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How Elton John and ‘Rocketman’ Cast Responded to Russia’s Censorship
For a film that has just barely made its way into theaters, there sure is a lot of controversy surrounding Rocketman, the movie-musical about the life of Elton John. After allegations that the film was going to be stripped of its risqué sex scene and drug use in order to fit a PG-13 rating (it released with an R rating), Russia has now picked up the mantle.
Reports have surfaced that the distributor responsible for Rocketman has removed around five minutes of footage, including the gay sex scene, drug use, and an update that features a photo of John with his husband and children. And Elton John is not pleased.
The singer has been a vocal advocate for keeping some of the more mature topics in the movie, noting that it’s a more accurate depiction of his life. Though the U.S. version of the film includes all of the aforementioned parts, a Russian film critic noted that several of those scenes were gone when the film screened in previews. In a statement released by Elton John and the producers of the film, the team says:
We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor “Rocketman” for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today. Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all. That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world.
Censorship of the film, which will be released in Russia beginning next Thursday, wouldn’t exactly be a surprise. And if these reports are indeed accurate, the removal of those scenes falls in line with the Kremlin’s media crackdown, which is known to silence more liberally minded subjects. In particular, Russia has come under global fire for its strict laws against LGBTQIA+ people.
According to the LA Times, last year’s often-compared film, Bohemian Rhapsody, was also released in Russia. Unsurprisingly, the much less gay-centric film was not censored.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he primarily writes about entertainment, television, and movies.