“Rocketman” Star Taron Egerton Says He’s Playing His Hero: Elton John

Written by | Entertainment, Music

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman.

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman from Paramount Pictures.

Taron Egerton — the star of this summer’s Elton John biopic, Rocketman — wants to make two things clear:

First, he’s over the moon about the picture. Second, he’s confident that LGBTQ audiences in particular will find plenty to love in this rock doc. Egerton recently hosted a preview of the film (actually a selected 20-minute snippet) for press only in New York City.

“Since you write for an LGBTQ audience,” Egerton said after the screening, “It’s really important for you to know: This movie is something I’m extremely proud of — especially in the way that it deals with the relationship between Elton and his manager, John Reid. It’s very frank, and I think it’s beautiful, too.”

John Reid is the manager who oversaw the singer’s rise to international fame in the 1970s. It was a well guarded secret from the press that they were also lovers.

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A Visual Feast

Egerton is probably best known to American audiences as the up-and-coming secret agent of The Kingsman spy series. In the sequel two summers ago, Egerton’s character was tasked with rescuing Elton John (who played himself) from the clutches of an evildoer who kidnaps the pop star and forces him to perform his old hits wearing replicas of his most outrageous ’70s getups.

Rocketman plumbs the pop star’s personal triumphs and travails with surprising candor. At the same time, it’s a cinematic fantasia reminiscent of Moulin Rouge and The Beatles’ fable Across the Universe. Songs are cleverly reimagined and staged for maximum visual impact. All are sung by Egerton. A few tunes appear out of sync with what history knows as factual. But, Egerton says, it’s all done to flesh out deeper emotional truths.

“Well, the movies you mention are sort of the closest animals to what we’ve tried to create,” the actor agrees.

“And things occur in the film that aren’t exactly as they happened,” he’ll allow. “Of course, since Elton and David (Furnish, Elton’s husband) are producers, everything had to be approved. But here’s the thing: so much is already known about Elton’s story. We wanted to add depth and color to ours.”

A Little Bit Funny

Egerton can’t quite recall when the idea of his playing the pop legend began. His best guess is that it happened sometime during shooting his sequel to The Kingsman in 2016. In the film, Egerton’s character rescues Elton from a kidnapping where he’s forced back into his outrageous ’70s regalia and performs in an empty auditorium solely for the villain’s amusement.

“You know what people say about meeting your heroes,” Egerton says, leaning in. “Elton is everything you’ve seen or heard about him. He’s also a person of astonishing depth and complexity. I know how lucky I am to get this part because it’s the role of a lifetime.”

The film is helmed by Bohemian Rhapsody director Dexter Fletcher, who completed that project after studio execs fired Bryan Singer. So in a very real way, Rocketman is Fletcher’s own notion of what a rock biopic ought to be. Unlike the Queen tribute, this film liberally reimagines classic Elton tracks. Sometimes they’re used to flesh out relationships, as with “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.” At others, they’re opened up musically in ways that broadens both the cinematic and musical possibilities.

To quote Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin: “When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?” In the case of Rocketman, the answer is: No time soon.

Rocketman opens in theaters May 31.

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Last modified: July 23, 2019