Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody are two recent films that have received a great deal of comparison. Both are biopics about music stars from the same era, and both follow very similar trajectories in their stories. There are plenty of reasons to compare them, but one person who can't do that is Elton John, the subject of Rocketman, because he's never seen Bohemian Rhapsody.
Bohemian Rhapsody was a box office hit and an awards season darling, so a lot of people ended up seeing it, and one might expect that, especially since Elton John would have a unique perspective on the movie, he would be one of those who checked it out. However, it turns out that's exactly the reason he's avoided the movie. John says he can't watch it because he was too close to Freddie Mercury.
I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t watch it because I’m so close to Freddie. I’ve seen snippets of it and I thought that Rami Malek was fantastic, but being Freddie’s dearest friend, I couldn’t watch it.
I've never seen somebody I knew personally portrayed by an actor in a film, but just trying to imagine such a thing is strange. I can totally see why Elton John might have trouble watching Bohemian Rhapsody. There's the possibility of getting frustrated with the film for the ways in which it changes the story. There's the potential difficulty that comes with reliving events that might be emotionally difficult to go through a second time. Regardless of how good or bad the movie turns out to be, there's the possibility of dealing with some serious issues.
Elton John says he's seen pieces of the film, enough to compliment Rami Malek's portrayal as Freddie Mercury, but that's all. If anything, the fact that Malek did such a good job may have reinforced to Elton John the idea that he shouldn't watch the rest of the movie. It might have hit too close to home.
While the similarities between Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman are obvious there is one significant difference. The Freddie Mercury movie was rated PG-13, while the Elton John biopic was rated-R. John told GQ that the success of Rhapsody did not lead to any additional pressure to sanitize his story. What it did lead to was more people being introduced to the music of Queen.
I have to say, Paramount was incredibly on our side. There was talk about the PG thing, but I said I can’t tell my life like that. What Bohemian Rhapsody did was to prolong Queen’s career and it worked in a brilliant way because their catalogue is flying.
Elton John is likely experiencing a similar resurgence. While Rocketman hasn't been quite the hit Bohemian Rhapsody was, the movie still grossed close to $200 million dollars globally, and it still has a chance at some awards season recognition of its own.