The director for Elton John's 'Rocketman' knew when he signed on that a traditional biopic format, like 'Bohemian Rhapsody', wouldn't work for Elton's story.
"Elton is all about fantasy and imagination and magic. We wanted to use his songs to elevate this to be more than just a biopic. We wanted to make a magical fantasy that tells the story of his life, or at least elements of his life," Director Dexter Fletcher said.
The result is 'Rocketman', which we can see in theatres at the end of this month, presenting Elton's life as an an elaborate musical with fantastic elements, like the carnival crowd that does a choreographed dance to 'Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting'. And unlike other biopics, Taron Egerton, who stars as a young Elton, did all his own singing.
Musicals are all about expressing yourself through song. If you don’t sing them yourself, then you aren’t really expressing anything
The film opens with Elton entering rehab in the early 1990s to combat an addiction to drugs and alcohol that nearly took his life.
"He’s our narrator, and he’s telling the story as he recalls it. He’s dealing with his demons and trying to see the light again through the darkness. That lends itself to imagination and these kind of emotional beats and gestures. And what I find interesting about that is that I can tell you a story of an event that I remember, but it’s going to be colored by my own perception of what was going on at that time," Fletcher explains.
So while the movie mostly follows Elton's story as it happened, the filmmakers weren't afraid to take some liberties when it came to storytelling. For example, when Elton makes his US debut at L.A.'s Trubadour in 1970, he performs 'Crocodile Rock', which he didn't actually write until two years later in reality: "I was aware of that. But what I care about is capturing the moment cinematically and musically," Flecther said.
Watch the film's trailer below.
Fletcher wanted to make sure he used Taron's voice every time Elton's music is heard: "We don’t use any original recordings of Elton. If I’m putting together a sequence and I dig something out of Elton’s catalog, like [1970’s] 'Amoreena' for instance, Taron has to go back in the studio and record it. That was even the case for little pieces of music from Bluesology. I was absolutely adamant that we only use Taron."
Taron did get very close to Elton during the filming process though, after being a long running fan, saying: "He doesn’t disappoint. They say don’t meet your heroes, but that isn’t true for Elton John."
He also hoped fans would understand when the film took a bit of a wild turn, like when Elton floats above his piano during a performance: "The film asks you to take an imaginative leap, as you would if you went to the theater. It’s not a Wikipedia entry."
You can catch 'Rocketman' NZ cinemas on the 30th May.