*In 2004, Janet Jackson was all set to portray Lena Horne in a planned biopic at ABC. It was to be produced by famed duo Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, whose stellar resume featured the classics “Annie” and “The Music Man,” and years later would include NBC’s live musical franchise, launched by the highly-rated “The Sound Of Music Live!,” and followed by “Peter Pan,” “The Wiz,” “Hairspray” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
But faster than you can say “wardrobe malfunction,” plans for the biopic were dropped. The Feb. 1, 2004 Super Bowl halftime show was supposed to close with Justin Timberlake ripping away a portion of Jackson’s bustier as part of the choreography. Instead he snatched the entire fabric to expose her bare breast, with some kind of metal ornament covering only the nipple.
Janet Jackson Super Bowl Incident Video
Janet had been cast to play Horne five months before the Super Bowl. The New York Post reported that the film would be based on the stage and screen legend’s autobiography “Lena,” and feature Jackson singing the tunes Horne made famous. Jackson even appeared in a Vanity Fair magazine photo spread costumed as Horne. (See photo above.)
But once Jackson’s t** hit the fan, Horne balked. On Feb. 24, 2004, Variety reported that the 86-year-old star and her daughter Gail Lumet Buckley were so outraged by the halftime show that they refused to grant ABC their contractual approval of the film unless Jackson was fired. ABC refused to ditch their star, but Jackson decided to respect Horne’s wishes and exit the project. In solidarity, Meron and Zadan dropped out as well, and the biopic was never made.
Oprah Winfrey took over the project in 2007, but chose Alicia Keys over Janet Jackson for the starring role. The TV titan had reportedly told Keys in 2005 (one year after the Janet-led version fizzled at ABC) that she would love to see her play Horne someday. During the December 2007 junket for “The Great Debaters,” it appeared Oprah had revived the project with her dream casting in place. She told the New York Post: “We’re going to start filming next year, and we’ve got Alicia.”
But that project never came to be.
Horne, who died in 2010 at the age of 92, would never get to see her life portrayed on screen. Here’s her last TV appearance from June 16, 1997, on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”
In 2012, Keys told EURWEB there’s a “strong possibility” that a Lena Horne biopic is still in the works, and that it’s a “part I was born for.”
But we ain’t heard nothing since.
In 1997, Jackson did get an “outstanding career” award from “Soul Train” that was named after Lena Horne.
This’ll have to do, until further notice.
Janet Jackson 1997 Lady Soul Awards Full Lena Horne Awards Tribute