Thriller was released on December 2, 1983. The King of Pop fulfilled his dream to play a horror movie beast and with a half-million dollar budget created the most expensive video ever made with American Werewolf director John Landis. Every horror story needs a scream queen and Ola Ray revealed how the star picked her from the pages of Playboy and romanced her on set: “We had something special going on between us while we were shooting.”
Ray had been modelling for years and was 23 when she was chosen for the role of a lifetime.
She said: “I did a centrefold in Playboy and I believe that’s what Michael got the idea for using me. He saw my pictures in there.”
Ray played the sweet love interest of Jackson’s closet werewolf in the fake film which opens the pop video, before Jackson is later revealed to actually be a zombie.
Already a huge fan of the singer, Ray described her joy: “Can you imagine Michael Jackson dancing and singing around me while I did my little Thriller walk? I felt like I was the most luckiest girl in the world.”
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Ray added: “I’ll just tell you this much. He undressed in front of me… Getting intimate with Michael made me feel really, really good.
“In a way, it was like a real romance.”
Apparently, Michael did not pursue the affair further because he knew one of his friends was interested in Ray and the superstar gallantly stepped aside.
Many years later, the romance was long-forgotten when Ray – along with John Landis – sued Jackson in 2009, shortly before his death.
The director and the actress both claimed that Jackson and his estate owed them enormous sums in unpaid royalties from Thriller.
The video sold over one million copies on VHS in the US, the best-selling videotape of any kind at the time, and was a phenomenal hit all around the world.
Ray testified that she had signed a contract for 2.5% of the profits but had only been paid her initial performance fee. In 2012 she was paid a further $75,000 in a settlement with the star’s estate.