By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A planned ABC television movie about the life of singing great Lena Horne has become the latest casualty of Janet Jackson breast-baring Super Bowl performance.
Jackson bowed out of the TV movie, and executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron quit in support of her, after Horne refused to go along with the project as long as Jackson remained cast to play her in the film, publicists for Jackson and the producers said on Tuesday.
“Janet is no longer part of the (project) because Lena didn’t want her in it,” Jackson spokesman Stephen Huvane told Reuters. “ABC and the producers were supporting Janet, and Janet realized this wasn’t going to change, so she needed to bow out, and then the producers bowed out with her.”
There was no comment about the flap from ABC, but a spokesman for the Walt Disney Co.-owned network confirmed that the TV movie was currently “in limbo.”
Neither Horne, 86, nor her representatives were immediately available for comment. But the veteran entertainer, who helped break Hollywood racial barriers in the 1940s and is best known for her hit “Stormy Weather,” was widely reported to have been offended by Jackson’s duet with pop idol Justin Timberlake during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl half-time show. Their performance notoriously ended with Timberlake ripping open Jackson’s costume to expose her right breast on live national TV.
CBS, which aired the Super Bowl telecast, and sister cable channel MTV, which produced the half-time show and promoted the event by promising a “shocking” moment, apologized for the incident, saying the brief flash of nudity was not planned.
Jackson, 37, later said the “costume reveal” was a last-minute idea on her part but went further than she intended. She subsequently was barred from the Grammy Awards telecast, rebuffing CBS demands that she issue an on-air apology as a condition for appearing on that show.
The “Lena” project was seen as a key bid to reinvigorate the acting career of Jackson, whose previous credits include TV roles on the series “Good Times,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Fame.” Her latest album, “Damita Jo,” is due out March 30.
A source close to the situation told Reuters that Horne ultimately refused to further cooperate with the movie unless Jackson was replaced, but that ABC stood by Jackson.
The standoff ended when Jackson withdrew from the project, with Zadan and Meron, who also produced the controversial TV movie about former President Ronald Reagan, following suit.
In a separate development, ABC said on Tuesday that Timberlake had bowed out of plans to co-host the network’s upcoming Motown 45th anniversary special due to a scheduling conflict posed by the production of his first motion picture.
A network spokeswoman acknowledged that Timberlake’s decision coincided with growing protests over his participation in the show from a coalition of black organizations but said his move was precipitated strictly by his movie commitment.