Taron Egerton brought his mom and his very much on-again girlfriend Emily Thomas to the London premiere of Rocketman last night, days after they proudly stood by his side at the film’s world premiere in Cannes. One thing I really like about Taron? In spite of all of his success, he still looks like he can’t quite believe his life. When Rocketman earned a standing ovation at Cannes on Thursday night, he was caught on camera crying. It’s sweet, and seems genuine.
Electric 4-minute ovation for #Rocketman a fantastical musical biopic about a creative legend and his battle with substance abuse. Star @TaronEgerton moved to tears by #cannes2019 reception, hug from Elton. Dexter fletcher says they’re blown away by reaction @rocketmanmovie pic.twitter.com/cVgQPvmGXM— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) May 16, 2019
Later on during the France promo tour, when he performed the film’s title track with Elton John at the movie’s after-party, Lainey wrote to me and said: “He still looks like he wants to cry.” He may have been emotional, but it’s pretty compelling stuff. Plus, he auditioned for drama school with “Your Song.”
My favourite part comes about 10 seconds in, when Taron is asked about why he chose “Your Song”, and laughs about how verklempt he is: “Yes, yes, absolutely, I love that song, it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written… (pause) I can’t believe it… I’m going to go again! (Everybody laughs)”
Now having launched (sorry) with two premieres, we can get a sense of the Rocketman reception at both Cannes and London. Taron’s getting loads of early praise, with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus reading, “It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman” and registering at 88% after 43 reviews. The buzz is mostly glowing, save for The Wrap's so-so response, which called it a slog in between some classic karaoke standards.
While the film debuted out of competition, Taron’s performance remains a Cannes standout. Taron’s exceptional work is being singled out, much like Antonio Banderas’ latest Pedro Almodóvar film Pain and Glory, and Robert Pattinson for Robert Eggers’ unsettling follow-up to The Witch, The Lighthouse, which earned a five-star review from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. But of those works, Taron’s performance, and Rocketman, certainly has the most mainstream appeal, and we all remember what happened with Antonio and Pedro’s last collaboration, The Skin I Live In, which remained acclaimed, but received most of its awards attention from the genre celebrations.
It won’t be for everyone but I absolutely loved Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory. It’s sweet, sad, and at times off-the-charts sexy. Spain would be smart to select it as its Oscar entry and I’d love to see a Best Actor campaign for the never better Antonio Banderas. #Cannes2019 pic.twitter.com/e5Zy4mgJSb— Dave Karger (@davekarger) May 17, 2019
I digress. The hype for Taron’s performance, his singing, and his full-circle sentimentality while tied to a living icon draws several comparisons to the awards and accolades Rami Malek received for his spin on Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. After all, the films share a director, Dexter Fletcher, in the sense that he was called in to clean up a mess that Bryan Singer left behind. The comparisons are obvious and in-your-face, in that Rami isn’t the sole vocal performer on the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack, but Taron is. In fact, he sings 20 songs. The Elton John and Queen catalogues are both beloved by the public. And so far, Rocketman has better reviews than Bohemian Rhapsody did. But how will it do at the box office? Taron arguably has more of a “marquee” profile than Rami (assuming The Kingsman franchise has more fans than Mr. Robot did around last fall), and though I doubt it’ll slay Godzilla next weekend, the trades are predicting a $20-25-million launch, which seems low to me.
Taron’s been speaking about the box office prospects, too, telling USA Today last week:
"To think that we’re going to make a billion dollars (in box office) is probably not a healthy way of looking at things. So we should adjust our expectations," says Egerton. "But 'Bohemian Rhapsody' shows there’s an appetite for this type of movie."
Granted, Rocketman also does not have the Bohemian Rhapsody Thanksgiving release date, but whatever they’re selling in Cannes (and London) looks to be creating the right type of attention, leaning into all of Elton’s eccentricities, fashion, and history, including those R-rated steamy scenes between Taron and Richard Madden, which do not appear to be edited out, like many feared. With 10 days before its release, it seems as though any Bohemian Rhapsody comparison is only helping Rocketman, and making it carve out its own path… to the Golden Globes?