In the musical Elton John biopic Rocketman, director Dexter Fletcher tells the true story of the singer's rise to fame using a mix of fantasy and reality. Taron Egerton plays Elton John from his teenage years, when he was still called Reginald Dwight, and his fateful first meeting with lyricist Bernie Taupin, through his meteoric rise to fame and later troubles with drugs and alcohol.
Egerton sings all of his own songs, which have been reinterpreted to fit with the film's musical format, and costume designer Julian Day captured the spirit of Elton's famously outlandish wardrobe with more than 60 original designs. Some of the costumes in the movie, like the custom Dodgers uniform (which is studded with 240,000 crystals) were based on outfits that Elton John actually wore, but most were created from scratch by Day.
Perhaps the most prominent costume in the movie is the devil outfit that Egerton wears when Elton storms into rehab at the start of the movie. The devil costume actually had to undergo a redesign when it became apparent that getting in and out of a taxi while wearing a giant pair of wings isn't particularly feasible. "We talked about the idea that he was going to take them off and put them in the boot and then it just seemed ludicrous," Day explained to Screen Rant. "So we had to make another pair that actually bend." The costume had to be designed to be broken down, since Elton removes more and more pieces from it as the movie (and his rehab session) progresses, until finally all the layers have been stripped away. "It was its own character," said Day, which made it one of the most complex costumes to design.
It wasn't just the costumes in Rocketman that had a unique creative touch. The film is a jukebox musical, but music producer Giles Martin put together new arrangements of Elton John's classic songs to enable them to better tell a story. For example, "Honky Cat" becomes a duet between Elton and his boyfriend/manager, John Reid (played by Richard Madden), and in the extended version of the song available on the Blu-ray release, it explodes into an elaborate Busby Berkeley-style tap number. Fans who have praised Madden's singing in that number may be surprised to learn that the actor was adamant at first that he would not be doing any singing. Martin recalls:
"We did a table read, and [Madden] came up to me and goes, 'Are you the music director?' I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'I'm not singing. I'm not singing.' I said, 'Yes you are.' He goes, 'I'm not singing.' I said, 'You're going to sing.' He says, 'I'm not going to do it!' I said, 'Yes you are.'"
In the end Martin convinced Madden to come to the recording studio, and after actually hearing himself sing the actor was won over. "He was so surprised at the end of it, he was really happy," Martin recalls. The music producer is based at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, which is how "Honky Cat" got some spontaneous input from the legendary disco band Chic:
"I wanted to sort of funk it up a bit, and I was at Abbey Road... and the drummer and bass player for Chic were in there. I bumped into them in the reception and I went, 'Hey, do you want to play on a track?' They went, 'Yeah, alright,' and I got them that evening and they played 'Honky Cat.'"
Rocketman is available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD.