Unlike Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman – the screenplay adaptation of Elton John’s life – is a musical fantasy.
Roaring into Australian cinemas this Thursday, audiences will notice the distinct difference between the two films. In one early scene, the audience inside the Troubadour in Los Angeles are floating as they watch John (Taron Egerton) sing “Crocodile Rock”, the feet-off-the-ground moment reminiscent of how the music was making people feel. But this abstract angle was initially rejected by studios. “That was missing the point,” John wrote in an essay for The Guardian. “I lived in my own head a lot as a kid. And when my career took off, it took off in such a way that it almost didn’t seem real to me.”
He continued, “I wasn’t an overnight success by any means … But when it happened, it went off like a missile: there’s a moment in Rocketman when I’m playing onstage in the Troubadour club in LA and everything in the room starts levitating, me included, and honestly, that’s what it felt like.”
Studios were also not too keen on focusing on John’s drug use and sex addiction in his early years – something that was so obviously played down in Bohemian Rhapsody. “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,” John wrote. “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.”
While he was involved in the top line decision-making, John hadn’t seen the Dexter Fletcher-directed film until its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May – and was visibly moved. “Not crying as in the occasional tear quietly trickling down my cheek: really sobbing, in that loud, unguarded, emotionally destroyed way that makes people turn around and look at you with alarmed expressions,” he wrote.
— Stuart Oldham (@s_oldham) May 16, 2019
Rocketman is in Australian cinemas on May 30.