Ahead of celebrating its 90th birthday, one of my favourite places to be (State Theatre Sydney) played host to the Australian premiere of the much anticipated story of Sir Elton John, Rocketman. With a glorious blue carpet rolled out for international guests, Director Dexter Fletcher alongside lead actor Taron Egerton, it was a pleasure to (albeit briefly) talk about their already celebrated film that recently enjoyed a four minute plus standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival – quite the feat for an often objective audience.
I look forward to all your projects and congratulations on the success at Cannes.
DF – Thank you ever so much, now it’s Sydney’s turn.
The Rachel Papers (1989) is one of the forgotten greats. Why don’t you make a musical out of that next up?
DF – (laughs) I should think Martin Amis (writer) might have something to say about that. We’ll see, anything is possible I suppose.
What was the hardest part directing a musical based on an actual life story?
DF – You want to do justice to the legacy, especially Elton who has been around so long. He’s enchanting to so many people and has made wonderful music for so long, it’s the kind of responsibility you try to capture by getting your head down then push through. He was always very supportive, encouraging. Actually there was nowhere we couldn’t go, nowhere we couldn’t shine a light and he’s a very generous soul so we got lucky alright.
So it became accurate storytelling?
DF – I was interested in emotional accuracy through a fantasy, at times, recollection of his time and life during that early period as told by him. So it wasn’t all about getting it perfectly pinpoint correct, it was more about where he was emotionally sifting through things that affected his well-being. So it’s not a factual re-telling, it’s somewhat fantasy set to his remarkable music.
How often did he visit the set?
DF – He did during rehearsals but then he left on a world tour and let us get on with it.
Was there a particular sequence or song that stood out to you on-set?
DF – Being under my leadership, it all stands out as I can recite line-for-line practically every song so it’s all important. The ‘Rocket Man’ song is a solid moment while there’s a lovely scene in a cafe where Elton meets his long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin that I am proud of.
Hello Taron, pleased to meet you mate.
TE – How you doing Shane, a pleasure to meet you too!
What a wonderful response at Cannes, how did that make you feel?
TE – Overwhelmed, you create a story that is really only your interpretation of an iconic person, a well known identity. So I hope people connect with it but inevitably when you get the response that we received in Cannes, what more could you hope for (sighs then smiles at me).
Being an action or musical performer, which is harder to portray?
TE – I think I feel more at home doing this. I’ve never really been a sports guy, the tough guy. I suppose I am a lover at heart and someone as a theatre person feels more at home singing than kicking ass.
Was there a frightening part about being Elton?
TE – That he wouldn’t like it, however I always knew what I wanted to do with it. Always knew the story we wanted to tell so becoming very aligned with Dexter (Fletcher) to get the core of the film right. I did have a suspicion Elton would like it, he’s not precious or vain, he didn’t mind us showing those slightly more rough elements of his life. There’s only going to be one Elton John, to me it was such an important moment culturally. We had to do it right embracing parts of his story. Our movie is about a survivor, a genius and a wonderful man and I am so proud to be part of this project.
What’s next on the agenda?
TE – A very long flight to LA and beyond that, I do not have a bloody clue Shane (laughs). Lovely to meet you.
ROCKETMAN (Rated M – 121 min): NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.