The Elton John film is brutally honest, and that’s what we need from biopics

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Taran Egerton in Rocketman. Image: Paramount

What use is a biopic if it’s not honest?

We all know that celebrities are human beings, but sometimes it’s hard to believe that they’re just like us.

After all, when I’m schlepping through London in the rain, jumping onto packed Tube trains, I can’t help but think that someone famous would just be able to hop into a comfortable private car to get to their destination.

Or when I’m picking at yet another limp coffee shop sandwich with curling edges from the work buffet during a meeting, I imagine the great food I’d get if I had a personal chef catering to my whims on a film set.

Of course, I know that isn’t the life of every famous person, and that being an Oscar-winning actor or a Grammy-winning musician is hard work. I also know that they have the same problems as many of us, and may have faced addiction, racism and mental ill health, among other things, to get where they are today.

Which is why it’s so important to hear that successful celebrities go through the things that affect us normal people too – whether that’s Michelle Obama talking about imposter syndrome, Selena Gomez’s attitude towards her scars, or Jameela Jamil and Sam Smith discussing self-acceptance.

But it’s one thing to talk about your problems, and another to let hundreds of thousands of people watch some of the worst moments of your life play out in technicolour on a gigantic screen.

That’s what we’ll see when the Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as the musician, is released.

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Unlike many biopics, which often concentrate on the fame and fortune while skimming over the rough parts, Rocketman will show John at his worst, according to Egerton, including his battle with drug addiction in the Eighties.

Speaking to BBC News, Egerton said: “The movie begins with Elton marching into rehab in a real bad way. We learn about his life from him recounting his experiences from this recovery room.”

He added: “Elton essentially gave me licence to go and make him look ugly at times.”

Elton John performs on stage with Taron Egerton

Elton John will be played by Taron Egerton in Rocketman

That we’ll see some of the worst  part of John’s life brought to life on film is important: it shows that his drug problems are just a small part of his overall story, which includes gorgeous music and soaring success. And that’s what all of us want, isn’t it? For our mistakes not to define us.

Yes, sometimes a shiny biopic is great, but if you want to get away from real life, try a rom-com. If I’m going to take the time to watch the life story of a famous person on screen, I want to see what makes them truly tick, and not just the window dressing.

Give me honesty, raw emotion and ugliness any day – because it just makes the beauty more powerful.

Images: Paramount / Getty


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Sarah Shaffi

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