Thursday, 12 December 2019

Laying to rest the ghost of 'fat Reg'

Laying to rest the ghost of 'fat Reg'

WHILE the late, lamented Prince Rogers Nelson never quite succeeded in his quest to become “the artist formerly known as Prince”, there was definitely a time when Elton John was known as “Fat Reg from Pinner”.

Quite a long time ago now, obviously. But these things have a way of lodging in the culture.

Among the many distinctions he has garnered in the course of his long career, Elton is undoubtedly the biggest star ever to play the Henley Festival.

His 2016 performance is unlikely to make it into this film of his life, but it was damned good at the time.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman follows in the footsteps of the multi-award-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody in more ways than one, while still firmly carving its own path.

Queen’s guitarist and drummer Brian May and Roger Taylor worked as consultants on their film, and Elton John is one of the producers on this.

Fletcher took over the production process of Bohemian Rhapsody in its final stages and has been at the helm of Rocketman since the very beginning.

But Rocketman differs in its imaginative flights of fancy. More than a biopic, this is a musical fantasy.

The film follows Elton’s early years — featuring his childhood with his grandmother, Ivy (whose piano was the first musical instrument he played), and mother, Eileen, who introduced him to rock and roll music through the songs of Elvis Presley.

Rocketman also explores his formative years as an artist — from the moment he dropped his birth name of Reginald Dwight and rose from the ashes to claim his new identity as Elton John, songman to the stars.

Casting the right actor to play the chameleon-like artist was crucial to offering audiences a worthy but still excitingly original depiction.

Welsh actor Taron Egerton is the man chosen to fill Elton’s sparkly, high-heeled boots, having previously starred in Fletcher’s 2016 Eddie the Eagle biopic.

Egerton had the added advantage of having met Elton while filming the wedding scene in Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

“Elton has befriended me a bit and I do feel a kinship with him — he’s so part of our cultural language,” says Egerton. “The thing I want people to know is it’s not a biopic — it is the story of his life but it’s a musical, and trippy and kooky. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited about anything in my life.”

Rocketman is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

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