How Much of Elton John’s ‘Rocketman’ Is Accurate?

Elton John’s biopic, Rocketman, debuted to critical and commercial acclaim. Since its release, many fans have been trying to figure out which parts of Rocketman are facts, and which parts are fiction. Interestingly, Rocketman had been in development since the early 2000s. Director Michael Gracey was attached to direct it, and Tom Hardy was originally set to star as the lead. However, both Gracey and Hardy left in 2014, and the project was put on hold until Paramount Pictures and New Republic Pictures took over in April 2018. 

With filmmaker Dexter Fletcher at the helm, Rocketman was titled after John’s 1972 song and the lead single to Honky Château. It starred Taron Egerton and also featured Jamie Bell as John’s longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as John’s manager and former lover, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as John’s mother, Sheila Eileen.

Is Rocketman Fact or Fiction?

Credit: Rocketman

That always seems to be the biggest question with biopics—accuracy. Let’s take a look at what the film gets right and wrong about the events in John’s life. It is important to note that this isn’t the usual biopic and has been celebrated as a musical fantasy. In fact, during promotion, none of those involved in Rocketman described this as a biopic. Interestingly, even the trailer referred to film as a true fantasy.

Did Elton John Come Up With His Stage Name After Seeing A Photo Of John Lennon In His Manager’s Office?

False.

John, who real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight, adopted the first part of his stage name from the name of his bandmate, Elton Dean. As for John? It’s believed to be inspired by performer, Long John Baldry. Elton John’s band, Bluesology, was once Baldry’s supporting act.

In a 1987 interview, John revealed that taking on a stage name “was like a new lease on life.” Adding, “I didn’t particularly like being Reg Dwight,” he admitted. “It had too many unhappy memories. I hated the word ‘Reg’, anyway. It was just a horrible name.” The musician celebrated his stage name saying, “As soon as I was Elton, it was just great,” he continued. “It was like a new personality.”

Was Elton John A Piano Prodigy?

Credit: Rocketman

True.

Most of the childhood scenes in Rocketman were fairly accurate. He was just three years old when he sat down at his grandmother’s piano and showed musical promise. John’s mother heard him play The Skater’s Waltz a year later—by ear, no less! He impressively listened to the piece of music and then replicated it note for note on the piano.  He later attended London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music for five years but eventually turned his back to classical music to pursue his love for rock ‘n roll.

Did Elton John Marry a Woman?

True.

Unfortunately, there was no happily ever after for the couple, and it had a messy ending. John met German sound engineer Renate Blauel in 1983 and proposed to her a year later. They tied the knot on February 14, 1984, in St. Mark’s Church in Sydney, Australia. The marriage lasted for four years. 

The couple divorced in 1988, and not long after, John came out as gay. Blauel never spoke publicly about their relationship and even retreated from the public eye. That is until she reappeared in 2020 after filing a lawsuit against John, demanding £3 million in damages after John disclosed facts about their marriage in his memoir, Me, and Rocketman. The pair eventually settled their legal dispute.

He has been with his husband, David Furnish, since 1993 when they began dating. John proposed in May 2005 and in December, the couple entered a civil partnership. 

Did Elton John Stormed Out Of His Madison Square Garden Gig To Head Straight To Rehab?

False.

He did go to rehab, but it wasn’t until 1990—a few months after his Sleeping With the Past tour ended. After the funeral of AIDS victim Ryan White, John checked himself into Chicago’s Parkside Lutheran Hospital. White contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion, and he passed away at the age of 18. Speaking at his show at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, John said that spending time with White’s family saved his life. “I knew that my lifestyle was crazy and out of order,” John said. “And six months later, I got sober and clean and have been ever since.”

I cannot thank them [White’s family] enough,” he added, “because, without them, I’d probably be dead.”

Does Elton John Mind the Changes Made?

Credit: Entertainment Tonight

The music legend understood the necessity. Some studios wanted us to lose the fantasy element and make a more straightforward biopic, but that was missing the point,” he acknowledged. “It’s obviously not all true, but it’s the truth.”

As an artist, John understood the need to take artistic licence for audience entertainment and safe to say, it worked. With almost $200 Million at the box office, it is safe to say Rocketman was  certified hit.

 

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