In late 2017, production of Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody came to halt when director Bryan Singer was fired after allegations of sexual misconduct. With just two weeks of filming to go, 20th Century Fox found a replacement in Dexter Fletcher; the movie then went on to win four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes, including Best Actor for Rami Malek’s portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
Fletcher was actually brought on as Bohemian Rhapsody‘s director in 2013 but was let go a year later due to creative differences. “I worked on Bohemian Rhapsody a few years before: that version didn’t happen. If things had gone the way they should have gone, we wouldn’t be talking about it,” said the 53-year-old director.
But now Fletcher has shifted focus to a different project featuring another British performer, one whose nearly fifty-year career has been woven together for the big screen – Elton John’s Rocketman.
Before working as a director, Fletcher appeared as an actor in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels making both Queen and Elton John familiar subjects for him. “This music is the best of the 70s and 80s,” said Fletcher, “When you get people in the theater and you have that great song that everyone knows and loves that there’s a great unifying experience.”
Elton John was at the peak of his fame during the said decades, and his songs will be reinterpreted in Rocketman by Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Robin Hood). The film will begin in John’s pre-artist days as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, and go on to introduce longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot and Fantastic Four), manager John Reid (Richard Madden from Game of Thrones and Cinderella), and his mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard from Jurassic World).
Rocketman will take audiences through young Reggie’s first twinklings on the piano, his teenage refusal to play music by “dead people”, his 1970 debut at Los Angeles’s Troubadour club, and his 1975 full house concerts at Dodger Stadium. The film’s trailer alone had John’s classics like “Your Song”, “Tiny Dancer”, and “Bennie and the Jets”, so expect the full feature to have this hits and more.
For Elton, by Elton
Fletcher insists the film is not “an official biography,” but instead an expression of John’s own memories, “We are inside Elton’s memories of his life. And memories are fallible… things get mixed up and confused. We’re not hemmed in, we’re not restricted by facts. We have the freedom of imagination, which is much more important for a movie. It has been a freeing thing about Elton being our narrator.”
Bohemian Rhapsody faced a lot of backlash and criticism for failing to address Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, but Fletcher is determined that Rocketman will do the same (John came out in 1998). “Elton is a gay man and we know that, we know Freddie was gay,” said Fletcher, “Elton’s first love is very key important moment historically, but also in our story. So no, we don’t shy away from that.”
He described the film as an “R-rated musical” for it contains sex scenes apart from the singer’s selected discography. Fletcher said that John ” talked about his thoughts, his ideas, but he was also very generous. He knew that we had to make it our own. He gave us his blessing and the strength and the beauty to be honest. It’s real. It celebrates Elton and his life.”
Elton John has sold over 300 million records worldwide and won five Grammy Awards. He serves as one of Rocketman‘s executive producers while his husband, filmmaker David Furnish, is one of the producers. Fletcher presented the film at the Las Vegas CinemaCon last week, and will be released in Philippine cinemas on June 19.
Story from AFP. Fletcher’s photo from Reuters.