Rocketman portrays the life of Elton John, including his romantic relationships with men and drug use early in his career

By Alexia Fernández
May 31, 2019 07:25 PM
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Elton John is slamming Russian movie distributors after they censored Rocketman and excluded several scenes showing gay sex and affection from the film.

In a joint statement obtained by PEOPLE, the 72-year-old singer and the filmmakers of the musical biopic stated, “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,” the statement continued.

“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,” it read. “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.”

elton-john-2
Elton John
| Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty

A spokesperson for Central Partnership, the film’s Russian distributor confirmed to TASS, a news agency, the film had “been modified to make it comply with Russian law.”

Russia’s Culture Ministry provided a statement to TASS, saying, “The Russian Culture Ministry issued no recommendations concerning the removal of any scenes from the said movie, the decision was made solely by the distributor.”

In 2013, Russia passed a law that outlawed the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors in the press, TV, radio, film, the internet and other outlets, according to The New York Times.

Rocketman debuts in Russian theaters next Thursday, but at a Moscow preview of the film five minutes were cut and the closing credits were changed to exclude references to John’s life with his partner David Furnish and their two children, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Russian film critic Anton Dolin wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday that “all scenes of kisses, sex and oral sex between men have been cut” from the film.

“At the same time, the theme of the homosexuality of the hero in the movie is still central,” Dolin wrote.

The film’s star, Taron Egerton, responded to the censorship on Instagram writing, “I am crestfallen that the decision was made to censor our movie for the Russian market.”

He added, “I’m even more disappointed to hear about it second-hand today on the day of our domestic release. I in no way condone this decision and feel disappointed I wasn’t made aware and given the chance to fight this move. Love is love. No compromises.”

The “I’m Still Standing” singer penned a personal essay for The Guardian in which he revealed he fought to keep the details of his early fame in the film, including scenes involving the use of drugs and alcohol — as well as his romantic relationships with men such as former boyfriend and manager John Reid.

Taron Egerton and Richard Madden
Taron Egerton and Richard Madden as Elton John and John Reid in Rocketman
| Credit: Paramount Pictures

“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,” John wrote. “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.”

The singer also defended the choice to cast Taron Egerton in the lead role after some expressed concern over the fact the actor, 29, was portraying a gay man despite being straight.

“That’s all bulls—, I’m sorry,” John told The Sun. “If people don’t like it, review-wise, or it doesn’t make one dollar, it’s the movie I wanted to make and that’s all that counts. I can look back and say, ‘You know what, I love it. I can live with it.’”

Elton John and Taron Egerton
Elton John and Taron Egerton
| Credit: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis/Getty Images

Egerton has previously spoken up about the on-screen love scenes with co-star Richard Madden, who plays Reid. The Robin Hood star said that he wasn’t any more or less enthusiastic about a same-sex love scene than he would be about one with a woman.

“For me, kissing a man onscreen is no less appealing than kissing a woman onscreen,” he said earlier this month in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I’m not in any way repulsed by the male form. It’s an uncomfortable thing regardless of who you’re with.”

In the Sun interview, John reiterated his newfound friendship with the cast members. “I’ve made two great friends, with Taron and Richard,” he said, also mentioning Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), who plays John’s collaborator and songwriter Bernie Taupin. “[I] have reconnected with Jamie, who I hadn’t seen since Billy Elliot. He’s a wonderful actor and a lovely man.”

Rocketman is now in theaters.