Nelson George’s ‘Thriller’ documentary gets release date, trailer

"Thriller 40," a documentary about Michael Jackson's landmark album, will premiere on Showtime and Paramount+ on Dec. 2, featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Usher, Mary J. Blige and others.

Nelson George’s documentary about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album has a home and a release date. A new trailer for the film dropped Friday, revealing that the film will premiere on Dec. 2 via Showtime and Paramount+.

As seen in the two-minute trailer, “Thriller 40” tells the story behind Jackson’s 1982 album that caused a cultural shift in music history. Journalist Steve Ivory sums up its impact at the beginning of the trailer: “There are two things in the music business: before ‘Thriller’ and after ‘Thriller.’

The film includes much previously unreleased footage of the recording sessions of the album, behind-the-scenes footage from the short films, rare interviews with Jackson himself, and enhanced concert footage from The Jacksons’ “Victory Tour.”

The film will include exclusive interviews with A-list artists, such as Usher, Maxwell, Mary J. Blige, Mark Ronson, Misty Copeland, and Also interviewed for the documentary are some of Jackson’s collaborators from the album and short films, including Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, “Thriller” director John Landis, and background vocalist Oren Waters.

Jackson’s estate and Sony Music Entertainment first announced the documentary with George as director in October 2022, as part of the 40th anniversary commemoration of “Thriller.” It follows two documentaries from filmmaker Spike Lee, chronicling Jackson’s two other collaborations with producer Quincy Jones, 2012’s “Bad 25” and 2016’s “Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off The Wall,” the latter of which also premiered on Showtime.

George has written extensively about Jackson’s life and career as an author and music journalist. He wrote “Thriller: The Musical Life of Michael Jackson” in 2011 and “The Michael Jackson Story” in 1983.

“Thriller” is the biggest-selling solo studio album of all time, at 34x platinum in the U.S. alone. The album included seven Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Beat It,” “Billie Jean,” “Human Nature,” and the title track. It helped earn Jackson eight Grammy Awards in 1984, and the short films for “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” and “Thriller” helped kick off a music video revolution.

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