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Just like the musician on which it was based, Rocketman is anything but your standard biopic. The 2019 story of Elton John is equal parts biographical drama and jukebox fantasy in its retelling of the life and career of one of the most successful musicians of all time. But just like the famed musician's career, the production of the film was long and full of ups and downs. And although that made for a tough time for the cast and crew, it makes for some great behind the scenes facts.
From the formation of the idea way back in the early days of the 21st Century until the film was finally released in theaters, Rocketman was quite a journey for all involved parties. So without wasting any more time, let's take a look at ten things you didn't know about the Elton John biographical fantasy.
Tom Hardy Was Originally Slated To Portray Elton John, But Wasn't Comfortable Singing
Years before Rocketman was released, or even entered production, Tom Hardy was one of the first names thrown around to portray Elton John. As far back as 2013, the future Venom star was confirmed to be taking on the iconic figure, but after four years of the film failing to get off the ground, Hardy was replaced by Taron Egerton, who went on to win a Golden Globe for his performance.
When he was still attached to the project, Tom Hardy was going to lip-sync Elton John's most memorable songs because of his struggle with the idea of singing. While sitting down with The Sun, the English actor had this to say about the project:
I'm not a singer. I have no idea really. I'm really trying because of Rocketman, but it's hard to open my mouth in that way. I'm not really drawn towards singing and musicals and that stuff.
As great as it would have been to see Tom Hardy's natural flair come out in the performance, hearing Taron Egerton's actual voice brought a whole other dimension to the movie.
Justin Timberlake Was Considered For The Role At One Point
Even though he was never approached by Elton John or anyone else attached to the project, Justin Timberlake was once considered to take on the lead role in Rocketman. While sitting down with The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, Elton John's husband and the film's producer, David Furnish revealed that the thought came about because of Timberlake's portrayal of the colorful singer in the 2001 music video "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore," stating:
But we never formerly approached Justin [Timberlake] because we weren't ever at a stage where it was the right time to approach him. But he did an amazing job in the video. He put on a prosthetic nose, and it turned out to have been some really interesting acting work as well.
Elton John Was Adamant About The Movie Having An R-Rating
Anyone who's watched Rocketman in the year since its theatrical release knows that the movie doesn't hold back in its depiction of Elton John's extravagant lifestyle, especially the singer's problems with drugs and sex. This is why John was so adamant about the film receiving an R-rating, even though different studios wanted a toned down PG-13 version of his life. In a 2019 op-ed in The Guardian, the 1994 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee stated:
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.
But as we all know, Elton John prevailed and audiences around the world were given one of the most extraordinary an awe-inspiring biopics in recent memory that didn't hold back on the famed singer's darkest moments.
Paramount Moved Forward With The Project After Watching Taron Egerton Perform
For a movie about a singer as popular and revolutionary as Elton John, it took an insanely long amount of time to get Rocketman off the ground, but once Taron Egerton signed on for the lead role in 2017, things got a bit easier. In a sprawling profile on the film and its major players in The Hollywood Reporter, producer Matthew Vaughn revealed that after getting Egerton onboard, he and several other of the movie's producers filmed the future Golden Globe winner performing two of John's most noted songs.
In February 2018, the crew recorded a video of Taron Egerton singing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" and "Your Song," which was then sent off to Paramount chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, who quickly gave the project the green light.
Taron Egerton Went Through Quite A Process To Pull Of Elton John's Signature Look
Once Taron Egerton secured the role and the production was given the go-ahead, the Kingsman star had to go through quite a lengthy process to pull off Elton John's signature look in Rocketman. In addition to going through extensive recording sessions to pull off the sound of the famous singer, the production had to find a way to pull off the singer's gap between his front teeth and receding hairline, both of which Egerton didn't have. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Egerton revealed the costume department quickly gave up on the idea of using fake teeth as it would affect the actor's ability to speak and sing:
I got quite stressed out about it and I asked the designer, 'Could we paint the gap in?' It was a little messy, but between that and the visual effects team, that's how we created the gap.
The hairline became even more of an issue, as Taron Egerton explained:
I spent six months last year with my hairline up here [point to mid-scalp]. It was just horrible. They had to reshave it every day. I looked like Krusty the Clown.
Taron Egerton Underwent Extensive Training To Pull Off The Piano Scenes
Taron Egerton pulled off all of his singing in Rocketman, but the actor did require some training in order to properly pull off playing parts of Elton John's famous songs while also learning how to act like he was playing the songs he couldn't get down. In 2019, Michael L. Roberts, the vocal and piano coach on the set of the film sat down with Screenrant, where he revealed just how much work the actor put in, stating:
It worked out as about two to three hours a day, five days a week, for six to eight weeks in pre-production. And then I was there on set with him every time he was at the piano to give reminders and help structure each scene.
Later in the interview, Michael L. Roberts explained that Taron Egerton went through enough training to know exactly where his hands had to be on the piano at all times during the performances. That's taking it to the next level.
Bryce Dallas Howard Discovered Unsetting Truths About Elton John's Mother During Research
Make no mistake about it, Elton John had quite a turbulent upbringing thanks in part to his absent father and borderline-abusive mother. The hard days of the singer's youth were brought to life in great detail in Rocketman, but Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays John's late mother, Sheila Eileen Dwight, originally had a hard time connecting the character before she started doing some research of her own, telling 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.
The Production's Costume Department Recreated 85 Different Outfits For The Movie
With a tagline that reads "Based On A True Fantasy," there was no way Rocketman was going to feature some of the most elaborate and extravagant costumes in recent memory. The movie was based on the life and career of Elton John, who's just as known for his wardrobe as he is for this musical talent, so costume designer Julian Day knew exactly what he had to do, telling USA Today:
We're dealing with the greatest rock 'n' roll superstar who is probably the most flamboyantly dressed rocker to perform. And we had to take it even a step further for a fantasy movie.
The designer said he and his department created 85 flashy costumes, 60 different pairs of glasses, and 60 pairs of shoes, all of which are shown off in great detail throughout the film.
Taron Egerton Felt Intimidated When Elton John Was On Set
In many cases, it's likely that actors portraying famous musicians don't have to worry about their real-life counterparts walking around on set. That wasn't the case for the production of Rocketman, as Elton John was a producer of the film and would sometimes be found during shooting. This made some scenes tough for Egerton, especially the explicit scenes, as the actor told Yahoo! Entertainment:
Playing him is intimidating enough. I think [if] he sat at the monitors, that would've been too much. Particularly given the fact that it's a fairly warts-and-all story. I shot a scene where I'm him losing his virginity; I don't really particularly want to do that while the person I'm playing is watching. That would be weird. On many levels.
There Was A Controversy Surrounding The Delta Airlines Edit Of The Film
And this final little tidbit of information doesn't have much to do concerning the production of Rocketman but more so with the Delta Airlines edit of the film that was shown on flights in last 2019. In the version shown on Delta flights, the same-sex love scene between Taron Egerton's Elton John and Richard Madden's John Reid was edited out, causing quite a stir in the process. A similar scene in Booksmart was also omitted from the Delta version of that film. In response to the incident, Delta Airlines released a statement reading:
Studios often provide videos in two forms: a theatrical, original version and an edited version. We selected the edited version and now realize content well within our guidelines was unnecessarily excluded from both films. We are working to make sure this doesn't happen again.
The airline also went on to boast the number of LGBTQ+ titles that were available as in-flight entertainment that proved this wasn't an intentional omission. Delta also vowed to put a new process in place to prevent the issue from arising in the future.
Those are just 10 fascinating facts about the "true fantasy" that was Rocketman. If you want to see what the cast of the 2019 fantastical biopic is up to now, hop on over for more on CinemaBlend.