react, but he described how MJ simply said, “I’m sorry, John. I’m embarrassed.”
Landis added, “I said, Michael, I wouldn’t let it get destroyed. He was like, ‘Really? Because I think it’s really good.'” I’m like, ‘Michael, he’s great and you’re great.'”
Remarkably, two weeks later, a star-studded Los Angeles premiere at the Crest Theater included Diana Ross, Warren Beatty, Prince and Eddie Murphy. Michael himself hid in the projectionist’s room and did not want to come out.
Regarding his mixed feelings about Thriller, a compromise was reached and a special disclaimer was added at the beginning of the film: “Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to emphasize that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult. .”
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