The first official trailer for the controversial Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland debuted on Tuesday (Feb. 19), and it finds the two men at the center of the drama, choreographer Wade Robson and former child actor James Safechuck, describing their eerily simliar experiences after entering the cloistered world of the late, self-proclaimed King of Pop. “Everybody wanted to meet Michael, or be with Michael… and then he likes you,” Safechuck says over ominous music at the top of the nearly two-minute trailer.
The two-part, four-hour film that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January has been roundly condemned by Jackson’s estate and family, who said they are “furious” that Robson and Safechuck accuse the singer of sexually assaulting them when they were children. In decrying the doc, Jackson’s family noted that the singer was subjected to a thorough investigation, which included a surprise raid of his amusement-park-like estate, Neverland Ranch, and was acquitted at his criminal trial in 2005 for alleged child molestation in a case involving another young man.
Robson, 41, an Australian child prodigy dancer/choreographer who has worked with Britney Spears, *NSYNC and Demi Lovato, describes his family being invited to visit Jackson’s home when he was 7 years old — a magical place his mother says made you forget about all your problems. “It was a fantasy,” she says in the trailer. The now-grown men recount days filled with magical childhood adventures: playing tag, watching movies and gorging on the huge stockpile of candy Jackson kept for his home theater. And, despite the decades-wide age difference, they say the time spent with Jackson was “like hanging out with a friend that’s more your age.”
Robson’s mom says Jackson came across as a “loving, caring, kind soul,” before her son explains that Jackson told him that if anyone ever found out what they were doing they would both “go to jail for the rest of our lives.” Robson testified at Jackson’s 2005 trial, saying he had slept in Jackson’s room many times but that Jackson had never molested him. Safechuck, 37, made similar statements to investigators as a boy, though both reportedly describe years of sustained abuse in the film; Jackson died in 2009 at age 50 of acute propofol intoxication. Both men filed lawsuits in 2013 saying stress and trauma had forced them to face the truth and admit they were sexually abused. The suits have been thrown out on technical grounds but are under appeal.
Though the recent Jackson family statement called the men “perjurers” because of this reversal, director Dan Reed has said he has no doubts about the validity of both men’s allegations.
Watch the trailer for the film, which airs on HBO on March 3 and 4, below.