Michael Jackson had an itch to get into the movie business, Claire Hoffman reports in the new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands today. When Jackson began talking about staging a grand comeback with Randy Phillips, CEO of AEG Live (the company that ended up promoting Jackson's This Is It concerts), the King of Pop wasn't just focused on making an album and hitting the stage: he also wanted to star and direct in big-screen films. Phillips tells RS that Jackson was excited about buying a new house in Las Vegas and adding to his film work, which had included his early starring role in The Wiz, 1997's Ghosts, a short horror film based on a screenplay commissioned from Stephen King, and 2005's Miss Cast Away and the Island Girls, in which Jackson had a brief role. "The house and making movies were huge to him," Phillips said.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that three months before Jackson's June 25th death, the singer had signed on to put up $8 million and co-direct an indie film about foster kids to be titled They Cage the Animals at Night that was based on a book by Jennings Michael Burch. Writer/director Bryan Michael Stoller tells the Reporter Jackson felt close to the story because his own childhood was tumultuous: "Michael told me often he felt like he grew up as an orphan, like a foster kid, because he never was in one home. To him every hotel was like a different foster home. He said he used to sit in the window and see kids playing outside and cry because he couldn't be part of that."
Though Jackson insiders deny the singer had an official agreement to work on the film, Stoller says Jackson brought author Burch to Neverland for an interview, which Stoller filmed and is looking to release now. The writer/director adds he and Jackson watched many movies together at Neverland, and To Kill a Mockingbird was the star's favorite.