Once upon a time, a small, peripheral voice asked Sir Elton John, “So how does a fat boy from nowhere become a songman?” The word “how” is apt, as, considering the artist’s magnificent, fantastical career, there’s no arguing about the “why”. The wonder of the musician’s mind is explored in all of its colourful idiosyncrasies in Rocketman, a film that takes stock of John’s life, and launches its own toe-tapping fairytale into the stratosphere.
The film follows in the footsteps of the multiple award-winning Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, in more ways than one, while still firmly carving its own path. Queen musicians Brian May and Roger Taylor worked as consultants on their film, and Elton John is one of the producers on this. Director Dexter Fletcher took over the production process of Bohemian Rhapsody in its final stages, and has been at the helm of Rocketman since the very beginning.
But Rocketman differs in its imaginative flights; more than a biopic, this is a musical fantasy. The film follows John’s early years; featuring his childhood with his grandmother, Ivy (whose piano was the first musical instrument John played), and mother, Eileen, who introduced him to rock-and-roll music through the songs of Elvis Presley. The film also explores his formative years as an artist – from the moment he dropped his birth name, Reginald Dwight, and rose from the ashes to claim his new identity as songman to the stars, Elton John.
Casting the right actor to play the chameleon-like artist was crucial to offer a worthy but still excitingly original depiction. Welsh actor Taron Egerton is the man chosen to fill John’s sparkly, high-heeled boots, the pair having first met while filming the wedding scene in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. “Elton has befriended me a bit and I do feel a kinship with him; he’s so part of our cultural language,” says Egerton. “The thing I want people to know is it’s not a biopic, it is the story of his life but it’s a musical, and trippy and kooky. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about anything in my life.”
Egerton sings every song himself in the film, with no dubbing or miming. Music producer Giles Martin says, “I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who could have played Elton – it’s Taron’s role.”
Past the music, Rocketman bursts with colour to honour John’s unmistakable, transcendent fashion sense. From bejewelled swimming caps, to tutti-frutti-coloured feathered mohawks, and sequins covering every imaginable surface, no concessions were made. The film, like the man himself, is a tremendous visual treat. “We go to places in this movie, especially with the costumes; I’m either wearing everything or nothing,” says Egerton.
It’s no accident that the team has come together in the way it has – Fletcher previously worked with Egerton on Eddie The Eagle, proving that both collaborators had the talent to pull off a convincing rags-to-riches story. In tow, Jamie Bell takes on the role of longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin and Bryce Dallas Howard plays Sheila Eileen, John’s mother. The performance to look out for, however, is Richard Madden as John Reid, the musician’s first manager and lover, as the Bodyguard actor brings sensitivity to one of the pivotal figures of John’s life.
Bursting with creativity and innovation, Rocketman promises a dazzling picture that will further and nurture Elton John’s legacy, rather than simply regurgitating the facts. You’ll want to hold on tight for an astronomically good time with this one.