We ran across a video that an MJfan had recorded from their cellphone of the Q&A Session of John Branca and Spike Lee at the premeire of BAD 25, Sept 2, 2012. We asked our beloved transcriptionist to get to work before it was taken down because we believe it is a wonderful testimony to Michael’s genius listening to Spike Lee and John Branca speak of him in such glowing terms.
Unfortunately, just before she finished the video was removed therefore the one posted at bottom doesn’t reflect the whole of the program, but it will give you the opportunity hear for yourself at least 98% of it. This transcript has some spots that are inaudible as Mr. Lee’s speaking rhythm and style was a bit rapid and no amount of listening could we decipher those bits. However, we do not think it takes away from the sentiments or importance of this premiere night event in London. Questions from the audience are Bold , Spike Lee’s answers RED and John Branca’s BLUE
Host: We have this incredible film to see and meet people who will stay on the stage at the end of the screening to answer your questions, we are going to have a Q & A at the end of the screening. So do stay in your seats. So without further ado, please welcome to the stage the co-executor of the Michael Jackson Estate and the Executive Producer of this movie, please welcome Mr. John Branca.
John Branca: Well we’re happy to welcome you to the London Premiere of the Bad 25 movie and we’re especially excited for the fans to be here because we know that the Michael Jackson fans are the greatest fans in the world. Michael loved them, we all know that we also know you are the most knowledgeable fans in the world. I’m going to say that tonight, I think you’re going to see or hear, or learn something about Michael that you may not already know because we gave Spike Lee complete access to the MJ archives and Spike went deep, very deep and so we’re very excited. I know you know all about the Bad album but I will state very briefly, it was released August 31, 1987 and back in those days, no album went to number one immediately, but went to number one on September 26 and it stayed in the top five for an incredible nine months.
The album was the first album in history to generate five consecutive number one singles and the only album ever to have nine top ten singles. It went on to sell more than 45 million albums. Incredible!
As you know Michael toured after the release of that album and the “Bad” tour was historic and record breaking. It set the record for most attendees, highest gross and seven sold out shows right here at Wembley Stadium. The tour was attended by 4.4 million people, which is still a record, it was unbelievable. I just wanted to say with John McClain and I, we listened to you, the fans, and we wanted to put out Bad 25. We think you’re going to like the package but we wanted to have a testament, a tribute to Michael that would highlight his creative genius and in “This is It” we can see Michael, the genius, at work preparing for a concert tour and in this film you will see Michael, at work, preparing for an album. When we thought “Who could direct this?” We thought only one man came to mind. No only is Spike Lee one of the great film makers of our time, but he is a lifelong, dedicated, passionate man of Michael Jackson.
I would like to introduce the man, Mr. Spike Lee
Spike Lee: I would like to thank Mr. John Branca, Mr. John McClain, Karen (inaudible) and all the people who made this possible, the people who actually gave me the chance to do this. I didn’t have to campaign this, I just got a call and had to say “yes” right away. So without further ado here it is Bad 25 and again, we all love Michael Jackson and I think you will see the love for Michael in this piece, thank you very much.
Movie plays (end credits roll)
Host: Please welcome the director of Bad 25 Spike Lee
Spike Lee: Again, a big thank you to the Michael Jackson Estate, John Branca
Host: As a fan, and I speak for everyone in this room, thank yo for making the film first of all. (Applause) (Spike Lee tips his hat to the audience) Spike, you are ultimately a storyteller and with so much access to those incredible archives and the story you could tell. What was the biggest challenge you faced in making Bad 25.
Spike: The biggest challenge was trying to jam pack as much as we could in the little time allotted because when you buy the DVD (laughter) there is an hour besides this. ??? Michael Jackson Estate, John McClain is not here, Mr. John Branca I had full access to the Michael Jackson archives so you guys are witnesses to stuff the world has never seen. There is more stuff like that. The stuff I did not shoot, Michael shot himself. Like Seidah, when she had to sing another high note for “Man in the Mirror”, so when I rolled into the edit room, I was seeing stuff for the very first time and we didn’t know if the stuff was missing.
Host: John maybe I can ask you (inaudible) on the Bad tour in 1988 and I know obviously we get to see the concert again in Bad 25 can you maybe explain the story behind that?
John Branca: Yes we do have the complete Wembley concert from start to finish, unedited (Spike Lee applauses) there’s nothing added from any other concerts
Spike: No shenanigans, no skull duggery.
John Branca: In the stadium from start to finish with Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the audience and we have assumed there would have been plenty of footage of the box and the truth is we have he Japanese concert, which was before Michael had integrated all the Bad songs into the show, but Wembley we found Michael’s personal VHS copy that he would use to review his show every night. So that was what up on the big screen in the concert and what you’re going to see in the DVD.
Host: Which is out September 17th and maybe, just maybe, i can hint to you that the Bad concert might be shown on television before Christmas but I didn’t tell you that.
Let’s go with some questions for Spike Lee.
Q: Maybe a film about the Dangerous album, Spike would you be able to do more about Michael?
Spike: It’s not up to me (moves toward John Branca)
John: Absolutely! Let’s not forget HIStory? HIStory is one of my personal, favourite albums at the moment.
Spike: Let me tell you a quick story since you brought up HIStory. As you know I did, in the music field it’s “short film” of “They Don’t Care About Us” so out of nowhere the phone rings:
“Hello” (Spike uses high voice)
“Who is this”
I say “Michael who?”
he says “Michael Jackson”
and I hang up the phone. (laughter)
“Hello” (high voice)
“Who is this stop f***king around, please”
I hang up the phone (laughter)
“Spike don’t hang up the phone it’s me”
So in this conversation he says “Spike, (I am paraphrasing) I have a CD coming out called HIStory, it’s half greatest hits and it’s half new material” and he says I want to fly you out to LA so I could play you the new stuff because I want you to direct me in one of the songs”. I say I can’t because my daughter is 2 or 3 months old, I can’t leave right now ,so he says I’ll fly to New York. I say I don’t live in New York, Manhattan, I live in Brooklyn. He says, I will fly to Brooklyn and this is before Brooklyn has been gentrified, my neighbourhood. So then he comes, greets my family, kisses my wife, kisses our daughter Satchel they go back upstairs and Michael has a CD and puts it in the CD player and says “just sit down and listen and the song that you pick, you can direct the short film for”. So he plays me the wholelCD. (asks John Branca) How many new songs on the CD
John: 10 or 11.
Spike: So 10 or 11 songs I’ve listened to and he says “ok, now you’ve listened to it”, so I said “can I keep the CD?” He says, “no you gotta make your mind up right now”. I said, can I think about it overnight, he say’s “no” you gotta pick right now, so I say, If I have to pick right now, I’m going to pick Stranger in Moscow, he says “no, no, no” you don’t want to do that one, you want you to do They Don’t Really Care About Us“. I said Michael, why didn’t you tell me you should have just said, I would have done it but he thought maybe somebody who did Do The Right Thing and Macolm X ???? but I wanted Stranger in Moscow, that’s a great song so anyhow that’s how I got that and that’s how he picked it for me.
Host: Two amazing videos and can we thank Spike Lee for They Don’t Really Care About Us. Do we have any other questions?
Q: If Michael was alive and you could go back and ask him anything about the album what would you ask him?
Spike: Bad? I mean it’s obvious, I mean I don’t understand to this day how “Just Good Friends” made that album.
Audience: That’s one of my favorites
Spike: Just Good Friends? Where these friends at, in London?
I love it, in that whole album, you can’t take anything out.
John Branca: I agree.
Spike Lee: I respect your opinion but (inaudible). I mean but that’s why we’re asking people. Even Stevie Wonder said “ we’re in a battle, (inaudible) asked me this but look it’s a phenominal album and you can’t nit pick but I would ask that question. What would you ask? (points to John Branca)
Branca: I was there, and I’m not sure what I would ask. Spike I would just like to say I remember all the debate between Frank Delio, Quincy Jones and Michael about Streetwalker and I heard about Streetwalker so many times, now that I have heard it, I would say “Why wasn’t that on the album in addition to Just Good Friends?” that would be my question.
Spike. For me, on the Thriller album, my question would be “How come there wasn’t a video for “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’? That’s one of the great songs for me. Not “music video” there’s no “short film”.
Branca: You’re right.
Host: Spike, may I further that by saying this to you, with the amazing archive you found, in 2012 an artist today would release all that behind the scenes footage,it would be on you tube, it would be on the DVD and it will be on a TV special. Michael would always hold that material back and now we get to see it through your film, was there a point where you were thinking “Michael, why didn’t you show this at the time.”
Spike: Look, I believe in fate, God and timing and Michael didn’t want to be seen until now. That’s the way it is.
Branca: You know, it’s an interesting question because I sat through the screening of the Wembley concert and I’m sorry, I’m still shaking, I don’t know about you guys but watching that is very emotional for me and I’m still (holds his hands to his heart). We watched the Wembley Concert from start to finish and I was just breathless in terms of how good it is. When you watch that concert from start to finish, it is the greatest performance that has ever been made EVER and I’m sure you’re going to agree when you see it.
Host: Absolutely, we have time for some more questions, yes the lady in the front you have a question?
Q: I was going to say, you have been so influential to the world by making movies that really make us think and inspire change and I wonder, if anything during the process of filming maybe inspired you. Michael himself or what?
Spike: Well Number one, really, it was something I knew but it was reconfirmed by doing this whole project was how hard Michael worked and I’m a teacher, I’ve been teaching school, film students from NYU for the past fifteen years and there’s something that get’s me madder than somebody not working hard, I don’t know what it is, because talent alright, luck, you still have to work hard and you see the greatest people working hard. Why do you think you should not work hard? What did that note say? “Study the greats and be greater.” So you see the greats, no matter what it is you’re talking about,
sculpture, painting, acting, whatever it is, if you see someone like Michael Jackson bust his ass and kill himself to work his art, how could you do any less. You got to work hard, I don’t care, and this is advice for the young people of today, this stuff that you think you’ll become a star overnight? That’s BS, that’s like a fairytale. You got to work hard and Michael Jackson should inspire you to work hard, whatever it is you do with your life. You got to work hard, you can’t go through opey dope and think like God’s going to come down from the stars and annoint you to be the next one. It doesn’t work like that. Also Michael, people forget he’s been doing this since he was 5 years old. Five years old, he was singing and dancing to feed his family. I mean you got to work, that goes for our children too, members of the audience. You got to work hard. That’s enough (laughs)
Host: Do we have another question, yes?
Q: Both of you guys having gone through the archives and knowing Michael, what was your greatest memory of Michael jackson.
Branca: I have and Karen, we all have, there are so many fond memories of Michael, but the first thing, the first time I saw Michael do that little rehearsal for the raisin commercial just cracked me up, because that was Michael. Like Spike said the work but to stand there and tell Will Vinton the back up raisins weren’t good enough, that’s Michael Jackson.
Spike: My experience with Michael was very, very brief but the time we spent together in Brazil I will always remember, we will had a phenomenal time and the way the whole Country just embraced him and allowed us to go into one of the most dangerous Graziellas in Rio and the way they accepted and here is a quick story. We had to speak to the drug tzar first to secure Michael’s safety because the police, they didn’t go up there. So the guy said, look I love Michael Jackson, you can put a million dollars in the middle of the town and equipment and no one is going to touch a single bill. When Michael is here this will be the safest place in the world and it was the whole country embraced him – embraced Michael.
Q: Thank you very much for this movie. Would you ever consider making a life movie about Michael?
Spike: That is a very good question, and I’ve never been asked that question before and thank you for it. For me, who would play him? I can’t do it, make someone else will but for me I can’t do it. It’s easier to do a bio pic with someone who is not so recognizable. Michael Jackson is one of the most recognizable people on this planet and whose going to play him? I can’t do it.
Host: John, I have another question talking about Bad 25 CD coming, we have these unreleased demo tracks that didn’t make the Bad album, can you tell us about the tracks.
Branca: Well, there are different configurations of Bad 25, the basic configuration is 2 CD’s – the original album and then a second disk of rarities that will be included as part of the basic package.
Spike: Rarities are singles that didn’t make the album?
Branca: Yes, rarities are 6 or 7 songs, some are completed, some are demos plus the AfroJack remix, the Spanish and French versions of I can’t Just Stop Loving You and the Speed Demon remix. That’s the basic Bad package. There is a second package that will also include the live CD concert from Wembley and the third package will contain the live DVD of Wembley so a fan can buy the basic, the second or the third package at their choice.
Host: We cannot wait and Spike, the moment, Michael singing in Spanish that was amazing to see, I’m sure you saw many of those moments.
Spike: yeah, that my man Rupert Blogs(?), he’s in one of my films, “Mo Better Blues” and I just felt it was important to get Rupert and I to talk about the experience of working with Michael and the only time Michael sang in Spanish.
Branca: If I can add one other thing to completely answer that question, from the top of my head, the unreleased songs include Don’t be Messin Around, Price of Fame, which is a wonderful song, I’m so Blue, which is a wonderful ballad, Streetwalker and a song called Abortion Papers, I maybe leaving one out but those are the ones that I recall.
Spike: Abortion papers?
Branca: Yeah, Abortion papers. Controversial but we have Michael’s notes on the subject that went with that song.
Q: Are we going to get Pepsi cans?
Branca: I hope so, If I ran Pepsi, it would all be different.
Q: We read about Michael all the time and we know what goes on in New York and America and we feel we couldn’t even buy a soft drink can. We really want more Michael here. We really want to buy into…
Spike: You want more Michael period. The man just said three different configurations of the Bad 25 album. You could buy all three.
Q: This has been a great opportunity today, and we would like more of it because we see America get loads.
Branca: We appreciate your passion for Michael and we share in your support. We hope you are going to like the Immortal show when it comes to you in October.
Host: We can’t wait for that, it’s going to be at the O2. We have a question over there.
Q: I’d like to say a big thank you it’s been a real privilege to see the film today and we have all been really lucky to see all of the archives buy my question is for John. Do you think one day Neverland will become an open place to visit like an Elvis Presley Graceland?
Branca: We wish we could, that was something Michael wanted to have happen as well but as you know Neverland is in a rural/agricultural area down a two land road and there are legal restrictions that would now allow it to be open to the public so we are continuing to explore other ways to create a Neverland experience.
Spike: I got a suggestion. What about his home in Gary Indiana? (applause) He says Spike I’m going to speak to you after this. It’s going to be a long flight back to America. Thanks for the feedback.
Host: Do we have time for another question. Yeah? We got a question Spike and John over there. Go ahead.
Q: I just wanted to thank you Spike for capturing the spirit of Michael in that film. The question I wanted to ask Mr. Branca. What of Hayvenhurst? What are you going to do? Is it going to be a place where we could go and visit Michael’s childhood home?
Spike: His childhood was in Gary Indiana?
Q: Well, when they came to California they lived in Hayvenhurst and I was privileged to be there on Wednesday night and there ware hundreds of fans outside there that wanted to go in and have a peek of the house where technically he grew up in.
Branca: In Indiana or Encino?
Q: Not in Indiana, Encino.
Branca: The Estate does not own the house in Indiana, so we have no control over it but there has been a lot that’s taken place over the last three years as you know so it’s really important for us to be able give the Michael experience and that is something we are thinking very carefully about. Whether it’s in Gary, Indiana as Spike suggested or Encino, Las Vegas. We haven’t decided on it yet, but it is something we want to do.
Host: Does anyone have a question about the film Bad 25?
Q: Again, thanking you for making the film. There was a little bit of talk about Prince and any opportunity.
Spike: Oh yes, he didn’t want to do it. He’s my man too, he didn’t want to do it.
Branca: Do you think he’s still competitive with Michael?
Spike: I’ll tell you a funny story though. We had this great clip from VH1 where Chris Rock was the host and he was interviewing Prince so Chris Rock asked Prince “how come you didn’t do the duet with Michael Jackson on Bad and Prince says “Chris, what’s the first line of the song? Your butt is mine” Michael’s not singing that to me, and I’m not singing that to him and they’re both laughing. I didn’t know about this clip and it was Chris’ assistant that told me about it but then he said “I can’t do it”
Q: Spike, I’m a big fan, a Michael Jackson fan also a Public Enemy fan and I was wondering about – could you do a film about Public Enemy.
Spike: I love Michael Jackson dearly, I would like to do more of Michael Jackson but you could do Stevie (Wonder), you could do Prince, you could do Public Enemy, you could do Marvin Gay, you could do Frank Sinatra so there’s a ton of people – who?
Q: Rick James?
Spike: Rick James? That’s more on the side of…. I’m a little bit you know..but you’re right though a documentary about the influence of Public Enemy would be great.
Q: I loved the movie and I was just going to say, it’s been a long time coming to have information on Bad and was wondering whether there would be anything else released.
Branca: We talked about that before the screening. The one thing that I would really like to see released at some point is the History tour. We have it and it was shot in HD in Germany and what we would eventually like to do is convert it to 3D but it’s going to take some time.
Host: We’d like that wouldn’t we everybody?
Q: I just wanted to know what’s your favorite short film from the project.
Spike: My favorite short film from Bad? (pauses) I don’t have just one, Bad, The Way You Make Me Feel, Another Part of Me, Smooth Criminal, Leave Me Alone, that’s five right there.
Q: Liberian Girl?
Spike: Liberian Girl? That won’t make my list. Great song. You don’t like the way John Travolta was singing to Olivia Newton-John? (laughs)
Host: It is interesting how Michael’s short films still look fresh today, wouldn’t you say.
Spike: Yes, Michael changed the game we all know this, and people are still trying to catch him 27 years later.
Spike: Everyone asks, where were you Michael Jackson passed? They were asked where were you when Michael Jackson died.
Host: Can you tell us about the part where your children talk about that period.
Spike: Yeah that was tough, oh where was I? I was in a telecommunication conference in Cannes, France but it shook me up and I wasn’t right, my family will attest to this, I wasn’t right for a month. maybe even longer.
Q: First of all thank you very much. You mentioned about Just Good Friends and when you watched that amazing footage with Michael and Stevie Wonder did that ever make you like, I don’t know it’s one of the most amazing pieces of footage I’ve ever seen of two people singing anywhere ever.
Spike No. Look, I love Michael I’m not here to crucify the song, it’s just my honest opinion. There wasn’t a song on any album that Michael Jackson made that you didn’t like? You don’t have to name the song, what I’m trying to say is when you have Stevie Wonder, and it’s not the fact that I don’t like the song, it’s the fact that why.. we have Stevie Wonder, one of the greatest songwriters of all time and Michael Jackson, a great songwriter, why are they singing some else’s song? That was my question. Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson and they are singing someone else’s song. That’s the question I have. So whether or not I like the song it’s why are they singing someone else’s song, that’s the question.
Q After Bad 25, whats the future of this project.
Branca: Well Spike, you’re going to be at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Spike: Friday night we had the world premier on the exact day 25 years later that the Bad album was released and it’s going to be on television ABC on Thanksgiving in the USA and the DVD after.
You got to work hard and Michael Jackson should inspire you to work hard, whatever it is you do with your life. : Speaking of a piece of business philosophy. The primetime special that will be on ABC will be edited. This is the full 2 hour version. So one of the things, I know we are all diehard Michael Jackson fans in this room, one of the things that we want to do is to continue to introduce Michael Jackson to younger generations, additional fans. That’s part of our mission in life so what we are going to do is have an edited version for primetime TV and then this full and complete version PLUS will be available on DVD
Host: There is a slight rumour, you didn’t hear it from me, that this documentary might be shown on the BBC before Christmas, but I didn’t tell you that.
Branca: There’s a new regime at Sony Music and they have been very supportive so we would like to thank Edgar Berger in particular as well as Jim Parr, John (?) they have been very passionate about this project.
Branca: Captain EO is owned by Disney so it will be shown at the theme parks but not on DVD.
Host: We are out of time. Let’s have Michael back to number one by the end of the year. Spike Lee, John Branca thank you. Bad 25 will be in stores September 27 celebrating the legacy of the great Michael Jackson. Thank you for being here today.