Focus Features to Release Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman'
New Focus Features CEO Peter Schlessel is making Elton John biopic Rocketman a priority as he takes over the reins of the specialty division.
Starring Tom Hardy as the legendary performer, the Rocket Pictures biopic is the first FilmDistrict title that Schlessel is bringing with him and slotting on Focus' slate. FilmDistrict, the distribution entity co-founded by Schlessel, ponied up a hearty $10 million this summer for U.S. rights to Rocketman, which John is executive producing.
Under the rule of longtime Focus CEO James Schamus, Focus was more art house oriented. FilmDistrict had a more diverse slate, and Rocketman heralds that the company won't shy away from bigger, wide releases.
Michael Gracey is set to start shooting Rocketman in fall 2014 from an original screenplay by Lee Hall (War Horse). Elton John will re-record many of his iconic hits to parallel the emotional beats of the film.
"Tom is a stellar talent who will add extraordinary depth and nuance in bringing Elton's story to life," said Rocket Pictures CEO Steve Hamilton Shaw. "We are excited to have such a gifted actor on board, and equally excited to be in the hands of Peter Schlessel and the entire Focus Features team."
Schlessel added: "Tom is quickly becoming known as one of the world's most versatile actors, and like others at the top of their craft, he has proven his ability to transform himself completely into the character or subject found in the material. We are confident that Tom will embody the physicality and spirit of Sir Elton. This, in conjunction with the creative team led by Michael and Rocket Pictures, will provide the foundation for something that will be a unique cinematic event."
Rocketman is produced by Hamilton Shaw and David Furnish of Rocket Pictures and Lawrence Bender on behalf of financier AI Film. Len Blavatnik is executive producing alongside John, AI Film CEO Aviv Giladi and Schlessel. UTA Independent Film Group arranged financing for the project and negotiated the project's sale to FilmDistrict. Good Universe is handling international sales.