Michael Jackson should have been there
It was just plain weird that Michael Jackson wasn't at last night's world premiere of his concert film "This Is It" at L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre.
"He would have loved this," said Sony Pictures movie chief Amy Pascal, whose studio paid $60 million for the rights to the film that features behind-the-scenes footage that AEG shot of the late singer's rehearsals for the London concerts that never happened.
You could almost picture Jackson moonwalking down the red carpet (it was actually a red dance floor), with crystal chandeliers dramatically swaying over head in a freak windstorm and dancers dressed in sequined body suits performing acrobats in open cages suspended in air.
As his soulful pop tunes blasted on loudspeakers, some 5,500 guests, including Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, and, of course, Paris Hilton, posed for the paparazzi. Kenny Ortega, who directed and produced the film, stopped Jackson's four brothers on the way into the theater to thank them for "going out of their way to be here tonight." No sign of Janet or Daddy Joe. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made an appearance.
Jackson would have been amused to see Sony's Pascal in her Jackson-like get-up; a white fedora hat with a black ribbon, a white V-neck T-shirt, cropped black military-style jacket and ultra-low black hip-hugger slacks with silver sequenced stripes down the sides and a matching belt. You go girl.
At the after-party, on the roof of a parking lot in a big white tent with a circular bar on a revolving floor, Pascal and others spoke to me about the bittersweet nature of the Jackson tribute. They all loved the film and found it so moving, but of course if Jackson hadn't unexpectedly died in June from the effects of a powerful anesthetic and other medications, the one-hour, 51-minute movie culled from more than 100 hours of his rehearsal footage wouldn't have been made for public consumption. It was originally intended for Jackson's personal archives. What's striking about the film is how committed, physically fit (though way thin) and man-in-charge Jackson the artist appeared in the footage.
"He was at the top of his game and had a message he wanted to spread," said Pascal, referring to Jackson's public plea to spread the love and save the planet. "Kenny Ortega really captured the human being that Michael probably never would have let the public see."
Jackson friend and former "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul also expressed mixed emotion.
"For me the film was great, brilliant, poignant and sad--a totally mixed bag of emotions," said Abdul, recalling how as a Laker girl she was hired to choreograph and direct Michael Jackson's 1984 Victory Tour. "It's a celebration of life and sadness that he's not here," she said of the movie.
Last night's gala event was one of 34 world premieres being held, including half that were simultaneously taking place in cities such as New York, Moscow and London.
The film, which opened last night at 9 p.m. standard time in 99 territories around the globe, by this weekend will be playing on 15,000 screens, including at 3,400 theaters in the U.S. and Canada.
"`This Is It' has always been for the fans," Ortega said when he took the stage at the Nokia to introduce the movie. "Michael, we love you more."
Photos: Top: Michael Jackson fans at the L.A. premiere of "This Is It." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images. Bottom: Director Kenny Ortega and Sony's Amy Pascal. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.