The biggest challenge of playing a musician as iconic as Elton John is “managing the pressure,” actor Taron Egerton said as he presented new footage from Rocketman on Thursday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, but the key was telling a “raw human story.”
“We always felt we wanted to be irreverent with the role and make sure audiences get a glimpse behind closed doors, a life unseen, and glimpse of the life of a man who has had a notoriously turbulent time, but we also felt it was very important to make fans happy,” Egerton said at the Paramount Pictures presentation.
Egerton and director Dexter Fletcher showed off new scenes from the upcoming film that show the rise of young British boy Reggie Dwight, who proves to be a musical prodigy. As Reggie discovers piano and his ability to play anything he hears, he soon realizes he doesn’t just “want to play dead people’s music” and starts to write his own songs. Soon, Reggie Dwight reinvents himself as Elton John and tries to impress his hard-to-impress record manager; he does so with “Your Song” and secures a gig at the iconic Troubadour in Los Angeles.
As he readies himself for his first major U.S. showcase, Elton’s nerves come through as Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) tells him that Neil Diamond and the Beach Boys are in the audience and he refuses to go out, but finally takes the stage — in his trademark overalls and thick-framed glasses — to win the crowd over with “Crocodile Rock.”
“Elton’s known for his spectacle and theatricality so bringing the music to the big screen was a challenge but also exciting. His fans love him and his music so much that making sure they got to see an honest and true portrayal to this man was extremely important to us and him,” said Fletcher. He added that two musical numbers in the movie he is particularly proud of are “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” which he said was “extraordinary,” and then the title song “Rocketman,” where “Taron singing on his back at the bottom of a 15-meter tank is a spectacle to behold.”
“They’re both visually different and both with the vibrancy and energy that Taron brought to the film,” Fletcher said.
The footage from the film also showed Elton’s growing confidence and penchant for the flamboyant, his spiral after he finds fame, and his relationship with late manager John Reid (Richard Madden). The gig required quite a physical transformation for Egerton, including prosthetic teeth and a false receding hairline, and he also really sings the musician’s most famous songs.
“[Elton’s] been remarkably hands-off really,” shared Egerton. “He said he wanted us to make it our own, to reimagine them, have fun with them. I suppose after 50 years of hearing them, he doesn’t want to hear them the same way they’ve been done.”.
Rocketman will be released on May 31.