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Jackson's 'This Is It' moved friends to tears

By Doug Ganley, CNN
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Jackson's last great performance
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "This Is It," Michael Jackson concert film, is dominating advance ticket sales
  • Film was tough to make, musician's colleagues say
  • Production was for the fans but especially for Jackson's children
  • "American Morning" looks at the value of Michael Jackson's estate Monday 6 a.m. ET

A look at the value of Michael Jackson's estate kicks off an "American Morning" series "Michael Jackson, The Legend Lives On," Monday 6 a.m. ET on CNN.

New York (CNN) -- For Kenny Ortega, Travis Payne and Michael Bearden, "It" is a bittersweet feeling.

The three men expected to be spending their time this summer and fall working on Michael Jackson's concert engagement at London's O2 Arena, which was scheduled to begin in July. Instead, they are talking about Jackson's last days and the new movie about that time, "This Is It."

In an interview, they described "This Is It," the movie that they've made from rehearsal and backstage footage of Jackson, shot just before he died June 25. The film, which has been dominating advance ticket sale outlets, opens wide on Wednesday.

The full movie wasn't screened for critics, with only 12 minutes of footage available to the media before the interviews. But as director Ortega describes it, the film tries to blend backstage footage with the performance to give an inside glimpse of those last days at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

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The scenes show the superstar working on his dance moves, figuring out choreography, practicing on stage and running the show. From the clips, there's no question that Jackson was in charge. His physicality is vibrant: At one point, he dances with a troupe of top-notch hoofers and keeps up with all of them. There's no indication of the infirmities that would ultimately take his life.

All three men -- Payne was the show's choreographer and Bearden its music supervisor -- stressed how they wanted this movie to represent the Jackson they knew.

"It was an honor project," Bearden said.

According to Ortega, the film is for the fans. He said he was inundated with e-mails from fans wanting to know just what Jackson had planned for the concerts he would never give.

Above all, they said they were concerned about Jackson's three children. They said that they wanted to make a film that his kids -- Prince Michael, Paris and "Blanket" -- would be able to see in years to come that would make them proud of their father.

Have you seen the film? Share your review.

Though the men acknowledged a heavy responsibility, there were light moments during the interviews.

Payne and Bearden both smiled as they talked about working for the King of Pop and how he'd try to tell people what he wanted.

"I know you mean well, but ...," Jackson would say as he corrected colleagues, they recalled.

But all of them talked about he emotional toll that making this film has taken on them.

There were "a lot of tissue moments on this film," Bearden said.

Watch a former Jackson guitarist reflect on his career

Ortega added that he didn't know whether he could handle the emotional stress involved in making this movie so quickly.

Ultimately, according to Ortega, the movie proved to be cathartic.

"I thought I'd collapse," Ortega said. "I thought I'll never get through it, it's too hard, it's too soon, but in fact it was healing and helpful."

He hopes Jackson's fans will feel the same way.

 
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