For Elton John, you can’t have the essential Elton John biopic without addressing the messier times — his past drug use and rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans. So, when it came time to green light Rocketman, he made sure Hollywood didn’t shy away from those elements, even when some studios pushed against it.
In a first-person article published in The Guardian on Sunday, John wrote, “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life. I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, but equally, everyone knows I had quite a lot of both during the ’70s and ’80s, so there didn’t seem to be much point in making a movie that implied that after every gig, I’d quietly gone back to my hotel room with only a glass of warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible for company.”
A report published in March suggested executives at Paramount Pictures, the studio now releasing Rocketman in theaters this Friday, were “forcing” the filmmakers to cut a nude scene involving stars Taron Egerton (Elton John) and Richard Madden (John’s lover and manager John Reid). But director Dexter Fletcher promised the biopic “has and always will be the no holds barred, musical fantasy that Paramount and producers passionately support and believe in.”
Madden also told EW that to cut the scene would be a “disservice.” He said, “It’s an intimate thing between these two characters and a significant moment in Elton’s life. And Elton’s life was very R-rated, wasn’t it?”
John writes in The Guardian how the older he got and the bigger his family became, the “less conscious” he became about keeping the details of his early life to himself.
“I liked the idea of them having a film and an autobiography, where I was honest,” he mentions. “So when I decided I did want to go ahead with a film, we commissioned a script from Lee Hall, who I’d worked with on the stage musical of Billy Elliot. It was brilliant. It had moments that were pure fantasy and moments that were really hard-hitting, no punches pulled.”
He compared the script to Tantrums and Tiaras, the Elton John documentary made by husband David Furnish. “Lots of people told me I was insane to allow that documentary to be released, but I loved it, because it was truthful,” John writes. “There are moments in it – and moments in the film – where I’m completely disgusting and awful, but then, at my worst, I was disgusting and awful, and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise.”
Rocketman, also starring Jamie Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard, is described as “an epic musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.” Yes, it’s rated R.
- Elton John biopic Rocketman offers razzle-dazzle filmmaking with heart: EW review
- Richard Madden says cutting sex scenes in Rocketman would have been a ‘disservice’
- See Taron Egerton perform ‘Crocodile Rock’ in this exclusive Rocketman clip