Biopic: ‘Rocketman’ burning out his fuse up here alone

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Biopic: ‘Rocketman’ burning out his fuse up here alone

A first look at the upcoming Elton John musical fantasy suggests it could be bigger than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Neil McCormick


You will believe a singer-songwriter can fly. Actor Taron Egerton was shown levitating above a piano as Elton John in a first glimpse of footage from Rocketman, the forthcoming film about the life and times of the rock superstar.
Twenty minutes of footage unveiled at Abbey Road studios revealed Rocketman to be a flamboyant musical with more in common with the magical realism of La La Land than the traditional rock narrative of this year’s Oscar-winning Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
In a succession of ludicrous costumes and even more ludicrous wigs, Egerton was shown singing and dancing through a dreamlike reimagining of his career. To be fair, it was the 1970s, and by his own admission the legendary showman spent much of the decade on drugs.
“Elton gave me licence to make him look quite ugly at times,” Egerton said. The handsome 29-year-old Welsh star, perhaps best known for his portrayal of a young Bond-like secret agent in the Kingsman film series, was presumably referring to his onscreen behaviour rather than his looks.
The footage suggested Elton’s descent into addiction is at the core of the drama, with scenes of the singer downing bottles of vodka, throwing teary tantrums and attempting suicide.
“It is a snot, blood, sweat and tears performance,” according to director Dexter Fletcher, who most recently completed the filming and editing of Bohemian Rhapsody after original director Bryan Singer was fired.
Nonetheless, exuberant and colourful scenes of Elton and hundreds of extras performing a choreographed dance routine to Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting in an old-fashioned British fairground suggested this was an imaginative leap forward from the Queen movie.
“Songs are used to tell the story of the inner life of the characters,” said Fletcher. “I wouldn’t describe it as a biopic. It’s a musical fantasy.”
Egerton gets to show a whole other side to his talents by playing piano and singing lead vocals. And he is not alone. Jamie Bell, who rose to fame as Billy Elliot, plays Elton’s lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, and is shown singing a subdued version of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road during a fight with Elton in a restaurant. Richard Madden plays Elton’s manager and lover John Reid with the same smouldering intensity he brought to TV drama Bodyguard.
But the real love story on display at Abbey Road was between a man and his music. If the promise of these wildly extravagant musical scenes pays off when the full film is released later this year, there is every chance Rocketman could make Bohemian Rhapsody look like a damp squib.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

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