Rocketman (film)

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Rocketman (film).png
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byDexter Fletcher
Produced by
Written byLee Hall
Music byMatthew Margeson
CinematographyGeorge Richmond
Edited byChris Dickens
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • 16 May 2019 (2019-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 22 May 2019 (2019-05-22) (United Kingdom)
  • 31 May 2019 (2019-05-31) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[3]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$40 million[4]
Box office$154.1 million[4]

Rocketman is a 2019 biographical musical film based on the life of musician Elton John. Directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall, it stars Taron Egerton as John, with Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film follows John's early days as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music to his musical partnership with Bernie Taupin. The film is titled after John's 1972 song "Rocket Man".

The film initially began development in 2001 before it went through studios Walt Disney Pictures and Focus Features, directors David LaChapelle and Michael Gracey, and actor Tom Hardy. After creative differences between Focus and John halted an initial production start in 2014 with Hardy and Gracey attached, the project languished until in April 2018 when Paramount Pictures took over as distributor and Egerton and Fletcher signed on for the film. Principal photography began in August 2018 and was completed later that year. John served as executive producer, while husband David Furnish produced the film through Rocket Pictures alongside Matthew Vaughn's Marv Films.

Rocketman premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2019, and was released in the United Kingdom on 22 May 2019 and in the United States on 31 May 2019. The film has grossed $154 million worldwide against its $40 million budget and received positive reviews from critics, with Egerton's performance, the costumes, production design, soundtrack and the musical numbers receiving general praise.[5] The film was the first major Hollywood production to show a gay male sex scene.[6]


Dressed in a flamboyant devil's outfit, Elton John enters an addiction rehabilitation session, and begins to recount his life in a flashback.

In 1950s England, young Elton (born Reginald Dwight) is cared for by his cold mother Sheila and more caring grandmother Ivy; his father Stanley is mostly absent from the home while serving in the Royal Air Force. Reginald shows interest in playing the piano and shows that he has the ability to hear music and instantly play it perfectly on the piano. He hopes to play something for his father on his return, but when Stanley returns home, he takes no interest in his son or his talent for music. Reginald soon begins taking formal lessons with the support of Ivy, leading him to study at the Royal Academy of Music. Stanley eventually abandons his family after Sheila has an affair with another man. Later, Reginald takes up an interest in rock music artists such as Elvis Presley, and begins performing in local pubs. Reginald then joins the band Bluesology.

As an adult, Reginald and his band are hired to play backup for a touring American jazz band, and Reginald learns from one of the singers that if he wants to become famous, he has to write some songs, change his name, and put his old life behind him and start anew. This inspires Reginald to change his name to Elton John. Elton begins writing music and tries to find success with Dick James' record label DJM Records under the management of Ray Williams. Williams introduces Elton to songwriter Bernie Taupin and the two quickly form a friendship. Elton's homosexuality is revealed by his former partners in the jazz band, but Bernie accepts his revelation. They move into a flat together to work on their songs, but they leave the flat after Elton ends his romantic relationship with their landlady.

Elton and Bernie return to Elton's family home to continue writing, and create "Your Song", which impresses James, and he sets up a performance for them at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. At first, Elton is nervous, but the audience is impressed with his performance. At an after-party at Mama Cass's home in the Hollywood Hills, Elton feels abandoned when Bernie leaves him to spend time with a woman. He is approached by John Reid, a music manager who is attracted to Elton. The two sleep together and reunite later. Reid's influence over Elton causes him to spiral into a life of debauchery as his career raises to expectations, and he becomes a successful musician, embracing a flamboyant stage persona.

After Elton appoints him as his new manager, Reid starts to manipulate him and insists he come out to his mother and father as gay so they can help hide their sexual relationship from the press. Elton reconnects with his father Stanley, who has since remarried and has two sons. Stanley still shows no interest in Elton, though he exhibits physical affection for his new family. Made unhappy by this encounter, Elton storms away from Reid to call his mother on a payphone to tell her that he is gay. Sheila bluntly informs him that she was already aware of his sexuality and does not care, telling him that he is facing a life of being alone forever. Upset by his mother's reply, Elton turns to Reid for comfort, only to be scolded by Reid, who strikes him and orders him to focus on his sold-out concerts. Struggling with his parental issues, as well as Reid's increasing abuse, Elton becomes addicted to alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, and sex.

Lonely and upset, Elton develops a short temper with people while still consuming drugs and alcohol, alienating those who care for him. On one occasion, he catches Reid cheating on him with another man. Elton breaks off their relationship, but Reid claims that he does not care as long as Elton is making him money. Later that day during a house party, Elton consumes a large amount of drugs and alcohol, and attempts suicide by jumping into his pool. He is rushed to the hospital and is quickly brought to Dodger Stadium to continue performing.

Elton has a short lived marriage which ends after his homosexuality becomes obvious. He falls out with both his mother and Bernie. Feeling infuriated, increasingly agitated, and depressed, Elton consumes prescription pills and alcohol, causing him to suffer from a heart attack. He is once again rushed to the hospital, but Reid hears the news and shrugs it off as a mild chest infection, forcing Elton to get back on stage for his next performance. Realizing that his life is spiraling out of control, Elton leaves Madison Square Garden before the performance and finally seeks help. He enters rehabilitation and learns that he no longer needs anything from his parents or Reid. Elton rekindles his friendship with Bernie, who brings him new song lyrics to try and help get him back in action. At first, Elton is worried that he cannot do music anymore without the alcohol or drugs, but Bernie has confidence in him. This leads to Elton writing "I'm Still Standing" and he returns to performing.

Elton has been sober for over 28 years. He remains good friends with Bernie, and is now married to David Furnish, with whom he has two children.




Elton John and husband David Furnish had tried to produce a film based on his life for almost two decades. The earliest efforts dated back to 2001, when the film initially started at Walt Disney Pictures. Photographer David LaChapelle was set to direct the film after his work on the video for John's 2001 single, “This Train Don't Stop There Anymore", which featured Justin Timberlake as a young John.[7] However, no further development took place at Disney since then and would languish for nearly two decades.[7] In an article written for The Guardian, John said that he struggled to get the project off the ground due to studios wanting the film to be toned down to a PG-13 rating instead of an R rating.[8]

In January 2012, John announced that he had named Timberlake as his top choice to play him in the film. Lee Hall was set to pen the screenplay.[9] In March 2013, Michael Gracey was hired to direct, with Tom Hardy cast in October to play John and Focus Features acquiring the U.S. distribution rights. Filming was initially planned to start in Autumn 2014.[10][11] However, creative differences between John and Focus along with budget issues caused him and Furnish to take the project elsewhere.[12]

No further development on the film was announced until July 2017, when it was announced Hardy was no longer involved with the project, and Taron Egerton entered negotiations to replace him.[12] While editing Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Matthew Vaughn learned about the project and took interest in producing the film on the condition that Egerton played John.[12] Vaughn then picked Dexter Fletcher, who had replaced Bryan Singer during the production of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, to direct the film since Gracey was busy with The Greatest Showman.[12] The producers then filmed a sequence of Egerton as John performing two of John's songs and presented it to Jim Gianopulos, who had worked with Vaughn on the Kingsman franchise at 20th Century Fox and was now the CEO of Paramount Pictures.[12] Paramount agreed to finance the film in exchange for worldwide distribution rights.[12] It was reported that Egerton would sing the songs in the film himself, produced by Giles Martin, who was brought on as music director for the project.[13] In an interview at CinemaCon, Egerton stated the film would be more of a fantasy-musical as opposed to a straightforward biopic.[14][15]


In April 2018, Taron Egerton was officially cast to play the musician in the film. Egerton had previously appeared with John in the 2017 film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and Egerton, as Johnny the Gorilla, sang John's song "I'm Still Standing" in the 2016 animated film Sing. In June, the role of Bernie Taupin was given to Jamie Bell.[16] In July, Richard Madden entered negotiations to play John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard was cast to play John's mother.[17][18] Gemma Jones was announced as being cast in the film in October.[19]


Production commenced on 2 August 2018.[20] Also in October 2018, it was announced the film was shooting in London.[21] Filming commenced at Bray Film Studios near Maidenhead, Berkshire.[22] In March 2019, it was reported by the Daily Mail that Paramount pressured Fletcher to tone down some of the sex scenes. However, Fletcher stated on Twitter that the rumors were false.[23]


Rocketman: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Released24 May 2019 (2019-05-24)
GenreRock, pop

An official soundtrack album Rocketman (Music from the Motion Picture) was released by Virgin EMI (UK) and Interscope Records (US) on CD and digital formats on 24 May 2019.[24] The album contains 22 tracks of several hits performed by the cast of the film and a newly written track "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" featuring vocals by Egerton and John together.[25] This is the only song featuring Elton.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks produced by Giles Martin; except "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" produced by Martin and Greg Kurstin.

All tracks written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, except where noted.

1."The Bitch Is Back" (introduction) (performed by Taron Egerton and Sebastian Rich) 1:53
2."I Want Love" (performed by Kit Connor, Gemma Jones, Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) 2:13
3."Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" (performed by Taron Egerton and Kit Connor) 3:10
4."Thank You for All Your Loving" (performed by Taron Egerton)3:24
5."Border Song" (performed by Taron Egerton) 3:25
6."Rock and Roll Madonna" (interlude) (performed by Taron Egerton) 2:42
7."Your Song" (performed by Taron Egerton) 4:01
8."Amoreena" (performed by Taron Egerton) 4:20
9."Crocodile Rock" (performed by Taron Egerton) 2:53
10."Tiny Dancer" (performed by Taron Egerton) 5:25
11."Take Me to the Pilot" (performed by Taron Egerton) 3:43
12."Hercules" (performed by Taron Egerton) 5:26
13."Don't Go Breaking My Heart" (interlude) (performed by Taron Egerton and Rachel Muldoon) 1:34
14."Honky Cat" (performed by Taron Egerton and Richard Madden) 2:34
15."Pinball Wizard" (interlude) (performed by Taron Egerton)Pete Townshend2:02
16."Rocket Man" (performed by Taron Egerton) 4:31
17."Bennie and the Jets" (performed by Taron Egerton) 2:28
18."Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (performed by Taron Egerton and Celinde Schoenmaker) 2:40
19."Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" (performed by Taron Egerton) 2:15
20."Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (performed by Taron Egerton and Jamie Bell) 4:05
21."I'm Still Standing" (performed by Taron Egerton) 3:58
22."(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" (performed by Elton John and Taron Egerton) 4:11


Rocketman made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2019[26] and was released in the United Kingdom on 22 May 2019.[27] The film was initially scheduled to be released in the United States on 17 May 2019, but was pushed back to 31 May 2019.[28]

In Russia, where the film was released on 6 June 2019, about five minutes of footage was removed from the final cut. Central Partnership, the company in charge of distribution in the country, removed all scenes involving homosexuality and drugs, a move that was criticized by both John and Paramount.[29]

The film was banned from being shown in Samoa, a conservative Christian nation. Principal Censor Leiataua Niuapu, of Samoa's Censorship Board, explained: "It's a good story, in that it's about an individual trying to move on in life. He [Elton John] went through a difficult family life and managed to move on and become very successful. But there are acts that are not good for public viewing and against the law".[30]


Box office[edit]

As of 25 June 2019, Rocketman has grossed $78 million in the United States and Canada, and $76.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $154.1 million, against a production budget of $40 million.[4]

In the United States and Canada, Rocketman was released alongside Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Ma, and was projected to gross $20–25 million from 3,610 theaters in its opening weekend.[31][32] The film made $9.2 million on its first day, including $1.8 million from Thursday night previews and $580,000 from 18 May paid advanced Fandango screenings, for a preview total of $2.3 million. It went on to debut to $25 million, finishing third behind Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Aladdin.[33] The film dropped 46% in its second weekend to $14 million, finishing in fifth,[34] and then made $9.4 million in its third weekend, climbing to the fourth position.[35]

In the United Kingdom, it debuted to $6.4 million, finishing second behind fellow new release Aladdin.[36] The following week, the film was projected to gross around $20 million from international markets as it was released alongside the U.S.,[32] and it ended up making $19.2 million from 39 countries over the weekend.[37]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Rocketman holds an approval rating of 89% based on 326 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman."[38] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 69 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[39] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4 out of 5 stars and a 69% "definite recommend".[33]

Steve Pond of TheWrap said: "It's all grand and fun and corny; a musical fantasy that reaches for the sky and gets there often enough to make it diverting."[40] The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the film three stars out of five, saying Egerton did a "good impression of the flamboyant musician" and writing: "Rocketman is an honest, heartfelt tribute to Elton John's music and his public image."[41] In the same newspaper, Mark Kermode gave it five stars, writing that "Fletcher is the real star of this show, a director whose enthusiasm for musical storytelling shines through every frame".[42] Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper also greatly enjoyed the film, giving it three-and-a-half stars out of four, praising its "almost documentary-level eye for detail when it comes to re-creating historic chapters such as the sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium in 1975 when Elton wore a sequined Dodgers uniform and belted out one hit after another to the adoring masses."[43]

Conversely, Christy Lemire of had mixed feelings about Rocketman, awarding it two-and-a-half stars out of four and stating that the film is a "formulaic, paint-by-numbers biopic."[44]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
Cannes Film Festival 14–25 May 2019 Queer Palm Dexter Fletcher Nominated [45]


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  3. ^ "Rocketman (15)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Rocketman (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  5. ^ Christopher Campbell (16 May 2019). "Rocketman First Reviews: Taron Egerton Is a Force in "Goosebump-Inducing" Elton John Biopic". Rotten Tomatoes.
  6. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (16 May 2019). "'Rocketman' Blazes Trail as First Major Studio Film to Depict Gay Male Sex". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b Malkin, Marc (14 May 2019). "Elton John's Husband-Producer Says 'Rocketman' Captures 'Madness' of Singer's Early Life". Variety. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  8. ^ John, Elton (26 May 2019). "Elton John: 'They wanted to tone down the sex and drugs. But I haven't led a PG-13 life'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  9. ^ Nededog, Jethro (2 January 2012). "Justin Timberlake is Elton John's No. 1 Choice to Play Him in Biopic". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  10. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (18 March 2013). "Commercials Director Michael Gracey To Helm Musical Bio Film On Elton John". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (23 October 2013). "Tom Hardy to Play Elton John in Biopic". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
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  13. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (19 April 2018). "Paramount Greenlighting 'Rocketman'; Taron Egerton To Sing Elton John's Songs". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  14. ^ Weintraub, Steve (2 May 2018). "Taron Egerton Says 'Rocketman' is a "Fantasy Musical," Not a Biopic". Collider. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' Sets Summer 2019 Release Date". TheWrap. 23 May 2018. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  16. ^ Kroll, Justin (20 June 2018). "Jamie Bell in Talks to Play Bernie Taupin in Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  17. ^ Kroll, Justin (19 July 2018). "'Game of Thrones' Actor Richard Madden to Play Elton John's Manager in 'Rocketman' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  18. ^ Kroll, Justin (26 July 2018). "Bryce Dallas Howard to Play Elton John's Mom in Biopic 'Rocketman' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  19. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (1 October 2018). "'Rocketman' Trailer: Watch Taron Egerton Take Flight As Elton John In Concert". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  20. ^ Fletcher, Dexter [@Dexfletch] (2 August 2018). "🚀day 1. Lift off! Nervous and excited. Dx" (Tweet). Retrieved 3 June 2019 – via Twitter.
  21. ^ Steves, Ashley (2 October 2018). "London Now Filming: Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' Starring Taron Egerton". Backstage. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  22. ^ Roberts, George (10 May 2018). "Cameras rolling once again at Bray Studios". Maidenhead Advertiser. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  23. ^ Keegan, Rebecca (22 March 2019). "Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' Expected to Get R-Rating for Sex, Drug Scenes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  24. ^ Sexton, Paul (1 May 2019). "Elton John Catalogue Reimagined By Giles Martin On 'Rocketman' Soundtrack". UDiscover Music. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  25. ^ Willman, Chris (1 May 2019). "'Rocketman' Soundtrack Will Include a Newly Written Elton John/Taron Egerton Duet". Variety. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (12 April 2019). "Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' To Officially Blast Off At The Cannes Film Festival". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  27. ^ Alibhai, Zaina (15 November 2018). "Elton John film Rocketman UK release date, trailer and cast". Metro. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (23 August 2018). "'Rocketman': Elton John Biopic Moves Back Two Weeks". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (31 May 2019). "Elton John & 'Rocketman' Filmmakers Blast Russian Distributor For Censoring Scenes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  30. ^ "'Not good for public viewing': Rocketman biopic banned in Samoa", Special Broadcasting Service, 11 June 2019
  31. ^ McNary, Dave (9 May 2019). "Box Office: 'Godzilla: King of the Monsters' May Smash $50 Million-Plus in Debut". Variety. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
  32. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony; Tartaglione, Nancy (29 May 2019). "'Godzilla: King Of The Monsters' To Crush 'Aladdin's Lamp With $230M+ Global Bow; 'Rocketman' & 'Ma' To Rock In Counter-Programming Play". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  33. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (2 June 2019). "'Godzilla' Loses Teeth With $49M Opening, But Counter-Programming Excels For First Time This Summer With 'Rocketman' & 'Ma'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  34. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (9 June 2019). "'Secret Life Of Pets 2' Seeing $47M+, But 'Dark Phoenix' Up In Smoke With $32M+ In Lowest Opening For 'X-Men' Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  35. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (16 June 2019). "'Men In Black: International' Domestic Passport Revoked With $26M Opening, 'Shaft' Drops His Gun With $7M+: Summer Sequelitis, Here We Go Again". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
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  37. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (2 June 2019). "'Godzilla: King Of The Monsters' '$130M Overseas Bow Is #1, But Not Royal; 'Aladdin' Still A Prince & 'Rocketman' Electric – International Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
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  39. ^ "Rocketman reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  40. ^ Pond, Steve (16 May 2019). "'Rocketman' Film Review: Elton John Gets a Musical Fantasy That Sometimes Achieves Liftoff". TheWrap. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  41. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (16 May 2019). "Rocketman review – Elton John biopic that's better at the tiaras than the tantrums". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  42. ^ Kermode, Mark (26 May 2019). "Rocketman review – Elton's sparkliest spectacle yet". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  43. ^ Roeper, Richard (31 May 2019). "'Rocketman': Elton John gets the grand-scale, greatly entertaining biopic he deserves". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  44. ^ Lemire, Christy (28 May 2019). "Rocketman Movie Review & Film Summary (2019)". Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  45. ^ Mixner, Selina (20 May 2019). "Queer Girl: The Queer Palm Contenders (So Far) at Cannes Film Festival 2019". Awards Circuit. Retrieved 26 May 2019.

External links[edit]