“For most of us it's a parlor game, but for Elton John 'who would play me in a movie?' is a reality.” That's how director Dexter Fletcher, uncredited savior of award-winner “Bohemian Rhapsody,” describes working with co-producer Elton John on Rocketman.
“It's the story of Elton's life, using his songs as musical numbers. As such, we have freedom to interpret them, lyrically and chronologically. People who run Elton John fan pages will be apoplectic, but it's playing off Elton's recollection and memory.”
The film, which stars Taron Egerton, follows the rocker's life from childhood to the British star's exit from rehab in 1989, striking key notes from his career.
Debut at the Troubadour
Elton's gigs at this legendary L.A. club in 1970 are what really put him on the map. “He was bringing America's music home,” Fletcher explains. “We rebuilt the Troubadour on a soundstage in Windsor. The front stage, the bar, the dressing room. We're quite proud of it. Elton's first line is 'it's smaller than I expected.' We've got him in the same white dungarees and blue T-shirt with stars on it, only made the pockets bigger and gave him more stars.”
Home Run at Dodger Stadium
The shows at Dodger Stadium in 1975 were “absolutely enormous,” Fletcher says. “Elton had sequins sewn into a baseball uniform, but we heightened it, adding Swarovski crystals.”
Like the Troubadour, some pivotal gigs get a lot of attention. “Other sequences are something of a blend of multiple events to make one super event, like flying all his family and neighbors on a jumbo jet to America when most of them had never left the Pinner area of London.”
Man of Vision
When asked how many pairs of glasses are in his film, Fletcher laughs. “I remember being on the wardrobe bus and seeing flight cases just full of them. 80? 90 pairs? There's got to be a good 40 in the film, from humble and ordinary to thick red, white, and blue ones to match a jumpsuit to heart-shaped frames with diamonds on the edges.”
In the film, Taron Egerton's Elton wears not wing-tipped boots but boots with actual wings. “There's the element of him being the 'Rocket Man', so we wanted to suggest flying and flight,” Fletcher says. “Those were from a unique, one-off shop in London from the late 1960s called Mr. Freedom. Our version, as with everything, takes what was there and adds two or three steps.”
Some costumes are original to designer Julian Day, but got the thumbs up from Elton himself. “One we call 'The Devil Costume,'” Fletcher beams. “Elton saw it and said 'I love that!' Another is a Queen Elizabeth the First, mixed with meticulously detailed Union Jack shoes. Now, Elton wore a Louis XIV at a party, but as far as I know he never did Elizabeth the First. But I wouldn't put it past him!”
Lack of Buzz
Sadly, not every iconic Elton John costume made the final cut. “The bumblebee does not appear,” Fletcher regrets to report. “Nor do we have him dressed as any other insect or honey-gatherer. Similarly, I know people love the song "Levon", but that isn't in the film as yet. There are so many beautiful numbers, and it's good to delve into the lesser known back catalog, too. It's 50 years and he's still producing great songs.”