Joseph Fiennes 'shocked' at Michael Jackson role in Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon

Actor Joseph Fiennes admits he was "shocked" at the controversial decision to cast him as Michael Jackson in an upcoming TV movie.

'Shocked' ... Joseph Fiennes has been cast as Michael Jackson in a TV special.
'Shocked' ... Joseph Fiennes has been cast as Michael Jackson in a TV special. Photo: AP

"I'm a white, middle-class guy from London," Fiennes told Entertainment Tonight. "I'm as shocked as you may be."

The Shakespeare In Love star then addressed head-on the controversy stirred up by casting a white actor to play the African-American performer.

Michael Jackson in 1996.
Michael Jackson in 1996. Photo: Getty Images

"[Jackson] definitely had an issue ... a pigmentation issue ... and that's something I do believe," he said "He was probably closer to my colour than his original colour."

The contentious casting comes as Hollywood agonises over the movie industry's lack of diversity. Among the prominent figures calling for change is director Spike Lee, who will boycott this year's Oscars over its lack of black representation.

Called Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, the film tells the story of a rumoured road trip made by Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Jackson following the 9/11 attacks.

In the movie, the trio rents a car to get out of New York City after all flights are grounded.

"It's kind of off the wall, but the writing is a delight, and the kind of interaction between the three of them is funny, and also full of pathos," Fiennes told Entertainment Tonight.