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As the Elton John biopic Rocketman’s No. 1 showing at the box office this week coincides with the kickoff of Pride Month, much hype surrounds the film’s love scenes between Elton, uncannily portrayed by Taron Egerton, and his ’70s manager/boyfriend John Reid, played by Richard Madden. Those controversial scenes even got the movie censored in Russia. Upon hearing that Rocketman’s gay content had been removed for the Russian market, Elton and the filmmakers released a sternly worded statement that read: “That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world.”
But Elton’s sexuality, and his struggle to come to terms with it, is a key plotline in the uncensored version of Rocketman — unlike the tamer, PG-13-rated film to which it will inevitably be compared, Bohemian Rhapsody, which was accused by some detractors of “straightwashing.” And while Egerton praises BoRap — explaining that that movie was intended to tell Queen’s story, not just Freddie Mercury’s — he says of Rocketman, “I'm very proud of the fact that our movie puts [homosexuality] front and center, because I think it's a big part of Elton's history. He's an icon for that community, and was a real pioneer and a real standard-bearer. And so it was something that we took great care to deal with, with love and consideration.”
And as for that supposedly shocking sex scene between Elton John and John Reid? Egerton tells Yahoo Entertainment, “You know, when you sit and you watch it, it's not a kind of gratuitous, sensationalist thing. It's a tender moment between two young people expressing their affection for one another, which everyone does, everyone goes through. It’s a scene I'm very proud of. … You’ve got to think, ‘OK, so if this was a guy and a girl, would I be asking an actor about it in an interview?’ Of course it obviously needs discussing, because it's still something that feels relatively new and fresh in a movie of this nature. But I think when you think about it in those terms, it sort of makes you go, ‘Oh, yeah.’”
But while the depiction of Elton’s romance is important, just as crucial to the movie is, for lack of a better term, the bromance between him and his longtime songwriting partner, lyricist Bernie Taupin. In one key early scene, Elton makes a clumsy, unrequited pass at the heterosexual Taupin, but the way Taupin handles the potentially awkward situation is a wonderful example of acceptance, open-mindedness, and most of all, true friendship.
“This was a time when men potentially might have been less accepting. We’re talking about the end of the ’60s,” Egerton says. “It’s this moment that could have been a disaster for their friendship, but it [isn’t]. Through this misstep, through this misjudgment, Elton, in the haze of a few drinks, thinks that there might be more to the relationship. But what actually happens is because Bernie so beautifully deals with it, it fortifies their relationship and strengthens it beyond belief. And that is their relationship. … So in the scene that immediately follows… Elton’s kind of smiling wistfully and says, ‘We were completely inseparable after that.’”
And there’s one other message of acceptance that everyone can glean from Rocketman. “I think that when I've been asked about the movie, what I'd like people to take away from it, if there's one great thing you can take away, it's that classic thing that parents are slightly destined to f*** up their kids,” says Egerton, reflecting on some heartwrenching scenes in which Elton is cruelly ostracized by his parents for being different. “I think if you can watch a film like this and see it all play out before your eyes, it’s such a great cautionary tale for allowing your children to be their authentic selves, and not allowing your own baggage to enter the equation. …There really is no reason to not support your children in who they are. So I think if anything, I'd love people to take that away from it.”
While Rocketman has weathered its own accusations of straightwashing due to its casting of Egerton, who is heterosexual, in the leading role, Egerton says for the most part, “When I speak to journalists who belong to the gay publications, they've been very, very warm, and very appreciative. And I have to say, you know, if it's not in bad taste for me to do so, the response to the whole thing has been pretty unequivocally brilliant so far. I do feel a bit like I'm dreaming. But it's wonderful, because I've poured everything into this. …Had it not been received warmly, I would have been pretty heartbroken. But it's hugely validating that everyone likes it so much.”
Watch Taron Egerton’s full Yahoo Entertainment interview below:
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
'Rocketman' star Taron Egerton on the Elton John song that changed his life