Kenny Ortega, producer and director of This Is It, which was released last week, said: “The night before he died we had completed all of the physicality of the show as it would have been staged at the O2.
“Michael stood out at the front of the stage that night with me and looked out into the empty arena and said, ‘This is the dream. We did it good, Kenny. We did it’.
“There was this feeling in the air, and in our minds we were already on the plane. Michael said, ‘You can feel London. You can smell it’.”
As Jackson hopped on board a golf cart that took him to his waiting car after each rehearsal, he turned to associate producer and choreographer Travis Payne. “I shouted ‘I love you’ to him,” said Payne. “He smiled back and said ‘I love you more’.
“That was the last time I saw him – the last time any of us saw him.” Less than 18 hours later, Jackson lay dead after an overdose of the anaesthetic Propofol and the dream of one of the most spectacular comebacks in music history died with him.
The Sunday Express can reveal that Jackson and his team had lined up a series of show-stopping events and special guest stars for his 50 London performances.
Approaches had been made to Mick Jagger, Bono and Lady Gaga and special effects stunts were to include a Jumbotron screen 3D “experience”.
Details of the spectacular emerged last week as This Is It, the movie compiled from more than 100 hours of rehearsal footage, registered box office takings of £12million worldwide in its first day. Fans have staged protests, including one outside last week’s celebrity premiere at Los Angeles’s Nokia Theatre, claiming Jackson had been “pushed beyond his limit” by tour promoters AEG. But Ortega insisted the star was “bursting to go” at his final rehearsal.
“I was watching Michael come back to life during a period when he’d been really beaten down,” he said. “He wasn’t looking for validation or to prove anything.
“I was in his dressing room and I said, ‘I can’t wait for the curtain to draw back. You’re going to get the validation you deserve and that people tried to rob from you’. He just laughed and said, ‘You’re so funny’. What he was really saying was that the only thing that motivated him was the music and dance routines.”
Weeks earlier, Jackson had telephoned Ortega at 3am. “He said, ‘Victoria Falls’. I mumbled, half-asleep, ‘That’s in Africa’. Then he said he wanted Victoria Falls on a big screen worked into his London set.
“Michael wanted the world up there on that stage with him, in 3D. He wanted to hand out 3D glasses to members of the audience and said to me, ‘Imagine all those people putting on their glasses at the same time to watch Victoria Falls behind me’.”
Music director Michael Bearden said: “Michael wanted to fix everything. He stopped one routine because he heard a single wrong note. Nobody else did, but he said, ‘Trust me. It’s wrong. Listen to my original record’.
Jackson’s dancers also said he was in an ebullient mood. Devin Jamiesen said: “He couldn’t stand still. He just kept moving, trying out new things. You could tell he was amped up.”