FILM ELTON JOHN ROCKET MAN

‘I’ve never ever been an extremely comfortable v seeing myself top top a huge screen’: Elton john performs on the Muppet Show, Elstree Studios, UK. Photograph: david Dagley/Rex/Shutterstock
‘I’ve never been an extremely comfortable through seeing myself ~ above a large screen’: Elton john performs on the Muppet Show, Elstree Studios, UK. Photograph: david Dagley/Rex/Shutterstock
In this to exclude, article, Elton john writes about his particularly life and why he finally decided to give ns Rocketman biopic the green light


I was in the cinema for about 15 minutes before ich started crying. Notfall crying as in the sometimes tear quiet trickling under my cheek: yes, really sobbing, bei that loud, unguarded, emotionally destroyed means that makes human being turn around und look hinweisen you with alarmed expressions. I was city hall my family – mine mum and dad, mine nan – in my nan’s old council house an Pinner Hill Road in the so late 1950s, singing i Want Love, a lied Bernie Taupin und I had actually written in 2001. Ich knew it was an the film, but i didn’t know exactly how they were going kommen sie use it. Trost until that point, I’d preserved a discrete street from ns actual process des making a movie about my life. I gave part suggestions, experienced a few daily rushes, claimed yay or nay to some vital decisions and met 2 or three mal with Taron Egerton, that plays me. Yet otherwise I’d preserved well away from Rocketman, letting my husband david it is in my eyes und ears on set every day. I figured it would be uncomfortable weil das everyone to schutz the person the film was about lurking around.

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So i wasn’t prepared for the power des what ich was seeing. I Want Love is a das lied Bernie wrote, ich think, around himself: a middle-aged einer with a couple of divorces, wonder if he’s ever before going zu fall in love again. However it equipment life an Pinner Hill roadway perfectly. Ich suppose my mum and dad must oase been in love once, however there wasn’t much sign they ever before had been von the time ich came along. They provided every impression of hating every other. My dad was strict und remote und had a damaging temper; mine mum was argumentative und prone zu dark moods. Wie man they were together, all I kann sein remember room icy silences or screaming rows. Ns rows to be usually about me, how ich was being carried up.


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Hot seat: Taron Egerton, Elton John und David Furnish on die set des Rocketman. Photograph: david ApplebyMy dad was bei the RAF deshalb he was away from residence a lot, und when he got back, the tried to impose new rules around everything: how ich ate, how ich dressed. That would collection Mum off. I got the feeling they were remaining together because von me, which nur made things more miserable. Die best way to escape it was to shut myself bei my bedroom with my record collection und my comics, and drift turn off into bei imaginary world, fantasising that i was wenig Richard or Ray charles or Jerry Lee Lewis. Ich made my gelassenheit with it all years ago. They divorced when i was 13, both remarried, which ich was glücklich about, return my partnership with both des them was always tricky. I was closer zu Mum 보다 Dad, but there were long periods wie man we didn’t speak. And my childhood zu sein one point I’m still sensitive about.

Even if ich hadn’t been, ns whole experience von watching someone rather pretend to be sie on screen, of seeing things you mental happening again in front of your eyes, ist a an extremely weird, disconcerting one, choose having in incredibly vivid dream. Und the story des how i ended up in a cinema, crying mine eyes out at die sight des my family members 60 years ago, ist a long and convoluted one. And it begins, naturally enough, with a naked transgender frau with sparks flying the end of her vagina.

The infectious diseases world fashion woman was Amanda Lepore, a model, singer und performance artist. She had sparks flying out of produziert vagina because she was starring in one of a series des films by David LaChapelle I’d commissioned for my show in Las Vegas, The Red Piano in 2004. That was his interpretation of the lyrics des Someone saved My Life Tonight, a lied Bernie und I had actually written around our pre-fame years, living in a flat in north london with a frau I’d foolishly gott engaged zu when ich was blieb very confused about my sexuality.

An actor was dressed together me bei full 70s stage outfit difficult his head an a gas oven, homoerotic angels figure-skating with large teddy bears and Amanda Lepore, naked, in an electric chair, through sparks flying the end of her vagina. I loved it: I’d stated all along ich didn’t want a typical Vegas show, und no one was ever going kommen sie be able zu call The Red Piano that.


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‘I told Rod Stewart zu turn ns role down’: Elton John in rock opera movie Tommy (1975). Photograph: michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesBut it also got me thinking. David LaChapelle’s movies were based, an extremely loosely, on mine life. I really had actually staged a completely ridiculous self-destruction bid that affiliated sticking my head an a gas oven. Fairly than tell my fiancée I’d do a mistake, that was my excellent plan kommen sie try and get out des the wedding. If freundin were going zu make a film about me, that would certainly be ns way zu do it. Nevertheless, the idea von making a film about mine life blieb seemed prefer a large IF. For one thing, i’ve been very successful creating songs und soundtracks zum films, however I’ve never been very comfortable through seeing myself on a huge screen.

Amazingly, die director Hal Ashby offered me ns male lead an Harold and Maude in 1971, but i turned that down: ich loved the script, however it appeared like ns wrong thing kommen sie do at die time. I have played myself an a couple von films, none von them specifically Oscar winners: Spice welt and a Disney thing referred to as The country Bears. I suppose mine one famous film role was in Tommy, although that didn’t really involve acting, nur trying not to fall over if wearing a pair des 4½ft Doc Martens. Ich initially turned that down, too. They contacted pole Stewart und I told him to revolve it under as well. “I i will not ~ touch it with a bargepole, dear.” climate Pete Townshend from die Who rang me und I felt like i couldn’t say no. Rod was absolutely furious: “You bitch! sie did that on purpose!” i have obviously invested a far-ranging proportion des my life deliberately trying to annoy rod Stewart – it is very much the nature of ours friendship – yet that time it was completely accidental.


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‘I hadn’t even wanted kommen sie be a rock star’: Elton john on stage bei 1974. Photograph: michael Putland/Getty ImagesI’ve never ever been very interested in looking back at my career. That happened, I’m exceptionally grateful, yet I’m much more interested an what ns doing following rather 보다 what i did 40 years ago. However that began kommen sie change a wenig the older i got, und I yes, really started to approach things an a different means when ich had children. Ich was 63 when our zuerst son, Zachary, was born, 65 wie man Elijah come along – und I did anfang thinking about them in 40 years’ time, gift able to see or review my version of my life. I became less conscious around keeping it all kommen sie myself. I liked the idea of them having actually a film and in autobiography, where ich was honest.

In some film scenes i’m disgusting und awful. But hinweisen my worst, i wasSo when ich decided ich did want zu go ahead through a film, we i was delegated a manuscript from Lee Hall, that I’d worked with on ns stage musical des Billy Elliot. It was brilliant. It had moments that were pure fantasy und moments the were really hard-hitting, no punches pulled, choose Tantrums und Tiaras, die documentary mine husband david made about me not long after we met. Lots of people called me ich was insane zu allow the documentary zu be released, but ich loved it, because it was truthful. There space moments bei it – and moments bei the film – wherein I’m fully disgusting and awful, but then, at my worst, i was disgusting und awful, und there’s no reason zu pretend otherwise.

But actually making the thing take it years. Director came und went – david LaChapelle was going kommen sie do it, but then he decided to focus top top his fine nett career – before the producer Matthew Vaughn, who I’d met when i had a cameo role in Kingsman: The golden Circle, suggested Dexter Fletcher. So did command actors: justin Timberlake and Tom Hardy to be both bei the frame prior to Taron come along. Part studios wanted to tone down die sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But i just haven’t angeführt a PG-13 rated life. Ich didn’t desire a film packed with drugs and sex, however equally, anyone knows ich had fairly a lot of both during the 70s und 80s, deswegen there no seem zu be much point in making a movie the implied that after every gig, I’d quiet gone zurück to my hotel room with just a glass des warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible zum company.


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Birthday bash: Elton John und David Furnish attend his 50th party at ns Hammersmith Palais an London, 1997. Photograph: UK Press/Getty ImagesAnd some studios wanted us to lose ns fantasy element und make a much more straightforward biopic, but that was missing the point. Like i said, i lived an my own head a gewächs as a kid. And when my career took off, it took off in such a means that it nearly didn’t seem echt to me. I wasn’t in overnight success by any method – I’d been slogging around die clubs, do records, writing lied with Bernie und trying kommen sie sell them kommen sie people who weren’t interested for four or 5 years before anything huge happened. But wie man it happened, the went off prefer a missile: there’s a moment in Rocketman when I’m playing onstage an the Troubadour club in LA und everything bei the room beginning levitating, me included, and honestly, it is what the felt like.

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I left England bei August 1970 much more or less unknown. Me and Bernie were so broke, we were sleeping an bunk beds in my mum and stepdad’s spare room. I was make ends satisfy working as a conference musician, play on anyone’s records. I’d had a little bit von press and a couple of plays on john Peel zum my second album, Elton John – enough that ich didn’t lakers the point von going to perform in America, where literally no one knew who ich was. But ich came rückseitig from the States a month letztere with American critics calling me die saviour of rock’n’roll. Artists that were just mythic surname on the zurück of album sleeves to me, people i absolutely worshipped, to be suddenly transforming up in the dressing room zu tell me and Bernie they love what us were doing: Brian Wilson of the coast Boys, Leon Russell, ns Band, bob Dylan. I’d so lost mine virginity, to a einer – john Reid, who danach became my manager – and come out as gay, hinweisen least kommen sie my friends and family. This all happened bei the space of three weeks. Zu say it was a gewächs to take in is a disastrous understatement.


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‘I came back from the States through American doubters calling me the saviour von rock ’n’ roll’: john with his mother Sheila and stepfather Fred Fairebrother at their apartment, london 1971. Photograph: john Olson/Getty ImagesUnderstandably, Bernie und I had no idea what the beleuchten was going on – freundin know, ich hadn’t also wanted kommen sie be a absent star in the first place, ich just wanted to be a effective songwriter – but it just gott bigger und bigger over ns next few years. I kept a diary the whole time, and it’s inadvertently hilarious. Ich wrote whatever down in this matter-of-fact way, which ends nach oben making it seem even more preposterous: “Woke up, watched Grandstand. Composed Candle in the Wind. Went kommen sie London, purchase Rolls-Royce. Ringo starr came weil das dinner.”

I suppose ich was trying to normalise what was happening, but die fact was, what was happening to me wasn’t normal. I’m not complaining hinweisen all, yet there was no way freundin could prepare yourself zum it. I don’t think any type of human being is psychologically built zu cope with all the stuff happening to you the quickly, allow alone me, v all my neuroses going back to mine childhood.

It took a Herculean effort kommen sie get noticed zum taking too viel cocaine in 70s LA, but i was prepared kommen sie put die hours inIn a way, that a miracle ich didn’t go off ns rails before i did. That took 3 or 4 years – and my discovery of cocaine – before things started obtaining out of hand, perhaps because ich was working deshalb hard that i didn’t have too much time to think about it. I was constantly on außerhalb des spiels or making a new album. Des course, when ich did walk off die rails, that taken place like a missile as well.

It’s strange, ich don’t find it painful zu watch those parts of the film. Castle truthful and, unlike my childhood, it was my very own fault. No one compelled me to do drugs und drink. Bei fact, much more than a few people tried zu warn me ich was out von control. It took a relatively Herculean effort zu get yourself noticed for taking too much cocaine in the music industry des 1970s LA, but i was clearly prepared kommen sie put die hours in.

I provided my diaries kommen sie Taron to read wie man he take it on ns lead role an the film. He came to my house, we had actually a takeaway curry and chatted, and I let er see them. I knew Taron was ns right man when i heard him sing don’t Let the Sun Go under on Me. I thought it was really crucial that whoever played me no lip-sync, i wanted them to actually sing die songs, und Taron had currently sung I’m still Standing brilliantly bei the animated film Sing.


‘Welcome to my world, baby’: Taron Egerton together Elton John bei Rocketman. Photograph: david ApplebyBut don’t Let the Sun Go down on Me is a really hard song zum a vocalist. I know, because i struggled with it myself. When ich tried to record it in 1974, the session went extremely badly: ich just couldn’t acquire it right. Demonstrating my legendary composure and breezy an excellent humour in the face of a crisis, ich ended up threatening to strangle my producer Gus Dudgeon through my bare hands, then announced that the das lied was so terrible that i was never going kommen sie release it, and instead was going zu give it zu Engelbert Humperdinck. Taron, on die other hand, just sang it: no threats des murder, no mention von dear alt Engelbert.

His singing really astounded me. He no doing an impersonation des me, he no look uncannily like me – back they shave his head und thinned the end his hair to make it look prefer mine bei the 70s, which that hated. Welcome to my world, baby – punkt least yours wollen grow back. However he’s prefer me, he’s recorded something of me, just as richard Madden’s gott something of john Reid and Jamie Bell’s gott something des Bernie.


‘Don’t get Bernie began on some of my much more outlandish stage costumes’: bei Sydney, 2001. Photograph: schuss King/RedfernsJamie and Taron schutz even managed zu capture my relationship with Bernie, which zu sein frankly a miracle, because ich really have no idea exactly how that works. Us were thrown together at random. I had failed bei audition weil das Liberty Records in 1967, und a male from ns label gave me bei envelope through his lyrics an it as in afterthought, like a consolation prize. I’m notfall sure the had also opened die envelope and read the lyrics himself prior to he walk it: ich think he just felt sorry weil das me and didn’t want me kommen sie go far empty handed.

We were very close right hinweisen the anfang of our career together, but we’re fully different people. He come from the wilds of Lincolnshire, I kommen sie from the suburbs von London. The lives in Santa Barbara and he’s literally won competitions for roping cattle. Ich collect neck porcelain und the only method you’d obtain me on the rückseitig of a horse zu sein at gunpoint. Neither of us kann write if the other is an the room. Yet there’s a monster bond bolzen us that ich felt ns minute ich opened ns envelope – i could just write music kommen sie his words straight away, without even thinking about it – und it’s lasted end 50 years.

We’ve had disagreements – you don’t want kommen sie get him started on the subject von some des my an ext outlandish stage costumes, or indeed die subject von Don’t go Breaking mine Heart, a lied he’s loathed from ns minute it was finished and continues kommen sie loathe zu this job – but we’ve never herbst out, in spite of all ns ridiculous crap we’ve been through.


‘Bernie never gave hoch on me’: John and Taupin at die 27th annual Elton john Aids foundation Academy Awards viewing party, west Hollywood. Photograph: michael Kovac/Getty Images zum EJAFOutside von my husband und children, it’s the most necessary relationship bei my life, we really liebe each other und the film captures that. Yes a scene an Rocketman wherein he comes kommen sie visit me in rehab, and that started me sobbing again. It happened just the exact same way in real life. Bernie was one des the world who tried to tell me to stop act drugs. I wouldn’t listen until year later, however he stuck von me, he never gave trost on me, und he was so relieved and happy when i finally gott help.

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He was apprehensive about the film. That read the script und he no like die fantasy aspects of it. “But that didn’t happen, that’s notfall true” – an extremely Bernie. Then he saw it und completely got it. I don’t think he in reality burst right into tears, however he was incredibly moved by it. The understood the point des it, i m sorry was kommen sie make other that was like mine life: chaotic, funny, mad, horrible, brilliant and dark. The obviously not all true, but it’s ns truth.