Tales of Rock: Elton John: I insisted ‘Rocketman’ film be honest about sex, drugs, rock and roll

Music icon Elton John says he insisted that the musical-fantasy biography “Rocketman,” opening Friday, be honest about his life’s sex, drugs and rock and roll.

During the movie’s long gestation, wrote John in an article Sunday for The Observer Magazine of the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life. I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, but equally, everyone knows I had quite a lot of both during the ’70s and ’80s, so there didn’t seem to be much point in making a movie that implied that after every gig, I’d quietly gone back to my hotel room with only a glass of warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible for company.”

The film, eventually rated R, stars Taron Egerton as John and Jamie Bell as his longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, whose numerous hits together include “Rocket Man,” “Daniel,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

“[S]ome studios wanted us to lose the fantasy element and make a more straightforward biopic,” Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John continued, “but that was missing the point. Like I said, I lived in my own head a lot as a kid. And when my career took off, it took off in such a way that it almost didn’t seem real to me. I wasn’t an overnight success by any means … But when it happened, it went off like a missile: there’s a moment in ‘Rocketman’ when I’m playing onstage in the Troubadour club in LA and everything in the room starts levitating, me included, and honestly, that’s what it felt like.”

During that tumultuous period, he wrote, “I’d also lost my virginity, to a man — John Reid [played in the film by Richard Madden], who later became my manager — and come out as gay, at least to my friends and family. This all happened in the space of three weeks. To say it was a lot to take in is a terrible understatement.”

 

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