Taron Egerton received the best reviews of his career for his performance as music legend Elton John in the biopic “Rocketman.” He has already picked up Golden Globe and SAG Awards nominations recently and could very well be on his way to even more awards recognition moving forward.
Egerton recently sat down with Gold Derby managing editor Chris Beachum to discuss his relationship with John, his most intimidating moments on-set and what it’s like to be part of the award season conversation. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.
Gold Derby: Taron, tell us about the first time you met Elton John.
Taron Egerton: The first time I met him would have been, I believe, in 2016. He cameoed in the sequel to “Kingsman,” which was my first film I was in. We were filming a scene where I get married, which happens at the end of the movie and he’s playing the organ in the church. He sent someone down to go and get me and I went up to the area behind the organ in the church and we had a really lovely chat and he was very funny and naughty and irreverent and cheeky as he always is. Since then, which was three and a half years ago, our relationship has gone from strength to strength, really. We’ve become really quite close, which is a lovely byproduct of the experience of playing him.
GD: How long after shooting that scene did you meet with him and meet with Dexter [Fletcher] about taking on this project?
TE: The idea of me playing him was first suggested not long after that. The idea really came from Matthew Vaughn. Obviously, Elton and I don’t really look particularly alike but Matthew’s always been a great champion of me and I’m very grateful to him because I think he thinks outside of the box in terms of me as an actor. The idea of me playing Eddie the Eagle was him as well. In “Kingsman,” it’s not necessarily obvious, next role, and he’s been great at providing me with those opportunities. He suggested it to Elton and David [Furnish] and I think the idea steadily grew from there. Matthew also knew I could sing and enjoyed singing. He loves musicals as well and we wanted to try and find a project together. It was very shortly after the idea of me playing him that Dexter was always the obvious person. It just felt perfect. His eye for color and vibrancy and his larger than life personality. He’d also directed a musical before called “Sunshine on Leith,” which used the music of The Proclaimers. I don’t know if they’re very well known here but they’re a Scottish band, quite celebrated in the U.K. That’s where it all started, really.
GD: Dexter had worked on “Bohemian Rhapsody” from last year. What’s so interesting to me is you could go from Rami Malek winning a ton of awards last year and an Oscar and then you coming in this year as Elton John. We could have Freddie Mercury and Elton John back to back at all these award shows.
TE: Well, I can’t speak to that, of course. The idea is so exciting and lovely but far from a guarantee. Lightning doesn’t always strike twice, as they say, but I know that I’m very, very proud of the performance and very, very proud of the film. It’s lovely that people responded to it in such a way that means we are part of those conversations.
GD: We’re gonna have your production designer on a crafts panel in a couple weeks and your costume designer on a crafts panel in a couple weeks.
TE: They are both fine gentlemen.
GD: So between them and your makeup artists and your hair artists and all the people that worked with you, how did they help you make this work?
TE: You can’t do it without them. It’s particularly, I think, when you’re playing somebody like Elton John who has such a specific aesthetic and the world we’re creating around him from a production design perspective is so vibrant and colorful and it’s such an exciting time in the past few decades, that sweet spot of late ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s music in London and L.A., and then of course, the transformation of developing not just one aesthetic for him but a whole row of different aged Eltons. Their work, Marcus [Rowland] I believe is coming and Julian [Day] and Lizzie [Yianni Gerogiou]. They’re all amazing. I think from my perspective, I particularly feel indebted to Julian. I think his work on the film from a costume perspective was diligent and imaginative and creative and I really felt collaboration with him. I found his design really inspiring because they’re not just recreations of Elton’s looks. They are truly reimaginings. They’re inspired by but they are reimagined. I think they’re really authentically created. The signature one being this crazy orange neoprene thing that I wear, a stage outfit that I basically march into the rehabilitation clinic in at the start of the movie and it really sets the time for the outlandish, weird, wonderful movie that it sets out to be. I think Julian’s work is really exemplary.
GD: Between all the work they did and you getting ready, what was a moment either behind the scenes as you prepared or even went onstage when you felt like, “Wow, this looks good. This is right”?
TE: There’s a few incremental moments that really felt exciting. I think when you’re really looking forward to going to work and you feel really creatively charged, I think that’s a really good sign. One of the first things we shot was my “Crocodile Rock” performance, which was his inaugural American concert at the Troubadour in this very town. I really enjoyed it. It’s a really glorious moment for the character in the film. It’s before things go a little bit awry and take a darker turn. It’s a real arrival for him. I enjoyed bringing that to life. I think I felt that day, going home… when you feel creatively fulfilled you sleep better, and I slept well that night. I felt really good after shooting that. That would be a moment that sticks out, I think.
GD: A couple of other people I wanted to ask you about, the relationship with you and Jamie Bell, playing Bernie Taupin. Tell us about working with him.
TE: I was attached to the project before Jamie. There were so many people that were discussed and talked about for that role. It’s the second lead of the film, really. It’s very much their story and their relationship is central. The day when Dexter came to me, he had a wry smile on his face because he knew he’d found the perfect person. Jamie, honestly there is no one else who could’ve done it, I don’t think. He and I, we’re quite different but we’re of a similar age. He’s a ferociously talented actor but I really felt like we complemented each other. Those two characters are two sides of a creative coin, so they need to have different energies but complement one another. I just remember the first time he and I read a scene together it just felt right. It just really felt right and in fact, the scene where our characters first meet is one of the scenes that I’m most proud of in the film. I watch it and don’t hate watching it, which is I think a nice feeling, because you’re very critical of yourself, normally, and I watch that and I just feel really proud of it. It’s funny and it does its job. I loved working with Jamie and I think he’s brilliant in the film.
GD: Another one is Richard Madden, I wanted to ask you about. We had interviewed around this time last year for “Bodyguard” and of course, we see the movie in late April or early May. I love the fact that we don’t ever really know anything going into a movie. We haven’t been inundated with the commercials. So I didn’t know he was in it. I had to watch the credits at the end. “Oh that’s Richard Madden,” and we just interviewed him a few months earlier. He just totally disappears.
TE: Yeah, it’s a very different role for him. He’s a proper actor and as you say, he’s different from one role to the next. He’s just so heart-stoppingly good-looking that you forget that he’s perfectly capable of character acting as well as being a dashing leading man. He’s brilliant in the film and he and I really hit it off. I’ve not seen him for a minute because he’s off in spandex somewhere becoming a Marvel superhero, but we really are proper friends and he’s become someone who’s in my life regularly. I loved meeting and working with Richard and his imminent world domination is well-deserved.
GD: Of all the production numbers in the movie, which one scared you the most going in?
TE: There always felt like there was a real weight of responsibility with “Your Song.” It’s such an iconic piece of music and it’s one that lots of people hold really dear to their hearts, I think. It’s also just a real important moment in the film for fortifying and establishing the strength of the relationship between these two characters. We treat it as a love song that they write for each other, really, in the movie. I suppose I felt excited but intimidated by the prospect of performing that. Also, you think for posterity, in a couple of generations’ time, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the movie’s their introduction to Elton’s work. That could be scary. But that was a challenge for that reason and then I think some of the rockier stuff felt like that was a sound that came more as I sang more because Elton especially was very keen that it not sound Broadway. I think he wanted it to sound like rock singing.
GD: We talked about awards earlier. You’ve been here in Hollywood for a few days now, got to do the Governors’ Awards last night. Was there anybody in particular that you got to meet that was a wow moment?
TE: That happens a lot in my life. Actually last night, it’s an intimidating room. I wouldn’t march up to someone really anyway, but there were lots of people who I was very near who I was staggered to see in the flesh, Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel and Geena Davis. Lots of people who I’ve grown up watching and being aware of. In terms of people that I’ve met that I’ve been staggered by recently, I had the extraordinary honor and privilege of meeting Joni Mitchell last week. I think of all the people in the world that I would have wanted to meet, it’s her and it would’ve been David Bowie. To have met one of the two feels like a real pinch-me moment.
GD: And you’ll see a lot more this weekend ‘cause you’ve got the Hollywood Film Awards. You’re getting the Breakthrough Actor Award.
TE: I am, yes. I’m very proud to be receiving the award. It’s a lovely, lovely thing. I’ve never really been in this position before to receive recognition for a role like that. It’s a strange feeling ‘cause it feels like something that happens to other people but it’s absolutely lovely and I’m honored and flattered and I’m very much looking forward to it.
GD: Your first big award show, I like to ask people that question. Some can’t even remember, it’s been so long, but you were up at BAFTA for the Rising Star three years ago.
TE: That’s right. I was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star in 2016 and I took my mum and it was lovely. It was a really lovely event. Those things, they feel so glamorous and exciting to be at and it’s lovely going with… I mean, I have a girlfriend now so mum doesn’t always get invited.
GD: You have to alternate now.
TE: That’s the plan, I think, yeah. It’s really, really exciting and it makes it all the more special when you can share it with family or someone close to you.
GD: One last question, of course, you shot the movie, took several months, I’m sure. But then you’ve performed with Elton John onstage a few times. I saw some of those YouTube videos. Was that more daunting than doing the movie itself, going in front of all those people and performing with him?
TE: I think it probably was because I sing but I’m not a singer. I’m an actor who can hold a tune, hopefully. But I have to say, one of the things that I’ve realized, people always ask, “Is it intimidating singing with him?” Actually, I have felt less intimidated singing with him than without him. He’s so assured and relaxed and at ease in that position and something of that is contagious and I always feel very well looked after by him and very safe when I’m singing with him.
GD: Thanks very much, we certainly enjoyed the movie and I hope we see you on a bunch of red carpets over the next few months.
TE: Thank you so much.