Though the Welsh actor has earned lots of early buzz for the musical chops he’s displayed in the film’s trailers, some have questioned whether he was the best choice to play John, a gay icon, because he identifies as straight.
In a new interview with Attitude magazine, Egerton said he “completely understands” why some may be skeptical of the casting choice, but nonetheless praised the movie as “very beautiful and something we are quite proud of.”
“I would not have played this character if: one, I wasn’t allowed to show Elton being a nightmare, because he has been; 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; and three, if I didn’t think we could make a ﬁlm that the gay community would watch and feel a sense of ownership over,” he said. “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?”
The actor, whose credits include the British TV series “The Smoke,” also stressed John’s early enthusiasm for him in the role. The two men appeared onstage together at John’s annual Oscars viewing party in February, where they performed a soaring version of the 1971 hit “Tiny Dancer.”
“The way I feel about it is that Elton asked me to play in a movie about his life,” he said. “I am proud and privileged to be playing this person who happens to be gay.”
He continued, “I want to live in a world where people are excited about playing people who are different from themselves, and I believe that there is something inclusive and progressive about that.”
Due out May 31, “Rocketman” has faced considerable scrutiny in the wake of 2018's “Bohemian Rhapsody,” starring Rami Malek. Though Malek won an Oscar for his performance, many critics felt that the film’s overall depiction of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury failed to accurately convey his queer identity.
Exactly how much of John’s sexuality will figure into “Rocketman” remains to be seen, of course, but Egerton says fans won’t be disappointed by his love scenes with co-star Richard Madden, who plays John’s former boyfriend and manager, John Reid.
“We didn’t want to play like they were a couple who were eventually going to fall apart, we wanted to play it like two guys in their early 20s who are falling in love and who are incredibly sexually attracted to each other,” he told Attitude.