Doing a double take! Actor Taron Egerton stopped by On Air With Ryan Seacrest on Friday, May 31, and took us behind the scenes of transforming into Sir Elton John for musical biopic Rocketman. The actor dished on everything from what it was like working alongside the Grammy-winning icon to his biggest fear taking on the role and more.
The epic and already critically-acclaimed musical tells the uncensored story of Sir Elton John’s breakthrough years and also stars Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard and Tate Donovan.
In the role, Egerton actually sings, and shared that’s the “one thing I felt like I really needed [Elton’s] feedback on.”
“The acting, the scenes, that's my wheelhouse — I know where I am with that stuff, but the sining? That’s not my trade really so I’d send him rough mixes of things as we were developing them, but he was always just so excited about the things we were doing,” Egerton shared. “… We’ve re-recorded everything and tried to be as fun as we can.”
That said, nailing John’s hits was at first what Egerton hesitated about when taking on the role.
“He’s such a force of nature and if you watch him, especially in the 70s when he was operating at full tilt, he’s such a whirlwind,” the actor explained. “And I think I had fears I couldn’t fill those boots and also the rockier singing in the movie … like ‘Pinball Wizard,’ ‘Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting,’ ‘Bennie and the Jets’ … I’ve been a bit of a ballad singer for awhile, but that kind of rock stuff is tough and it took a long time for my voice to get there.”
Elton John couldn’t have been more encouraging though.
“I’ll always remember one of the last things we recorded was ‘Pinball Wizard’ and I sent it to the big man and waited with bated breath and he just emailed back and said, ‘OK, you’ve got it now.’ And it was so validating because it took some time to get there,” Egerton added.
The songwriter, who, fun fact, also happens to be the fourth-best-selling music artist in the world, also supplied Egerton with his personal diaries as prep.
“They’re so so hilarious,” Egerton admitted. “He’s very economic in his writing style so it’ll be like, ‘The washing machine is broken. Wrote, Honky Cat’ and that’s it. That’s a day in the life. … He’s just this incredible genius. … You ask him about his process writing songs and he can’t talk about it. He says ‘I don’t really know.’ … All of these classic songs were all written in like 35-40 minutes.”
The diary passages also revealed Elton John's demons and personal struggles growing up, including the late nights that led him to rehab.
“Some of it is quite personal,” Egerton confirmed. “I noticed the pattern of late nights and bad behavior. … You’ll get a passage like, ‘Stayed up all night playing pinball with whoever’ … and you sort of go, ‘OK, I think I know what was really happening there.' And then the next day it’ll be something like he’s really acted out at a restaurant and smashed a plate of French fries or something and you can just see that this guy was compromised by this terribly unhealthy lifestyle he was living and that’s what our movie does, is it seeks to slightly humanize some of that turbulence and explain it.”
At the end of the day, Egerton concluded that the process left him not only with a notable and likely Oscar-nominated role, but a lifelong friend.
“There's a huge weight of responsibility playing someone we all know and we all adore, but what I didn’t really expect from the process was that by the time we started filming, I’d be portraying someone that I genuinely care about and regard as a friend and that’s a really weird thing as an actor because normally it feels quite removed,” he concluded. “The whole experience took on a very personal relationship for me … I think one day I’m going to look back on this maybe with grandkids and say, ‘Remember you once played Elton John and you sat next to him the first time he watched it?’ What a memory!”
Watch back the full interview in the video above and find out the seriously sweet birthday gift Egerton gave Elton and more!
Catch Rocketman out in theaters today.