- The director Dan Reed talked to Business Insider about his decision to not attempt to interview Macaulay Culkin about his 1990s boyhood friendship with Michael Jackson.
- In the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” Culkin and another boy, Brett Barnes, are portrayed as getting attention from Jackson when he distances himself from the film’s two main subjects, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who in the movie say they had sexual relationships with Jackson as boys.
- The movie says Culkin and Barnes “categorically deny any sexual contact with Michael Jackson.”
- “I’m not in the business of outing anyone,” Reed told Business Insider about not contacting Culkin or Barnes.
- Culkin’s representative declined to comment for this story. According to TMZ, Barnes is considering suing HBO.
At the conclusion of Sunday night’s part one of “Leaving Neverland” – the two-part HBO documentary that focuses on two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them when they were boys in the 1980s and 1990s – the director Dan Reed shows a rift in Jackson’s relationship with the boys as the child star Macaulay Culkin and another child, Brett Barnes, enter the pop star’s world.
Robson says in the movie that he first became familiar with Culkin while on the set of the music video for Jackson’s 1991 song “Black or White.” The epic music video features Culkin as a rambunctious kid playing his music too loud to the disgust of his father (played by George Wendt). Culkin later shows up in the video with Jackson lip-syncing rap lyrics.
Robson, an Australia native, says he began a sexual relationship with Jackson after winning a dance contest to meet the megastar. At the time of the “Black or White” video shoot, Robson had moved to the US.
“Macaulay was where I was in my previous trips, right by Michael’s side every moment,” Robson said in “Leaving Neverland.” “Now I was kind of on the sideline as far as being Michael’s friend and being his favourite and that was really confusing.”
Following the music-video shoot, Robson’s time with Jackson became limited. In the doc, Robson’s mother says Jackson would tell her son he would call him and Wade would wait by the phone after school but Jackson would never call. She says she began to notice a pattern.
“Every 12 months there was a new boy in his life,” she says.
Safechuck, who says Jackson began to sexually abuse him after they starred in a Pepsi commercial together, noticed Jackson hanging out with Barnes around the same time. Safechuck says in the doc that Jackson told him he couldn’t go on tour for the album “Dangerous” because Jackson wasn’t allowed to bring kids. But Safechuck then saw Barnes with Jackson in news reports about the tour.
“You’re no longer special,” Safechuck says in the movie about how he felt after realising Jackson was focused on someone else.
The movie says Culkin and Barnes “categorically deny any sexual contact with Michael Jackson.” Culkin’s rep declined to comment to Business Insider. According to TMZ, Barnes is considering suing HBO, alleging the doc insinuates he was abused by Jackson.
Did Reed ever consider trying to interview Culkin or Barnes for the movie to get their perspectives on being with Jackson at that time?
“I gave it some serious thought,” Reed told Business Insider. “In the end I knew that Macaulay and Brett had made statements consistently rebutting allegations that were made. I’m not in the business of outing anyone. I think we make it very clear in the film that they deny to this day that anything sexual happened and I’m not about to try to change their minds about that.”
But did Reed consider that their perspective might have changed recently?
“I don’t want to push Macaulay or Brett to admit anything they don’t want to admit, or confront anything they don’t want to confront right now,” he said. “If at any point Wade said, ‘Yeah, Macaulay was in the corner of the bedroom when Michael did X or Y with me,’ of course I would have gone to Macaulay and asked if he remembered that. That would have been vital. But that didn’t happen. At no point was Macaulay or Brett or any other little boy an eyewitness to acts of child sexual molestation other than Wade or James.”
Barnes, Culkin, and Robson were witnesses for Jackson at his child-molestation trial in 2005, in which Jackson was acquitted (the singer denied molesting anyone throughout his life). Culkin was seen beside Jackson at the 30th-anniversary concert event celebrating Jackson’s solo career in 2001 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Part 2 of “Leaving Neverland” airs on HBO on Monday.