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How Taron Egerton Became Elton John

May 21st, 2019How Taron Egerton Became Elton John

Playing a real figure is daunting. You’ve got to contend with the public perception of that person — can you measure up? — and the people who knew them. And if that person is alive, you’ve also got to be able to look them in the face, and hopefully they say you treated their story well.

But what if that figure is someone like Elton John — a superstar who is not only going strong (John’s “farewell tour” is in the middle of a three-year run and has taken in over $100 million so far), but also is known for his flamboyant public persona and fiery personality?

KINGSMAN star Taron Egerton took on the role of Elton John for the film ROCKETMAN, opening on May 31. Here’s how the young man — who performed the popstar’s tune “Your Song” at his acting academy audition — turned himself into the iconic singer on screen.

Transformer

“The thing about playing someone who is so beloved, all we can do is give our heartfelt interpretation of his life and his music,” Egerton said in a behind-the-scenes video. There’s some background as to how and why Egerton even got to this point. Sure, he shaved back a bunch of his hair and even had John’s signature tooth gap painted into his grin, but that’s all superficial stuff. The real transformation is a bit deeper than that.

Part of the surprise of seeing the actor as Elton John is the role he’s best known for: Eggsy, the stylish and violent antihero of the KINGSMAN movies. (Egerton had not been on a film set before winning that role.) But it sounds like Egerton wasn’t entirely comfortable with moving toward marquee-star status. “It’s more fun to play things that are ugly,” he told Vogue. That’s part of the reason he ended up as the dressed-down lead in the entertaining sleeper EDDIE THE EAGLE and why the Elton John biopic is a perfect fit.

Truth on Screen

Not that Elton John himself is ugly, but his story, which is marked with periods of addiction, isn’t always upbeat. With the man himself acting as a producer, the actor was determined to create a warts-and-all portrayal.

“I would not have played this character if: one, I wasn’t allowed to show Elton being a nightmare, because he has been,” he told Attitude. And “two, if we weren’t able to explore his drink-and-drug addiction, because I don’t think you can tell a story without it.” Fortunately, Elton John also knew that his story depended on honesty with respect to those aspects of his life.

In the same interview, Egerton also insisted that he would not have done the movie “if I didn’t think we could make a film that the gay community would watch and feel a sense of ownership over.” Elton John is gay, and one of his early relationships is a core part of the movie, and the straight actor continued, saying, “What right do I have to play Elton John if I am not going to go the same lengths to portray a gay relationship as a gay actor would?”

Chain of Events

A serendipitous set of circumstances connected the actor to his role. Egerton didn’t just sing an Elton John tune years ago for a school audition; he also belted out “I’m Still Standing” for the movie SING. John was having trouble getting ROCKETMAN off the ground, and after he played a small role in KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, that film’s producer/director, Matthew Vaughn, offered to help make John’s movie. He also suggested Egerton for the lead. After the singer heard the performance in SING, he didn’t need much convincing that they had the right person.

To help him prep for the role, “we managed to find Elton’s hand-written diaries from 1970 to 1976,” John’s husband, David Furnish, told THR. “And Taron came down one day and sat on the front lawn of our house, on a nice sort of hazy, late spring day and sat by the pond and read them.”

Elton John himself mostly stayed away from the set of ROCKETMAN, but he is reported to have been voracious when it came to watching the dailies on a regular basis. He did stop by at least once, though. The singer arrived on the day when Egerton was singing his hit “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” in a carnival-themed set, as seen in the film’s trailer.

How did the actor look to the man whose life he was performing? “I didn’t think it was Taron,” Elton John told THR. “I thought it was me. That’s the highest compliment I can tell you.”

ROCKETMAN blasts off on May 31.

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