‘Rocketman’ Producer Matthew Vaughn On His Elton John Biopic And His Big Issue With ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

06.03.19 3 months ago

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It’s easy to see where some of the angst Matthew Vaughn (the director of two Kingsman movies and X-Men: First Class) has for Bohemian Rhapsody comes from. When he set out to get Elton John’s story told with Rocketman, the idea of an R-rated fantastical musical and biopic about one of the most famous musicians in the world was unique. And, as Vaughn explains, the idea of the lead actor lip-syncing would be absurd. No one would buy that. But then along comes Bohemian Rhapsody and now Rami Malek has an Oscar.

So now Rocketman opens up, somehow, a bit in that movies’s shadow, and the director of Rocketman, Dexter Fletcher, was the person who replaced Bryan Singer in the later stages of Bohemian Rhapsody‘s production. So there’s always going to be this strange relationship between these two films. But here’s Vaughn, who was so meticulous about getting everything just right, including the fact Taron Egerton is actually singing, playing defense against a movie that just decided to lip-sync. So, yeah, he seems a bit frustrated. (Vaughn also very much dislikes how Bohemian Rhapsody changed the timeline of when Freddie Mercury got sick so it could be used as a plot device, which he explains ahead.)

But none of that changes what Rocketman is: the word “fantastical” is thrown around a lot, but it really is the best word to describe the proceedings. And Rocketman avoids the trappings of blatantly getting facts wrong by steering the other direction into the surreal. But there was one scene not in the original script that Vaughn wanted in the movie … Elton John’s fairly shocking 1984 marriage to a woman named Renate Blauel. Ahead, Vaughn explains why this scene was so necessary to make Rocketman work.

So, Rocketman

Me and my movies with “man” in the title.

Well, technically it’s X-Men: First Class, not “man.”

Well, Kingsman, Rocketman

No man in Layer Cake.

Not in the title. It should have been called Kick-Ass Man.

So I’ve been wondering this for months, what is the relationship between Taron Edgerton playing Elton John and Elton John being in Kingsman 2 with Taron.

We were shooting a scene that didn’t make the final cut, of him doing a duet with Julianne Moore singing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” one of the most surreal moments. Probably one of the greatest moments, sitting on a piano for 12 hours next to Elton, and he played it again and again and again. And then we did a duet for a little second and I was like “I’ve died and gone to heaven, trying to play piano with Sir Elton.”

But I asked him “What happened to Rocketman? I read about it four years earlier, I’m a fan. I can’t wait to see it.” And he said, “Look, R-rated film, nobody really wanted to see it. When it came down to writing a check, no one wanted to do it.” And I got my car – they sent the script to me, and I never read scripts from phones but in the back of the car – and it just washed over me. I said, “Look, I’m in. 100 percent. I’m backing it, we’re going to be filming within six to eight months.”

So why didn’t you wind up directing it?

I wasn’t available to direct, kicking myself now, I have to say, but anyway. Do you know what? You can’t do everything in life. I wish I could have. I mean, I watched it and I’m sort of proud and jealous at the same time.

Paramount Pictures

 

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