“Rocketman” is ready for lift off.
Paramount Pictures threw a cocktail party Monday night to preview 15 minutes of the upcoming Elton John biopic, set for release on May 31, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the legendary rock club where John made his U.S. debut nearly 50 years ago.
The footage featured pieces of John’s story, from his childhood as a musical prodigy to his rise to international fame as well as his battle with drug, sex and shopping addictions.
The film also includes fantasy bits, including John (Taron Egerton) and the Troubadour crowd floating in the air as he sings “Crocodile Rock.”
The movie will undoubtedly be compared to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Queen biopic that became a smash hit at the box office and nabbed a few Oscars. “Rocketman” director Dexter Fletcher was an uncredited director on “Bohemian” after replacing Bryan Singer.
Before “Bohemian Rhapsody” was even released, a trailer sent some critics into a tailspin because they thought that its lack of gay content meant the film was going to be straight-washed.
How far “Rocketman” goes isn’t clear from Monday’s preview except for a glimpse at a flirtation between the singer and his future boyfriend and manager John Reid (Richard Madden). Egerton did tell MTV News in November that the two share a love scene together and predicted the LGBTQ community will whole-heartedly embrace the movie.
“Rocketman” also includes true musical theater numbers with elaborate dance sequences and characters singing John songs to each other rather than just showcasing his music by recreating concerts. The preview included a high and inebriated John left alone in a restaurant as Jamie Bell, who plays John’s longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin, walks out on him while singing “Yellow Brick Road.”
John’s husband, producer David Furnish, welcomed the crowd at the Troubadour before bringing stars Egerton, Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard onto the stage. Fletcher was set to appear, but was in London finishing the movie.
Egerton read a note from Fletcher. “Pretty much 50 years ago, Elton stepped out onto this stage and into a new world and flew,” he said. “He’s still flying now and radiating all of his light and magic that was launched at the Troubadour in 1970.”
Fletcher also acknowledged that John did not sing “Crocodile Rock” during his Troubadour debut. “But when we were shooting we loved the energy of the song for the scene and Elton gave us his bless to use artistic license, which as you’ll see we really went to town with,” Egerton read from the note.
“Rocketman” is already being touted a possible awards season favorite. Can Egerton be next year’s Rami Malek? It’s impossible to predict until more have seen the completed movie. A source tells Variety that a recent test screening in the Los Angeles area “went really well.”
“It scored really high,” the source said.
The crowd of about 200 at the Troubadour included Darren Criss, Sir Patrick Stewart, Diane Warren, Kelly Osbourne, Betty Who, Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos and Wyck Godfrey and Universal Music Group’s Lucian Grainge.