UPDATED WITH PARAMOUNT STATEMENT: Central Partnership, the Russian distributor of Rocketman, has edited out all scenes depicting drug use and gay sex to conform the Russian Federation’s legislation against homosexual propaganda. This afternoon, Elton John, an EP on his own Paramount/Marv Films biopic, and the pic’s filmmakers blasted the territory’s censorship.
“We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor Rocketman for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today. Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all. That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world,” said John and the Rocketman team.
Following John’s statement, Paramount issued their own:
“We are incredibly proud of the movie that we made, which is told in the way that Elton John wanted his story to be depicted. We are releasing the film in its entirety around the world regardless of rating, but like all studios, we must adhere to local laws and requirements in certain territories in which the film is being shown.”
Reportedly an estimated five minutes of footage has been cut from the Russian version of Rocketman, and the Ministry of Culture of Russia apparently didn’t have any direct meddling with the the print.
Bohemian Rhapsody was released in Russia uncensored last year making $16.4M, about 2% of the pic’s $687.2M overseas B.O. Many have said that a potential slowdown in Rocketman overseas versus Bohemian Rhapsody could very well stem its more explicit portrayal of John’s gay life while the Freddie Mercury film was largely watered down in regards to that subject matter. Prior to landing at Paramount, Rocketman was in development at Fox, and they wanted to go a PG-13 route with it. The flimmakers didn’t want that version.
Recent Russian kiboshing of cinema include a 2017 movie about Russian Czar Nicholas II’s love affair with a ballerina as well as Aramando Ianucci’s The Death of Stalin in January 2018. That ministry withdrew a distribution license for the film due to the pic’s extremism and embarrassing the revered Soviet leader.
Here in U.S./Canada, Rocketman is poised to make $23M-$25M which is a solid start for the $41M production. The pic, directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton as John made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month.