This weekend the story of Elton John takes the big screen in the form of the massive musical adventure Rocketman. The film is sort of an anomoly, as it's a big budget musical, but it's also rated-R. Those two things don't often go together, but since Elton John himself is something of a unique combination, it probably shouldn't be too surprising.
It turns out, that not every studio was quite on board with this particular combination however. Elton John says that many studios wanted to tone down the story in order to achieve the broader audience friendly PG-13 rating, but John says such a decision wouldn't have made sense because it wouldn't have fit his life. According to Sir Elton...
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.
No biographical film is 100% accurate when it comes to what actually happened. Things will always be modified in some way for dramatic effect. However, there is a general feeling that a movie must be accurate enough to capture the essence of the person, and as Elton John himself says, you can't really do that with him without including sex and drugs.
It's not entirely uncommon for a movie to wallpaper over the darker parts of a true story. Especially when the subject is still alive, there's a natural inclination to focus on the more positive elements of a life story. Elton John could have wanted to see that happen here, but that wasn't what happened. In a piece he wrote himself for the Guardian, he says while he did work with producers and make a couple of "yea or nea" decisions (he doesn't specify what those were) about the film, but for the most part he kept himself away from the production, intentionally wanting to avoid casting his shadow over things.
Quite the contrary, Elton John clearly wanted his struggles with alcohol and drugs to be part of the film. He takes full responsibility for them, and says for that reason those elements aren't even difficult for him to watch. He knows they were his fault and is at peace with the decisions he made.