Egerton has big shoes to fill as one of the greatest, most eccentric artists of all time. He says this film is an honest mix of the good and bad moments in the living legend’s life.
Taron Egerton, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
May 31, 2019
Elton John has said on more than one occasion that he should not be alive. The 72-year-old pop star didn’t just dabble in sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — he dove in headfirst and was lucky to surface.
So when it came to making a biopic of his life, John wanted a film that would not only celebrate his memorable music but also capture the craziness that surrounded his rise to stardom.
It was that notion that excited Taron Egerton, the 29-year-old Welsh actor who was chosen to portray John in Rocketman.
“Rocketman is sort of a musical fantasy on Elton’s life, with some moments of psychedelia,” says Egerton on the line from London, England. “It was always the mandate that we were going to make something that was true to his experience and, frankly, I was never really interested in doing another version of this. It’s about him recounting his life from the therapy room, so it would be wrong not to explore the darker aspects of his life.
“At the same time, we want it to be a celebration of his life in music, so I hope people will find it joyous. But yeah, the story arc is of a man who nearly f--ks it all up.”
[Rocketman]'s about him recounting his life from the therapy room, so it would be wrong to not explore the darker aspects of his life.”
The man behind the music
The film sees musical prodigy Reginald Dwight (Elton John’s real name) encouraged by his mom (Bryce Dallas Howard) to follow his dream of making music. Dwight meets lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), and their partnership results in the newly christened Elton John, who becomes a global pop star famous for his over-the-top costumes and outlandish behaviour.
It is John’s growing addiction to drugs and alcohol, and the fact that he has to hide his homosexuality — including his long-term relationship with manager John Reid (Richard Madden) — that nearly costs him his life.
Choosing the right Elton
Like the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman took years to get off the ground. John announced back in 2012 that he was developing a film about his life and wanted to be played by Justin Timberlake. When that didn’t pan out, Tom Hardy was cast in the role. When he left the project, Egerton — who met John when the pop star filmed a cameo for Kingsman: The Golden Circle — was offered the part.
“I feel that there is something of Elton in me — the capacity to be quite a big personality,” says Egerton with a laugh. “That juxtaposition of two extremes sort of exists within myself. And then there’s the musical element as well. Singing has been a part of my life for a long time, and I’ve been kind of yearning for an opportunity to really flex that muscle.”
Related: Taron Egerton and Dexter Fletcher on depicting the incredible life of Elton John
My gift is my song, and this one’s for you
Rocketman sees Egerton performing a plethora of Elton John hits. Asked if he has a favourite, he says it’s just too hard to choose.
“I love singing ‘Bennie and the Jets,’ and I love singing ‘Your Song,’ and I love singing ‘Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,’” he says, listing three of John’s biggest tunes. “I mean, different ones for different reasons.
“‘Tiny Dancer’ is actually one of the ones I find harder to sing, and that’s the one in the movie trailer. I actually performed it with Elton at his Oscar party. It’s not the one I would have chosen to sing first, because it’s not the one I feel most confident singing, but I actually had a great time in the end.”
“One of the things I’m most proud of about the film is that it feels very gay.”
Playing a gay icon
It’s hard for Egerton to get his head around the fact that not only is he portraying Elton John in a big-buzz movie, but he has become friends with the icon. “It feels kind of f--king surreal to me,” he admits.
Yet his casting also raised some eyebrows, since Egerton is straight and John is gay. Some wondered whether the young actor would feel comfortable honestly exploring John’s sexuality. Egerton says that is not a problem at all.
“One of the things I’m most proud of about the film is that it feels very gay,” he says. “For me, there’s already touchy ground as a heterosexual man playing a gay man. I was acutely aware that if I were to have any integrity playing this role, I had to push the envelope in terms of making sure my performance felt authentically gay.
“And I am very at peace with that,” he says. “One thing I really love about Rocketman is that Elton’s main relationship is with John Reid, who is played by Richard Madden. And although it is well-documented, that relationship went into something of a spiral. What I love is the way we handled their first meeting, their first moment of intimacy. I think it’s done with tenderness, beauty and love.”
Rocketman is a must-see for music lovers.
Whether you’re on a date night or a group outing with friends, you’re sure to come out of this movie feeling hella uplifted, with a song in your head and a spring in your step. See it on the big screen for the totally immersive visual and musical experience!