Bryce Dallas Howard Discovered Harsh Truths About Elton John’s Mother While Researching For Rocketman


Memorable art often is born from pain. Could be a broken heart. Could be a broken home. But art that stands the test of time too often can be traced back to an inspirational source of tragedy, and that has been proven time and again over the years.

Elton John can attest to this notion. In the new film Rocketman, it’s made clear that the piano prodigy’s home life as a child was a struggle, with his parents Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) and Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) being less than accepting of his talents and musical aspirations. It only got worse as the singer/songwriters’ career flourished.

Seeing as how Bryce Dallas Howard comes from a show business family, we wondered if she had a hard time connecting with a parental figure who didn’t support the fantastic dreams of a gifted child. And during a recent Rocketman press day in London, Howard told CinemaBlend:

I not only struggled to connect, I questioned it. A lot. … I had a lot of questions for production, but what I was interested in was hearing about Sheila from people who were not involved in the production. So I had a lot of confidential conversations, and again and again and again, heard stories where I realized that it was actually worse than what it was on the [script] page. It’s not that it tipped over into abuse. But it was absolutely chronic cruelty. It was an incredibly toxic, dysfunctional relationship.

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Elton John, according to Rocketman, didn’t necessarily rebel against his strict parenting, but he did seek out new relationships through music. After studying at a sophisticated music academy, he gravitated to rock and roll, and eventually found a spiritual and artistic kinship with lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jaime Bell). Their collaborations span a lifetime, and still produce hits to this day.

In fact, when I pointed out to Bryce Dallas Howard that Elton John’s gift prevailed through the emotional hardship put upon him by his misguided mother, the actress wisely clarified:

He was able to overcome that. I feel like he had that gift within him always. For me, I’m still like, ‘Gosh, what could it have been if she hadn’t have treated him like that?’ What more… he always would have been extraordinary. But he would have been happier earlier.

She’s right. Sir Elton John has achieved perhaps the highest level of success in his chosen field. But there’s no telling how smoother his path might have been if he had received the support that he craved from Day One. Then again, without those hardships, we might never have a dramatic musical like Rocketman to appreciate in theaters.

Here’s Bryce Dallas Howard, talking about her preparation to play Sheila Eileen Dwight in Rocketman.

Dexter Fletcher directs the musical biopic Rocketman, which is carried by a breathtaking lead performance by Taron Egerton. The movie roars into theaters on Thursday night, and if you can’t tell, we think you need to check it out.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.