Dexter Fletcher, the man who was brought in to salvage Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY after Bryan Singer was dismissed from his directorial position, helms this film chronicling the life and career of Sir Elton John.
The film took nearly two decades to produce and passed through various studios and lead actors. After stalling at Disney in the early 2000s, John and his husband David Furnish ultimately took the project to Universal’s Focus Features division, with Tom Hardy starring as Elton. However, the film had troubles there as well, particularly regarding its budget and script. Matthew Vaughn, who was in post-production on KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE in which John had a cameo role, took an interest in producing, but was concerned that Hardy was too old for the part and would have to lip-sync. He instead suggested KINGSMAN’s own star, Taron Egerton, who had also sung John’s song “I’m Still Standing” in the 2016 animated film SING. Footage of Egerton performing two of Elton’s songs was presented to Jim Gianopulos, the newly-minted CEO of Paramount Pictures who had previously worked with Vaughn as Fox chairman on the KINGSMAN films, and the project became one of his first green lights there.
ROCKETMAN is nowhere near a traditionally straightforward biopic, nor should one expect it to be given that John is as much a virtuoso of flamboyance and decadence as he is on the piano. It’s more of a docudrama, with particular emphasis on dramatization; while the basic biographical facts of Elton’s life are present, they are structured in the form of a fantasy musical set mainly to John’s hit-filled discography (although some songs outside his canon do turn up, such as “Pinball Wizard,” which he performed in the 1975 film version of The Who’s rock opera TOMMY). This kind of execution would almost never work for anyone but Elton John, and yet it’s so brilliantly staged that you can forgive the film for having, for example, an adolescent Elton performing a song he wouldn’t actually write until many years later.
Egerton absolutely nails the role of Elton, and it’s no wonder that the musician told The Sun following the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival that he was “floored” and that it was like watching himself—and, indeed, ROCKETMAN is practically like watching the man himself grow up and become such a huge superstar despite so many obstacles being thrown his way.
We may only be on the verge of summer as this film is being released, and I think it’s gonna be a long, long time before we know who’ll grab those Oscar® noms, but if there is just one extremely early contender right now, it’s most certainly gotta be ROCKETMAN.