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“He said not to try and sound like him, which is tough when you’re playing him,” Egerton told The Hollywood Reporter at the film’s New York premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Wednesday night.
The film follows John’s life from a young piano prodigy named Reginald Dwight to a rock star struggling with addiction and finally seeking sobriety. The film blends fantastical and real elements, and Egerton said that duality is key to his portrayal of the entertainer.
“The real thing that always stuck me about Elton was this duality between the bravado, the chest out, peacocking, world class entertainer and then this guy who’s really vulnerable and like a kid,” Egerton said. “So to oscillate between those two things, that was important to me because I think that’s at the core of who he is, this dual personality.”
Producer and John’s husband David Furnish said the fantasy aspect was always important to John who wanted to capture the extraordinary nature of his life in the movie.
“Elton felt from the very beginning when we started developing the film that he didn’t want it to be just a straightforward biopic,” Furnish said. “He said my life has been so crazy and so larger than life that to tell it in a straightforward way just doesn’t do it justice. So he was quite adamant that we bent the rules and challenge the conventions of cinema to tell his life story in a much more fantastical way.”
But John also thought that Egerton’s look was almost eerily similar to his own. “We had the picture of Taron sitting on the jet in the gold hot pants with the flying boots on, and I sent it to him and said what do you think?” Furnish said. “And he said, ‘I don’t remember Terry O’Neill taking that photograph.’ And I said, it’s not Terry O’Neill, it’s Taron playing you. He couldn’t believe it. He thought it was incredible.”
Director Dexter Fletcher said John also wasn’t afraid to shy away from the more unflattering aspects of his life.
“He’s a very generous man and he was very quick to sit down and say to me, what do you want to know? What is it that you need to talk about?’” Fletcher said. “There was never a moment when he said to me, that’s a ‘no go’ area. He was always extremely generous and excited by what we were doing.”
John’s longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin is also excited about the film and said he learns about himself and his life watching the movie. “There’s moments in the film that are so true to life and then there are moments that are embellished upon, and they both blend together and they’re wonderful components,” Taupin said. “I’m just living in the moment right now.”
Jamie Bell plays Taupin in the movie, and he enjoyed getting to spend some time with the lyricist and ask questions before filming started.
“I just wanted to get the sense of why did you stay so loyal to him? What was it about him that made you stand the test of time and still be there when nobody else was?” Bell said. “There’s a love there. There’s a need that they both had for each other. And that for me was quite profound. So I knew what me and Taron had to get to, where our relationship needed to be.”
Richard Madden plays John’s former lover and manager John Reid in the film, and he said he gathered stories to create the character.
“It was tough because he’s such a guy who’s always behind the scenes. He’s always in the shadows,” Madden said. “So I had to speak to lots of people and pull out as many stories as I could about him. And then use what was most useful for the film. So it was a tough one but a fun one.”
While John was absent — performing in Verona, Italy — from the U.S. premiere, guests included Anna Wintour, Valentino, Darren Criss, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Erich Bergen, Huma Abedin, Claudia Schiffer, Cuba Gooding Jr. After the screening, attendees ventured to Tavern on the Green in Central Park, where they enjoyed specialty cocktails, sliders and respite from the rain.
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