EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Pictures partners Elton John and David Furnish are launching their most ambitious movie project, one that will tell the story of John’s illustrious musical career. They are teaming with Billy Elliot scribe and playwright Lee Hall on Rocketman, which they are calling a biographical musical fantasy that will weave together John’s life and his music. Rocket Pictures’ Steve Hamilton Shaw and Furnish will produce. John will be executive producer and will play an active role in creating a film that will follow his life story from a child piano prodigy (who by age 11 won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music) to a young man who rebelled against his strict upbringing, wore outrageous costumes and became a global icon who teamed with songwriter Bernie Taupin to sell more records that just about any musical artist of his era.
Rocketman will mark the second collaboration for John and Hall. When Hall adapted the 2000 feature Billy Elliot for the West End, John wrote the score for a production that moved to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. They’re planning an inventive way to cover John’s life and career: One device will be to feature choreographed sequences using John’s biggest hit songs. Those tunes will be part of the movie package and will drive a story that will cover the rough spots in John’s journey of self-discovery.
“Rocketman will be a radically different kind of biopic,” Shaw said. “It will be as unique as Elton’s life, told in a non-linear and hyper-visual manner that will transport people through the many intense experiences, some wonderful, some not, that helped define Elton as an artist, musician and man.”
UTA is packaging the film, looking to set it up and sign a director as John and his cohorts try to figure out who should play him. There might well be different actors playing him at different ages. Actors that pop into my mind are Guy Pearce and Ewan McGregor.
The project comes as Rocket Pictures is coming off the 3D animated family film hit Gnomeo & Juliet and is developing Will Gallows and the Snake Bellied Troll, a film that’s being written and directed by Shrek 2’s Kelly Asbury.
Rocketman becomes the second big-screen biopic of an iconic rock singer penned by an A-list writer. GK Films is moving forward with the Peter Morgan-scripted film about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, with Sacha Baron Cohen attached to play the late singer.
Rocket Pictures is repped by UTA, Hall by CAA.