When Mark Lester played the titular character in Oliver!, he had no way of knowing that his resulting stardom would bring him to the attention of The King of Pop. Mark joined Ryan Tubridy on the line to talk to him about an unusual friendship, the controversial new documentary, Leaving Neverland and Mark’s role in the disputed paternity of Jackson’s children.
Mark initially came to Michael Jackson’s attention because of his child-star status.
“He always had Oliver as his favourite musical and he wanted to meet me. And of course, I said yes.”
Mark and his sister (a huge Jackson 5 fan) were brought by stretch limo to the London hotel where Jackson was staying, where Michael occupied the “entire floor”. They stayed for “6 or 7 hours”. They “immediately clicked”.
“I think he wanted people who shared a similar experience of fame…I think he was kind of fascinated by how they had adapted.”
While Mark had experienced a certain level of fame due to his acting work, it was nothing compared to what he saw Michael live through every day.
“He lived in a gilded cage, I’d almost liken him to a member of the royal family…that’s the only life he knew.”
Mark told Ryan that every time Michael came to the UK, the two would try to meet. And it wasn’t one-sided. Mark and his family travelled to Michael’s Neverland ranch several times. He remembers the “300-seater cinema”, the “full-sized steam train”, a fun-fair with a Ferris wheel and bumper cars. And then there’s the zoo.
When Ryan asked if Mark considered Michael to be a happy person in general, Mark noted that the “2005 affair” – as he terms it – had a deep impact on him. In 2005, Michael was accused of molesting two boys who had spent time at the Neverland ranch. Mark rejects the notion of any wrongdoing.
“It’s not the man I knew. Michael was an extremely warm, generous and kind-hearted man and I’ve taken my daughter, on numerous occasions, to meet Michael. We stayed in Neverland and I never witnessed anything, other than a very kind and wonderful guy.”
Calling the children involved “yobbos”, Mark was also quick to condemn the new documentary on the subject, Leaving Neverland. It claims to lend credence to the abuse claims.
“I don’t believe any of it. I don’t even know why it was made. I think it’s disgusting. From what I gather, the depth of information is not in the public interest. I think it’s revolting. I will not be watching it.”
Listen back to the full interview on The Ryan Tubridy Show here.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Share this Post