Rocketman: Sad songs say so much

Taron Egerton in Rocketman

When Taron Egerton watched Rocketman with an audience for the first time, it was at one of the biggest entertainment events of the year — the Cannes Film Festival.

In the biopic, the Welsh actor not only embodies the legendary Elton John, but he also sings a number of his most famous hits. So it’s no surprise he found witnessing viewers’ reactions somewhat overwhelming.

“My breath was very high in my chest,” confides the 29-year-old, who’s become friends with Elton John, 72.

“I relaxed a little bit after ‘Your Song’, because people made it very obvious that they approved, and from there on, I slowly began to unwind. Then, when I realised the movie was going to end, again the anxiety started to climb back up.”

Elton John himself was an executive producer on Rocketman. The story follows the performer — real name Reginald Dwight — as he grows from being a shy, working-class piano prodigy into one of the most-loved pop stars of all time, collaborating on more than 30 albums with his songwriting partner, lyricist Bernie Taupin (played by Jamie Bell).

Egerton has received a number of rave reviews so far for his performance. He is utterly believable, mesmerising and moving as the London-born singer/songwriter. Throughout his long career, Elton John became known for not only his incredible talent but also his outrageous performances.

So helping Egerton to completely immerse himself while on set were the colourful costumes — some of which are recreations of the outlandish outfits Elton John really wore, while others are completely new designs.Which was his favourite?

“I am getting, apparently, the denim jacket from ‘Tiny Dancer’ next week, which is the one thing that I always wanted because it’s the one thing I feel I might wear,” he reveals with a grin.

“I love so many of the costumes for so many different reasons. But my kind of signature costume, which is the orange Madison Square Garden rehab costume, I think is quite extraordinary.”

The plot delves into more serious aspects of Elton’s life too, including the troubled relationship he had with his mother, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Then there’s Elton John’s relationship with John Reid — they dated for five years before the Scotsman became his manager. Richard Madden (Bodyguard and Game Of Thrones) takes on the character of Reid who is portrayed as a bit of a villain.

There’s been a lot of press around a naked scene between Madden and Egerton, with some outlets hailing it as the first major studio film to depict a male gay sex scene on screen.

We always knew that that was going to be in the film, it’s been very well publicised — we had a studio who supported us in placing Elton’s sexuality front and centre

“And you know, it never felt like a contentious thing to us. It really didn’t. I know the press have made it look like a contentious thing, which I think is sad in itself, but it never really was.”

The film doesn’t shy away from Elton John’s spiral into addiction either. In one scene, the performer takes a lot of drugs during a party at his house, before diving headfirst into his swimming pool. But, discussing the potential challenges of exploring that side of Elton John’s life, Egerton reasons that he doesn’t really subscribe to the idea that portraying someone takes its toll.

“Some actors have that experience, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I always find that there’s a joy in expression and there’s a joy in storytelling,” he elaborates.

“And even when you’re portraying something sad or painful, there’s still a catharsis and a joy in expressing all of that. So, no, I don’t feel that acting is something that costs you a great deal - other than a lot of energy!”

Rocketman is in cinemas now

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