A glorious blue carpet was rolled out at the State Theatre in Sydney for the Australian premiere of the much anticipated story of Sir Elton John. Rocketman, is already being celebrated around the world – a four minute (plus) standing ovation at Cannes is quite the feat for an often objective audience! I had the pleasure of chatting, albeit briefly, to director Dexter Fletcher and star Taron Egerton about portraying one of the world’s most iconic figures and Sir Elton’s reaction to it all:
Hello Taron, what a wonderful response at Cannes! How did that make you feel?
TE: Overwhelmed. You create a story that is really only your interpretation of an iconic person, a well-known identity. So, I hope people connect with it but inevitably, when you get the response that we received in Cannes, what more could you hope for? (Smiles)
Being an action or musical performer, which do you think is harder to portray?
TE: I think I feel more at home doing this! I’ve never really been a sports guy, the tough guy. I suppose I am a lover at heart and someone as a theatre person feels more at home singing than kicking ass.
Was there a frightening part about being Elton?
TE: That he wouldn’t like it! However, I always knew what I wanted to do with it. Always knew the story we wanted to tell, so becoming very aligned with Dexter (Fletcher, Director) to get the core of the film right. I did have a suspicion Elton would like it, he’s not precious or vain. He didn’t mind us showing those slightly more rough elements of his life. There’s only going to be one Elton John. To me, it was such an important moment, culturally, we had to do it right, embracing parts of his story. Our movie is about a survivor, a genius and a wonderful man and I am so proud to be part of this project.
What’s next on the agenda?
TE: A very long flight to LA and beyond that, I do not have a bloody clue! (Laughs)
Dexter, what was the hardest part of directing a musical based on an actual life story?
DF: You want to do justice to the legacy, especially Elton, who has been around so long. He’s enchanting to so many people and has made wonderful music for so long, it’s the kind of responsibility you try to capture by getting your head down then pushing through. He was always very supportive and encouraging. Actually, there was nowhere we couldn’t go, nowhere we couldn’t shine a light and he’s a very generous souls so we got lucky alright.
So it became accurate storytelling?
DF: I was interested in emotional accuracy through a fantasy, at times, recollection of his time and life during that early period, as told by him. So it wasn’t all about getting it perfectly pinpoint correct. It was more about where he was emotionally sitting through things that affected his well being. So it’s not a factual re-telling, it’s somewhat fantasy, set to his remarkable music.
How often did Sir Elton visit the set?
DF: He did during rehearsals, but then he left on a world tour and let us get on with it!
Was there a particular sequence or song that stands out to you on set?
DF: Being under my leadership, it all stands out as I can recite line for line practically every song! So it’s all important. The rocketman song is a solid moment while there’s a lovely scene in a cafe where Elton meets his long time collaborator Bernie Taupin that I am proud of.
ROCKETMAN RATED M 121 min NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS