It’s certainly obvious looking back that David Bowie was perfect for Labyrinth, but Sting and Michael Jackson were also under consideration once upon a time for the role of Jareth, the Goblin King. Directed by Jim Henson, the movie has been a cult favorite since its initial release in 1986. This year, the beloved fantasy movie celebrates its 35th anniversary and has been getting some renewed attention as a result.
Looking back at the movie, Henson’s son Brian Henson revealed that Bowie was not the only name in contention for Jareth. Speaking with ComicBook.com, Brian said that his late father had consulted his children during the casting process about the iconic role. Sting was apparently a name that was brought up at one point, though there was also some serious consideration given to offering the role of Jareth to Michael Jackson. As Brian explains, he saw more potential in David Bowie in the role than Jackson, and he relayed that opinion to Jim.
“I can’t speak for my siblings, but I can say for me, I vaguely remember the name Sting coming up. I definitely remember Michael Jackson and David Bowie. I had just been at university for the one year that I went to college, and I can tell you that I was going from nightclub to nightclub, and Michael Jackson and David Bowie were the two biggest names in my generation, for sure. So when he asked me, I was leaning in favor of David Bowie.”
For better or for worse, Labyrinth would have been a far different movie if the King of Pop was the Goblin King. Perhaps it’s better the way things worked out, as Brian Henson also feels Jackson would have struggled with adapting to that role. Meanwhile, it seemed perfect for an unpredictable artist like Bowie.
“I just felt like Bowie had a quirkiness and yet a really coolness that would work really well for my dad, whereas Michael had a perfection to his work that would have been tough. I think it would have been tough for Michael to be Michael in Labyrinth. He would have had to compromise his perfection, and then maybe that’s no longer Michael, whereas David was always unpredictable. I remember going with my dad to see David in The Elephant Man on stage and saying, ‘God, this is such an unusual artist, David Bowie.’ All I remember is when he asked me, I said, ‘I think David Bowie.'”
Jim Henson’s daughter Cheryl, who runs the Jim Henson Foundation, also said how the siblings were used to meeting celebrities and other public figures. For his part, Bowie was said to have been very kind to everyone on set, but even so, he was still David Bowie. It was difficult for the Henson children not to be starstruck with the legendary musician, as Cheryl explains.
“David Bowie was a superstar even when he was on the set. He did his best to relate to everybody, and to be super friendly and make sure that everybody felt comfortable and easy talking to him, but he was still a superstar and we all knew it. So, it’s not like [Jennifer Connelly, who] became famous later. He was super famous then and we were in awe of him.”
Labyrinth returned to theaters this month in honor of its 35th anniversary. If you want to revisit the movie, it’s currently streaming on Netflix and on HBO Max. Meanwhile, there has been talk of a sequel happening, and while it’s hard to think of anyone other than Bowie in the role, some fans have lobbied for Tilda Swinton as Jareth. This news comes to us from ComicBook.com.