A new TV film project based on a purported road trip taken by Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando has people everywhere scratching their heads, both because of the bizarre urban legend that inspired it and the casting of Joseph Fiennes as the late King of Pop.

British actor Fiennes, who is white, best known for playing the Bard in the film Shakespeare in Love and seen on TV's American Horror Story, is slated to portray the iconic African-American pop star in a short, 30-minute TV film.

Elizabeth, Michael & Marlon was commissioned by the U.K.'s Sky Arts, which confirmed the casting Wednesday and said the project was in post-production, due to air this year. 

The channel said it was "part of a series of comedies about unlikely stories from arts and cultural history."

'It's a fun, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it's rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships as well.' - Joseph Fiennes

"I got the script the other day … it's a challenge," Fiennes told WENN (World Entertainment News Network) in an online interview published late Monday.

"It's a comedy. It doesn't poke mean fun, but it's a story, possibly urban legend, whereby Michael, Marlon Brando, and Liz Taylor were all together the day before 9/11 doing a concert."

According to Fiennes, American actress Stockard Channing is set to portray screen siren Taylor, while Scottish actor Brian Cox will appear as movie legend Brando.

"It's a lovely thing about Michael's relationship with Liz Taylor and Marlon Brando," Fiennes told WENN.

"It's a fun, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what celebrity of that kind is like. But also it's rather beautiful and poignant about their relationships as well."

'Escape from New York'

The mythical road trip tale arose a few years ago when Taylor's former personal assistant, Tim Mendelson, recounted it in a 2011 interview with Vanity Fair.

According to Mendelson, Jackson had invited the two Hollywood stars (two of his closest friends) to join him at concerts in New York in September 2001. The trio, finding themselves grounded and unable fly back to California after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, allegedly chose to rent a car and attempt to drive home.

In the interview, Mendelson claims they made it as far as Ohio.

The story was denied by another of Taylor's assistants, but with the three central figures dead and never having commented (Taylor died in early 2011, Jackson in 2009 and Brando in 2004), the urban legend has persisted — even inspiring a 2015 short story published in the New Yorker by acclaimed writer Zadie Smith.
The strange casting of Fiennes as the internationally renowned black pop star comes amid the heated debate and swirling controversy surrounding the lack of diversity at the upcoming Oscars and, more generally, in Hollywood itself (a similar discussion is also taking place in the U.K.).

Jackson said he suffered from the condition vitiligo, which caused him to have patchy loss of skin pigmentation and which he blamed for his lightened complexion as he aged.

In a statement, Sky said it "puts the integrity of the creative vision at the heart of all its original commissions.

"We believe in giving producers the creative freedom to cast roles as they wish, within the diversity framework which we have set."

News of the project rippled through social media, with people alternately angry, confused and skeptical.

With files from The Associated Press