I can’t imagine what it would be like to have someone make a movie about my life, but if I’d lived a life interesting enough to document, I’d be pretty fucking pissed if said movie sanitized my exploits down to a PG-13. PG-13 movies are for children who don’t look old enough to sneak into R movies, and for the new Star Wars franchise, whose show-runners absolutely refuse to make a single character sexy, for some terrible reason. And apparently, such a sad, sexless, drugless fate nearly befell Elton John biopic Rocketman, though thankfully John put up a fight, and the sex and drugs were saved.
In an article for The Guardian, John described the multi-year process of trying to get his biopic on the big screen. As is the case with most films, he had trouble getting directors and stars attached to the Lee Hall-written project (apparently Tom Hardy and Justin Timberlake were both up for the lead role, which ultimately went to Taron Egerton). But he also had trouble getting studios to sign on for the full Rock Star treatment:
Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven’t led a PG-13 rated life. I didn’t want a film packed with drugs and sex, 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.
Of course, it’s not just that Rocketman would be less fun without some of the wilder shit, but it would also cut out some of the film’s meat. John struggled with drug addiction, in addition to bulimia, his sexuality, and his mental health, and he wanted the film to reflect all that accurately. “This is how my life was, and I didn’t want to cover it and gloss it over,” he told the Daily Telegraph, according to Entertainment Tonight (the Telegraph interview is behind a paywall.) “Success was fantastic and then I couldn’t cope with it. And you can’t leave out the bad.”
Rocketman is out May 31, drugs and sex and all.