Taron Egerton knows about fame — especially after the attention he received for his award-winning work as Elton John in 2019’s “Rocketman.” But Egerton never felt as popular as he did on July 23 when Britney Spears posted videos on her Instagram of them together in London.
“I felt very, very, very famous for a second,” Egerton tells me on this week’s “Just for Variety” podcast, crediting her “passionate fans” for all the love and attention.
“I love Britney,” he says.
The Instagram video — which Spears captioned, “Coolest guy ever!!! Such a freaking fan!” — was taken at a mutual friend’s dinner party. “She was very, very, very lovely,” the actor reports, explaining he’s been a fan of the pop star since her early days. “I was exactly the right age to have been swept up in all that mania,” he says, adding, “She’s a force.”
I spoke with Egerton on Zoom from Greece, where he was vacationing with his family. He didn’t mind taking a break from holiday to promote his latest project, Apple TV+’s “Black Bird.” Inspired by true events, the series stars Egerton as Jimmy Keene, a drug dealer who is sent to prison for 10 years. However, prosecutors offer to commute his sentence if he is willing to be transferred to a maximum-security lockup to get a serial killer (Paul Walter Hauser) to reveal the location of the bodies of women he allegedly killed. The eight-episode series — the finale of which streams on Aug. 5 — opens with depictions of Jimmy’s Mafia-esque life full of women, sex, drugs and debauchery.
Ray Liotta, in one of his last roles before he died in May, plays Egerton’s father.
I mention to Egerton that I grew up in Howard Beach, the same Queens neighborhood that was home to the late Mafia boss John Gotti. “I, like a lot of young men, fell in love with those kind of stories, these usually Italian American stories that kind of glamorize a life of crime,” Egerton says. “Doing the show and obviously Ray’s involvement … it did feel a bit like living something of a fantasy.”
That fantasy included getting in great shape before stripping down for a sex scene that highlights his naked derriere. “I did a lot of training,” Egerton explains. “I mean, Jimmy is in good shape as a man in his fifties, but as a man in his early thirties, he was in phenomenal shape.”
Egerton gushes over working with Hauser, whose creepy child-like voice on the show is what nightmares are made of. “We had a great time working together,” Egerton says. “I feel we have this great kind of odd-couple fucking weird chemistry. It has moments of fun and lightness, but obviously all in the context of kind of the darkest things imaginable.
Perhaps something lighter – a reboot of “The Odd Couple” – could be in the duo’s future? “I’d like to go to work with him where we don’t feel like we need a shower after every scene,” Egerton says.
Egerton made headlines in April when he dropped out of a West End production of “Cock” co-starring Jonathan Bailey (“Bridgerton”). Though he politely declines to discuss the details, he previously revealed that a close family member was battling cancer. “I think it’s really important that I get back on the horse again sooner rather than later,” Egerton says of returning to the stage.
His dream project is “Sweeney Todd.” “At the moment I’m too young and not gruff enough, but I probably could do it at 40,” the 32-year-old actor explains, adding, “No one’s going to buy me as Sweeney just yet. I need to have accrued enough years to be that jaded and embittered.”
He’ll likely be singing again in “Sing 3.” Although Universal Pictures hasn’t officially announced a third installment in Illumination’s animated musical franchise, Egerton believes it will happen. “It would be fun to have Elton in it,” he says. “I’m sure he’d love to do it.”
You can listen to the full interview with Egerton above. You can also find “Just for Variety” wherever you download your favorite podcasts.