It’s been less than a month since Oscars were handed out and last night you could say that the 2019-2020 season fired up with Paramount showing off roughly ten minutes of footage from their Elton John musical Rocketman aptly at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, the first club where Elton John made his American debut back in 1970.
Taking the stage last night, star Taron Egerton –who uncannily transforms into John right down to the half-closed eyes, ruffled haircut, feathered boas, and sublime vocals– had a deja vu, awestruck by how similar the actual Troubadour was to the actual set he performed on during production.
“It’s so strange to be up here, not in outrageous costumes and looking at Jamie Bell right there” motioned Egerton to the light booth where Bell’s character, famed John lyricist Bernie Taupin, would be standing. Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays John’s mom Sheila Eileen, were also in attendance last night.
Before the footage rolled, Egerton read a note from Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher who was a no-show: He’s still finishing the film for its May 31 debut. While Paramount has been very mum, it would come as no surprise if Rocketman finds an out-of-competition slot at Cannes in May. Why? The film screams summer, party, Europe, not to mention it would be an ideal global launch close to the pic’s release.
“‘This is a very special day today for all of us in rock n’ roll’,” said Egerton reading Fletcher’s note, “’50 years ago today, Elton stepped onto this stage and flew. He’s still flying now and radiating all of his light and magic when he launched in the Troubadour in 1970.'”
“‘For you die hard fans, you’re right, he didn’t play ‘Crocodile Rock’ during his American debut, but while we were shooting we loved the energy of the song for the scene, and Elton gave us his blessing to use artistic license, which as you can see we really went to town with’,” said Egerton finishing Fletcher’s note.
The reel, which is longer than what will be shown to exhibitors at CinemaCon next month, shows John from his early piano virtuoso beginnings (able to mimic a classical tune on the keys), to performing before Neil Diamond at the Troubadour (John was so nervous, he locked himself in a bathroom stall), to gradually discovering the notes on the piano to Taupin’s lyrics in “Your Song” as his mother looks on in amazement.
Judging from last night’s footage, Rocketman looks to be something more fanciful than the straight A-to-B rock biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody, which Fletcher finished after Bryan Singer was fired off the pic, bringing to mind such notable musical pics as Moulin Rouge and Across the Universe. John’s canon in the film is tapped as emotional expressions between the characters (a clash between Taupin in John is conveyed in their duet of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”), and the Troubadour scene is wild, showing John floating up in the air while at the piano as the crowd becomes entranced by him, jumping in slo-mo. The footage triggered an immediate roar from crowd.
Also in attendance last night were Paramount Pictures CEO Jim Gianopulos, Motion Picture Group President Wyck Godfrey, songwriter Diane Warren, Darren Criss, Patrick Stewart, Kelly Osbourne and Rocketman producer David Furnish.