When did you first meet Michael?
Rusty Lemorande: Shortly after I met with Jeff Katzenberg and then with George Lucas, there was a big meeting with Michael and some of the big men at Disney and engineers of the theme park division. I was in a conference room when I first met Michael. From that point on I met him a few times at his house to discuss how the project was developing and to get his approval on things. He had to constantly approve many aspects of the show and he was smart about what he liked and what he didn’t like. During the development stage, Michael was very happy with the screenplay and the creatures, who he really wanted to be unique.
In the screenplay, were there any ideas that did not make the final cut for the movie?
Rusty Lemorande: In the screenplay, the search for the Queen when they landed was much more detailed. In the final product there is not much time spent on that search: they leave the ship, walk through a junk yard and they are captured right away. Also, inside the spaceship where we meet the creatures, there was a scene with them cleaning up the ship. The little robot was supposed to be a vacuum cleaner clearing up the garbage. We shot some of that but it was cut in the end!
How was Michael on and off set?
Rusty Lemorande: Was Michael different? He was always very quiet. He would be in his trailer between shots but that is typical of any actor. He was very professional and attentive to everything that needed to be done. He was also a very good student. What he didn’t know he learnt quickly and asked questions but he was very respectful of the process. I should also mention – sorry I forgot – he was concerned about the 3D element. He really wanted it to be strong and unique. You have to remember at that time, no one was doing 3D movies.
Michael was really concerned about the dancing of course and the choreography. He also had a fascination with transformation, which was also a huge part of “Thriller”. He liked the Transformer toys which were new at the time. He wanted to see all the designs.
Did you stay in touch with Michael after?
Rusty Lemorande: YES! We remained friendly and had two film projects in the pipeline. He wanted to do films. We developed a film at Turner Films that doesn’t exist anymore; and one at the Warner Brothers. They stopped after Michael’s scandals. That really killed his movie career.