Paramount has green-lit the Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as the iconic singer-songwriter. Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, the artist known as Elton John has sold over 300 million albums in a career spanning six decades. Working in collaboration with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin, John has scored more than fifty Top 40 hits, including the Princess Diana tribute song Candle in the Wind 1997 (a reworking of his prior Marilyn Monroe tribute song Candle in the Wind), which became the biggest-selling single in U.S. and U.K. history with over 33 million copies sold.
During his original rise as a hit-maker in the late '60s and early '70s, John became as well-known for his flamboyant on-stage attire as his singing and piano-playing prowess. John became openly gay in 1988, and in 2005 entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish. John and Furnish would wed in 2014 after the legalization of gay marriage in England. The singer recently announced his retirement from touring, which won't happen until after a massive three-year farewell tour set to kick off in 2018.
As reported by Deadline, Paramount will now give Elton John's fascinating life the biopic treatment. The studio has greenlit Rocketman (named of course after one of the singer's great hits), starring Taron Egerton as John (confirming earlier reports of Egerton's interest). Tom Hardy was at one point rumored to be playing John, but instead he will play Al Capone. Dexter Fletcher directs Rocketman after already tackling the life of Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) wrote the script. Matthew Vaughn will produce along with John and David Furnish, with work set to commence this summer.
Actor-director Dexter Fletcher worked with Matthew Vaughn previously on the films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Layer Cake. Taron Egerton and Vaughn of course also have a track record together, collaborating on both Kingsman movies (John himself made a cameo appearance in Kingsman: The Golden Circle). And Fletcher also directed Egerton in Eddie the Eagle, a film produced by Vaughn. Reportedly, Egerton has pushed hard to land the role of John and will sing all the movie's songs himself. Rocketman is described as "an unvarnished rock and roll biopic" (though with John producing the movie himself, one imagines a certain amount of varnishing is inevitable).
The musical biopic, in either varnished or unvarnished form, has been a sturdy genre for the past couple decades. The form arguably reached its height in the mid-'00s with Walk the Line and Ray, both of which became big box office hits and major Oscar players. The wave of musical biopics did eventually die down however, and later became the subject of vicious parody, most notably in the John C. Reilly comedy Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story. But are we now in line for a true second wave of rock and roll biopics? 2015's Straight Outta Compton, about the rap group NWA, seemed to jump-start the genre. Between Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, there's certainly much to look forward to for fans of '70s rock stars with big voices and bigger personalities.