Elton John returned to the Colosseum theater in Las Vegas on Thursday — at least in spirit.
Paramount shared an extended, music-infused look at director Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman for theater owners gathered inside the cavernous venue, where John did a long residency. Taron Egerton stars as the iconic English singer in the hybrid biopic-musical.
The six-minute montage — which drew loud applause — spanned John’s days as a child at the Royal Academy of Music to his early career, including his first U.S. concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. He then grappled with fame and addiction before transforming into a global superstar.
“We wanted it to be a raw, human story. But we also wanted it to be fun,” Egerton explained when taking the stage with Fletcher. Paramount chairman Jim Gianopulos next asked them about the challenges involved in making the film. “We want audiences to feel like they are getting a glimpse behind closed doors,” the actor said.
Egerton said John (whose husband, David Furnish, is a producer on the film) has been “remarkably hands off.” Egerton does all his own singing in Rocketman.
Fletcher added, “We wanted it to be an honest and truthful portrayal. It’s extremely important to him and to us.”
Paramount has high hopes for the musical, which opens in U.S. theaters May 24, the beginning of the long Memorial Day weekend. (There’s speculation it could play first at the Cannes Film Festival.)
At CinemaCon, Gianopulos said John is the third most successful recording artist in history alongside Elvis Presley and The Beatles. He said John has sold over 250 million records, while “Candle in the Wind” is the highest-selling single of all time.
“We’ve never seen the incredible story and struggles behind the man — until now. He is a man who through tenacity, talent and sheer guts was able to break through the mundane trappings of Earth and reach the stratosphere,” Gianopulos said. “The film takes us from his humble beginnings to the inspiring and sometimes harrowing rise of the icon today known as Elton John.”
Rocketman hopes to emulate the success of Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which has earned nearly $900 million at the global box office. (Fletcher, who stepped in to finish shooting the movie after Bryan Singer was fired, is an uncredited director.)
Fletcher recently said that Rocketman is expected to be rated R and will include an intimate love scene between Egerton and Richard Madden, who plays John’s former manager and lover, John Reid.
After a Daily Mail story reported that Paramount is pressuring filmmakers to cut at least part of the scene, Fletcher tweeted, “Seeing much speculation about ROCKETMAN!! That’s good! It’s still unfinished so it’s nothing but rumors. It has and always will be the no holds barred, musical fantasy that Paramount and producers passionately support and believe in. See for yourself May 24. Dx x.”