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According to Elton John, Movie Studios Wanted to Tone Down the Sex and Drugs in Rocketman
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Elton John wrote in The Guardian Sunday that movie studios wanted filmmakers to mute depictions of sex and drugs in Rocketman to pursue a more profitable Motion Picture Association of America rating. “Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating,” wrote the musician. “But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life.”
“I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex,” he wrote of the R-rated musical, which loosely tells the story of life through the 1980s, “but equally, everyone knows I had quite a lot of both during the 70s and 80s, so there didn’t seem to be much point in making a movie that implied that after every gig, I’d quietly gone back to my hotel room with only a glass of warm milk and the Gideon’s Bible for company.”
In April, rumors surfaced that Rocketman, which hits theaters this week, was being “straightwashed,” with a gay sex scene cut in an effort to make the musical palatable to straight audiences. But Rocketman producer Matthew Vaughn denied the reports in an interview with Digital Spy, telling the website that filmmakers “set out to make an R-rated movie.”
John, who’s now been sober for almost three decades, has been frank about his struggles with addiction. In the Guardian piece, he wrote that it wasn’t challenging to watch his young self, played by Kingsman star Taron Egerton, deal with the fallout of chemical dependency. “It’s strange, I don’t find it painful to watch those parts of the film, wrote John. “They’re truthful and, unlike my childhood, it was my own fault. No one forced me to do drugs and drink.”
In the article, John also praised Egerton’s portrayal. “He isn’t doing an impersonation of me, he doesn’t look uncannily like me – although they shaved his head and thinned out his hair to make it look like mine in the 70s, which he hated,” wrote John. “Welcome to my world, baby – at least yours will grow back. But he’s like me, he’s captured something of me[.]”
Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.