John Landis have worked with Michael a lot on his videos. Although in my opinion he's very outspoken in some of his ways to describe Michael, but he have his respect for him which is cool.
And to my memory he have made some controversial comments about Michael in the past, which I can't remember, oh well... I guess you can't satisfy everyone
John Landis remembers Thriller
How Thriller turned into a monster
Twenty five years ago, a Michael Jackson music video transformed the face of pop. Marc Lee meets its director, John Landis
Film director John Landis is as boisterous and garrulous a character as you're likely to meet. An unstoppable raconteur, he has an endless fund of anecdotes ("Let me tell you this joke I heard from Fellini"), and much of his expletive-strewn conversation is shouted, as if he's addressing someone in the next room.
Perhaps it's his irrepressible good humour that accounts for the equanimity with which he reveals the sorry aftermath of Thriller, the groundbreaking video he shot starring the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
"Listen," he says smiling, "Michael probably owes me $10 million because he's in hock to Sony so deeply. All the monies from the Thriller video, which I own 50 per cent, are collected by Sony. My deal is with Michael's company, and he owes Sony so much that they keep the money. So I will never get the money, and if I want to sue Michael, it's like, 'Get in line.' "
Landis bears no resentment towards Jackson. Indeed, he still has the highest regard for the troubled singer, and they remain friends. Their collaboration on Thriller marked the high point of both their careers.
Although Jackson was only 24 when he released his fourth solo album in 1982, he'd been a star for more than a decade. None of what had gone before, though, could have prepared him for what was about to happen. Thriller changed the course of pop music and catapulted him into global superstardom. It sold more than 50 million copies and spent 37 weeks at number one in the American charts, where it remained for more than two years. All but two of its nine tracks were hit singles.
And it wasn't just the singing. Soon after the LP's release, he perfected his "moonwalk" dance: the worldwide hysteria that ensued was barely containable. Then, as if driven by an obsession to reinvent, he made himself the star of the promo video that would transform the way pop music was marketed.
Jackson had already smashed MTV's extraordinary musical apartheid: Billie Jean (a track from the album) was the first song by a black artist to be played by the channel. But the 14-minute mini-film inspired by Thriller's title track rewrote the rules for the music video, opening up undreamed-of creative possibilities - and, in the process, helping MTV on its way to world domination.
It became the bestselling music video ever, and, a quarter of a century later, it has staked a place in the digital new world, nestling confidently in the iTunes video chart (number two at the time of writing) among tracks by whippersnappers who hadn't even been born when it was shot. It has also been viewed more than three million times since it was added to the YouTube website just nine months ago.
The shoot was rumoured to have cost $1 million. The true figure was half that but still vastly more than the usual budget of $50,000 to $75,000 for a pop video of the period.
Today, Thriller still thrills as much as it did all those years ago, and that is thanks in large measure to its director. For, although the song and Jackson's dance moves are the irresistible ingredients, it was Landis who whipped them into such a satisfying feast.
The young filmmaker was at the peak of his career in Hollywood. He was about to release Trading Places starring Eddie Murphy, having, in the previous four years made Animal House, The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London. And it was after seeing the last of these that Jackson called Landis and said: "I want to turn into a monster. Can I do that?"
The release of the video and the accompanying making-of film marked the point at which, according to Landis, Jackson became "a god".
"It created MTV really," he says. "And it created the whole making-of business. It had a huge impact on the business. And all of it was accidental. All that happened was that Michael called me up after watching American Werewolf.
"So I went to see him with Rick Baker, who had done the special effects make-up on that film, and we took along a big book of monsters for him to look at. He hadn't seen many horror films: he was scared of that stuff.
"After The Blues Brothers, I wanted to do a good musical number with real dancers and shoot it correctly. And I tried to exploit Michael's celebrity to reinvent the theatrical short. That's why it's 14 minutes: it's a two-reeler, the same length as a Laurel and Hardy short or a Bugs Bunny cartoon."
Landis's ambitious script did not go down well at Jackson's record label CBS, who refused to pay for it on the grounds - entirely erroneous - that the album had slipped down the charts and wasn't going to sell many more copies.
So Landis did a deal with the new cable network Showtime, who handed over $300,000 for the video and the making-of feature that Landis would oversee, too. The rest of the budget came from MTV.
The 45-minute Making of Thriller established the genre, anticipating the "extras" that now accompany almost every DVD release. However, at the time, says Landis, "we used to call it 'The Making of Filler'. It turned out very well, but the truth is that it's filled with scenes from American Werewolf because I owned them, and anything else we could find to fill up the time.
"When we found we were still six minutes short, we decided to put in pieces of the video itself. In fact, it's very effective, but at the time I thought, 'This is shameless.' "
When the video hit the small screen, the album went straight back to number one and tripled its sales, while MTV increased its viewership a thousand-fold.
"Michael was terrific to work with," says Landis. "He was in his mid-twenties, but he was like a gifted 10-year-old. He was emotionally damaged but so sweet and so talented."
The purpose of Thriller, in Landis's mind, was "to give Michael some balls". The female presence in Jackson's two previous videos was virtually zero, "so I said I want to get a pretty girl, and I want you to relate to each other sexually. And he went, 'OK.'
"He was agreeable to everything, even when I wrote that line where he says to the girl, 'I'm not like other guys.' I warned him, 'Mike, this is a laugh line.' He said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because, Michael, you are... unusual, and people will laugh and interpret it any way they want to.'"
The next potential problem arose with Ola Ray, the actress Landis wanted to play Jackson's girlfriend. "We found out she had been a Playboy playmate. Oh, Jesus Christ! I went to Michael and told him and said, 'Can I hire her?' He said, 'Sure', though I don't think he even knew what I was talking about."
A bigger difficulty emerged after the video's star-studded theatrical première ("Marlon Brando was there, Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Cher - I'd never seen anything like it"), when members of the Jehovah's Witnesses church, of which Jackson was a member, started to kick up a fuss.
Landis recalls: "Michael was told, 'This is evil. It endorses Satanism. You can't release it.' So I had to negotiate this bullISH statement and put it on the beginning of the video." The disclaimer ("Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult - Michael Jackson") probably had the opposite effect to the one intended.
"It was such a bizarre opening, but it actually had a positive influence because it created so much talk, so much controversy. And, by the way, Michael didn't write it; I did."
Landis last spoke to Jackson a few months ago. What, I wondered, is his mood like these days? "When I talk to him, he's very friendly and funny. I'm upset at what he's done to himself physically; it's quite creepy. But he's still a gigantic talent, and I really believe he'll make a comeback. There's talk of him doing one of those big shows in Las Vegas, like Elton John or Celine Dion. Why not - he still has millions of fans."
And, of course, it's conceivable that a big-bucks Vegas residency might mean Landis finally gets his hands on those missing $10 million.