Last year’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody was a massive global success that also earned the film an abundance of awards, particularly for star Rami Malek. So naturally, this month’s Rocketman, which similarly tells the story of another legendary rock star, is being compared to that film. Taron Egerton, who plays Elton John in Rocketman, revealed how he feels about Bohemian Rhapsody and the parallels between the two films, saying:
Inevitably the film has drawn comparisons with Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malek’s performance in that movie is astonishing… He’s one of the most talented actors of our generation. I’m very, very proud that we are mentioned in the same breath… That film has been such a global phenomenon and success and rightly so. It is a great rip-roaring piece of entertainment and it’s great fun. I can’t remember who did that and who finished it off.
Taron Egerton was effusive with praise for both Bohemian Rhapsody and star Rami Malek, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury. An Oscar is a symbol of the respect of one’s peers, and Rami Malek certainly has Taron Egerton’s respect, with the Rocketman actor calling him a generational talent. So for his performance to be compared in any way to what Rami Malek did in Bohemian Rhapsody is immensely humbling for Taron Egerton.
He also rightly acknowledges what a phenomenon Bohemian Rhapsody was all over the world and he has previously said that he would be happy for Rocketman to have even half of that film’s success. Who could blame him?
Although Bryan Singer’s name is the one in the credits as director on Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher is the one who came on to finish the film when Singer was fired. Taron Egerton alludes to that in his comments at the Cannes Film Festival (via Variety), giving credit and love to his Rocketman director.
The actor seems to have genuine love and respect for Bohemian Rhapsody and the talent involved with it, yet although he is complimented and flattered by the comparisons, he also wants to make it clear that these are two different films. He explained how Rocketman differs from Bohemian Rhapsody saying:
But our movie is a different animal. Our movie is a musical so it requires an actor that can sing in the lead role. For a biopic that’s not necessary because it’s a biopic and they’re just performance pieces that are singing. I’m very grateful that people compare us and hopefully it shows that there is an appetite for movies of this nature. However, that movie is a unicorn and I don’t want to be forever judged by it.
Although on the surface Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman are both biopics, Taron Egerton sees his film as more of a musical or a musical fantasy, and that has different requirements, specifically an actor with singing chops. Unlike Rami Malek, who didn’t do the majority of the singing on Bohemian Rhapsody, Taron Egerton does all his own singing in Rocketman and much of the pre-release hype about the movie has centered on that very fact.
Ultimately, although he is grateful for the comparisons that put Rocketman in such esteemed and successful company, Taron Egerton doesn’t want Rocketman to be judged with Bohemian Rhapsody as the measuring stick. As he astutely said, that film is “a unicorn,” an unprecedented success that took the world by storm and could not have been predicted.
He wants his film to be judged on its own merits and rightfully so. If Rocketman doesn’t match Bohemian Rhapsody’s near $1 billion at the box office or if Taron Egerton doesn’t also earn a Best Actor Oscar, that in no way makes the Elton John musical a failure.
While the Bohemian Rhapsody comparisons are unlikely to end anytime soon, signs are good that Rocketman will be able to stand on its own as a worthwhile film in its own right. The film made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival and the early reactions are very positive, with Taron Egerton’s transformative performance the consensus highlight.