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Eight things we were learned from Elton John biopic Rocketman

As well as an enthralling biopic of Elton John's life, Rocketman teaches us some valuable lessons. REUTERS

Eight things we were learned from Elton John biopic Rocketman

It's R-rated because his life was, and we really need to talk about money and happiness - here are eight things we learned from Elton John's biopic.

Eight things we were learned from Elton John biopic Rocketman

Rocketman really did blast off

Elton John’s launchpad to superstar fame can be traced back to one particular night – which the film celebrates in a high-octane live performance scene.

It’s his first US gig at Los Angeles club The Troubador, and his self-titled second album had failed to make waves let alone register in the States.

Yet his performance that night is seen as the stuff of legend – the moment he truly launched himself – and the film succeeds in capturing the sense of a megastar taking his place on the world stage.

As John himself wrote in The Guardian, “there’s a moment in Rocketman when I’m playing onstage in the Troubadour club in LA and everything in the room starts levitating, me included, and honestly, that’s what it felt like”.

Elton John must be very trusting

John was tied to the film’s creation as one of its Executive Producers, yet he confesses that his involvement in the film was very limited.

“I’d kept a discrete distance from the actual process of making a movie about my life.

“I gave some suggestions, saw a few daily rushes, said yay or nay to some important decisions and met two or three times with Taron Egerton, who plays me. But otherwise I’d kept well away from Rocketman, letting my husband David [Furnish] be my eyes and ears on set every day,” he said in his self-penned piece in The Guardian.

Rockets are fast, so is Rocketman

When it came to work, John had a reputation for breakneck efficiency.

An early scene in the film shows Bernie Taupin handing a page of lyrics to John, before going upstairs to brush his teeth.

By the time he comes back, John has written the melody for “Your Song”, the pair’s first major hit and one of John’s most enduring anthems.

“It’s pretty much how it happened,” Taupin said in an interview with TIME. “I remember his mother, in her very sort of dictatorial way, going, ‘that’s a good one!’”

In 2013, when asked about the process of songwriting, John told The New York Times, “I get bored if it takes more than 40 minutes”.

It’s R-rated for a reason

Rocketman illustrates the extreme highs of John’s global stardom, but nor does it pull any punches when it comes to the earth-shattering lows that at times blighted his career.

Away from the music, John was a prolific cocaine user and drinker – and the film doesn’t shy away from it.

Some studios reportedly wanted to tone down the sex and drugs scenes in order to acquire a PG-13 rating.

However, as John himself said in The Guardian, “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.”

We learn how ‘Elton John’ was born

If you didn’t already know John was christened Reginald Kenneth Dwight.

Instead, we have a little-known backing singer called Elton Dean to thank for the name we all know today.

As depicted in the film, John was part of a backing band for American soul singers who toured the UK in the 1960s.

In the scnene, cramped in the back of a van with his bandmates, he says, “I’m thinking of changing my name to Elton.”

“But that’s my name,” his bandmate replies. “Yeah, I know,” John says casually. And so 

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1973, John said that really was how it happened.

He said, “I’m fed up with Reg Dwight, I can’t be Reg Dwight. If I’m going to be a singer, I’ve got to think of a name. So Elton Dean’s name I pinched, and John Baldry’s name and I said, oh, Elton John, there you go.”

We need to talk about money and happiness

The film starts with John entering rehab – where the movie returns at various points.

It’s during these scenes that we learn about John suffering from bulimia and his dependence on alcohol, drugs and sex. 

In the background, though, John has all the money in the world – and only misery to show for it.

In 1975, a TIME correspondent got a first-hand impression of his lavish spending when he accompanied John on a shopping spree.

At the time the reported notes, “for Elton, money long ago became as abstract as grain futures,” referring to recent acquisitions including an $80,000 yacht, a $2,300 raccoon coat and a Rembrandt artwork.

We learn what ‘Rocketman’ truly means

The film teaches us how ‘Rocketman’ serves a deeply self-reflective purpose – both the song and now the film.

“I just think the words in that song that get to me is ‘Just my job five days a week,’” John said after the film’s release during his Rocket Hour show on Apple Music’s Beats 1.

“It’s just like this ordinary guy’s stuck up here and he’s regretting the fact that he doesn’t really want to be up here. He wants to be home.

“I didn’t have that ability to have a home life until the end of the movie, when I go to the treatment center and then come out the other side, and, luckily enough, become a new person.”

Some actors really can sing

Bradley Cooper, Renee Zellweger, Hugh Jackman.

Add another name to the list of actors who can perform their own music scenes: Taron Egerton.

Egerton landed the lead role after John heard him sing ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’.

Again reflecting on the film’s genesis in his Guardian piece, John said of Egerton’s casting, “I thought it was really important that whoever played me didn’t lip-sync”.

“I wanted them to actually sing the songs, and Taron had already sung I’m Still Standing brilliantly in the animated film Sing.”

Review: Rocketman blasts off

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