Michael Jackson Talks To MTV
December 11, 1999
At the end of 1999, MTV aired a special video countdown: ‘MTV’s 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made.’ Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video was chosen as the # 1 video of all time.
During the special show, which aired on MTV USA on December 11 and MTV Europe on December 18-19, 1999, the music channel showed excerpts of an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson. Here is a transcript of what Michael said about making videos.
Michael Jackson about ‘Billie Jean’ video:
“I think it was Billie Jean. It’s kind of surreal and it’s different. I didn’t come up with that concept. It was – I think a British fellow – Steve Barron – and I thought he had wonderful ideas but I let him go with it. The only part I wrote in the piece was – I said: “I just want a section.” I said: “Give me a section here I could dance on.” ‘Cause he said no dancing in the whole piece – so the whole section where you see this long street and this billboard of these two girls, one of them Billie Jean and I’m dancing – that’s the only part I contributed.”
Slash introducing ‘Beat It’ video:
“Alright. This is hm… Oh beat it. One more of my acquaintances and friends and musical partners but this is I think one of the things that took him over the top of his solo career. This is ‘Beat It’ by Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson about ‘Beat It’ video:
“Well, when I wrote ‘Beat It’ – I don’t know why, but I did – about, you know, two gangs coming together and the song is so self-explanatory that it’s so easy to make this short film. And I’d seen – I think it was a McDonald’s commercial – and I said: “God, I like the rhythm and the cut of this commercial.” I said, “I want this director for this piece.” So I reached out to him.” [Bob Giraldi directed ‘Beat It’.]
Michael Jackson was asked what makes a great video:
“In my opinion, it has to be completely entertaining and have a sense of, a linear sense of continuity.”
Michael Jackson talking about ‘Thriller’:
“Hi, I’m Michael Jackson. My idea was to make this short film with conversation … in the beginning – I like having a beginning and a middle and an ending, which would follow a story. I’m very much involved in complete making and creating of the piece. It has to be, you know, my soul. Usually, you know, it’s an interpretation of the music.”
Michael Jackson about John Landis:
“I love working with John Landis cause we laugh a lot. We are never serious on the set. [laughs] So it’s fun working with John. I used to throw water balloons, and stink bombs and everything at him. That’s a ritual for me. After we rap up each video, I throw a lot of stuff at everybody. [smiling] So that’s funny.”
Michael Jackson about Vincent Price’s contribution to the ‘Thriller’ video:
“That was one of the first raps, actually. I’ve known Vincent Prince since I was 11. He did a great job. The first time I met him, it was at NBC studios. He said, “Come here!” like that [MJ pointing his finger], in his kinda gruesome voice, and I started to cry because I was – I thought he was serious. I used to see him by turning the channels and those kinda things. I think he was in ‘Raven’ and ‘House Of Wax’ or something, so he scared me.
Michael Jackson about the zombies appearing in ‘Thriller’:
“I like the scene when all these zombies are coming toward us and she thinks she’s safe with me, you know, being her boyfriend, and she looks over to me and I become one. And then we do these famous fall in and pull out movements. The Hitchcock move. And I love that moment. I remember my original approach was how do you make the zombies and monsters dance without being comical. So I got in a room with Michael Peters. He and I together kind of imagined how zombies should move. I thought it should start, you know, like – that kind of thing [miming the dance], going into this kind of jazzy stuff.”
Michael Jackson about creating videos [version I]: *
The idea is to take it a step forward and to innovate or else why am I doing it? I’m just – I don’t wanna be just another can in the assembly line. You know, I want to create, do something that’s totally different and unusual.
Michael Jackson about creating videos [version II]: *
“You know, I want to, you know, create, do something that’s totally different and unusual, to take it a step forward and to innovate, or else, why am I doing it? I knew if we did something with substance and content that people would watch and it had a great entertainment value and if it held you, I knew it’d be okay.”
* [MTV aired 2 different versions of Michael’s comments about creating videos. One version during the original broadcast and another during rebroadcast. We include both versions here for you.]