Taron Egerton and Richard Madden walk into a bar. Except it’s not a bar, it’s Elton John’s house. And Billie Jean King is there, and they’re all eating soft shell crab. This isn’t the beginnings of a very specific joke, but rather a very real evening in the lives of the Rocketman stars.
Egerton, who plays John in the rock biopic, and Madden, who plays John’s manager and first boyfriend John Reid, found themselves in the midst of a literal dream sequence thanks to their involvement in the highly-anticipated flick.
“The first time I met Elton was on the set of Kingsman 2 while we were filming the wedding scene,” Egerton told EW while the costars reunited in London last month. “He called me up to where he was sitting while waiting to perform and he said, ‘If I was five years younger, it’d be me you’re getting married to, mate.’ But we’ve both spent a lot of time with Elton — he’s a very open, interested person and is a great host.”
Madden’s first time meeting the music legend was just before Christmas during the aforementioned visit, which he described as really nice.
“We had soft-shell crab,” Egerton added. “There were only six of us — Billie Jean King and her wife were there and I thought, what a group!”
The actors had plenty of bonding opportunities through the life of the filming process (they first met at Abbey Road Studios, while Egerton recorded a few early songs for the soundtrack), from getting to know each other during a night out at Soho House to spending endless hours rehearsing the movie’s many complicated song-and-dance sequences. They both provided their own vocals and, to their occasional dismay, their own dance moves (it was the first true musical experience for the actors, although Madden did technically do the waltz in his gig in the live-action Cinderella remake).
The “Honky Cat” sequence, which was shot like an MGM musical number with both Egerton and Madden walking from scene to scene while singing, proved to be the most complex.
“It’s very cheeky and naughty and we had a lot of fun with it despite the logistical challenges,” said Egerton. “Richard was better at it than I was. There’s a sequence that’s cut actually, which is slightly heartbreaking because a lot of work went into it.”
“No, you were better!” Madden insisted, before adding that they would be anticipating the DVD extras.
Egerton and Madden point out that they’re also incredibly proud of the scene that features a massive party at Mama Cass’ sprawling Hollywood Hills home — it provides a pivotal moment in the narrative of their two characters — but also take care to note that they didn’t actually film that in L.A. (cue the wonders of CGI skylines).
“What I love about our scenes in the film is that they are two massive personalities,” said Egerton. “It’s a bit like an unstoppable force and an immovable object and a lot of the conflict in the film lies there. We had great scenes to play with.”
Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Elton John’s mother Sheila Dwight, echoed the sentiment in her assessment of her fellow Rocketman stars. The actress received the script and an offer a mere six days before she found herself in London, recording “I Want Love” at Abbey Road with the rest of the cast and told EW that much of her decision to jump on board hinged on early footage the filmmakers sent her of Egerton singing and playing the piano as Elton. That only continued once she arrived on set.
“Over and over again between takes I would just turn to the camera crew so he couldn’t hear and go, ‘Not s—! Not s— at all!” she said of watching Egerton’s performance. “He truly transformed in this role and his emotions felt so real. There was no artifice.”
Now that Rocketman has opened everywhere, the cast is tasked with, for all intents and purposes, sitting back and watching the reactions pore in. They had early luck at the Cannes Film Festival in which the premiere received a several-minutes-long standing ovation (which Egerton described to EW as “incredibly affirming and validating”) but it’s hard to predict what the life of a film will be and they’re all holding their proverbial breath a bit.
“I don’t go in with any expectation, I think I was too terrified of the enormity of it all,” Madden explained. “I just go in going, let’s get through each day. And then I got to the end of each of them going, this couldn’t have been a better day.”
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