The latest musician to get the biopic treatment is Elton John, in the biographical movie musical Rocketman and naturally, you want to know how realistic the film is to the actual lives of those involved. Well, unlike other subjects of musical biopics, the Rocketman himself is still alive — and was very much involved in the making of the movie. John is also invested in the Rocketman cast, so much so that he recorded a duet with the movie version of himself, Taron Egerton — called "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" — and befriended both Egerton and the actor who plays his former manager/lover John Reid, Game of Thrones and Bodyguard star Richard Madden, in the process.
Seriously — Egerton told Jimmy Kimmel that John won't stop emailing him positive reviews of the film. Plus, Egerton saw the completed film for the first time with John by his side at its Cannes debut — well, to be specific, John's longtime friend and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin was actually sitting between them.
Though the trailers for the film make it clear that Rocketman is much more fantastical than your typical biography (we're pretty sure that Elton John has never literally floated off the stage while performing), but there are plenty of real-life people who made it to the big screen.
Here's how closely the Rocketman cast resembles their real life counterparts.
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Taron Egerton as Elton John
If you haven’t been obsessively paying attention to Egerton’s antics on the Rocketman press tour (what’s your life like? How’s the weather outside?), then you might not know that Egerton and his costar Madden have formed quite a bromance. You also might not know that, aside from drama school, Egerton has sung on screen once before: he was also in the 2014 animated film Sing, in which he coincidentally performed John’s tune “I’m Still Standing.”
In a Twitter Q&A, Egerton said the performance scenes were his favorite parts of Rocketman to film. “You get to live out that fantasy of being a rock star, which is pretty cool,” he shared.
Then there are the sex scenes between John and his boyfriend, John Reid. Egerton threw himself into the movie “a hundred percent,” love scenes included, he told The Hollywood Reporter. And since it was important to the filmmaking team not to sanitize John’s life too much, the scenes are definitely still in tact on screen.
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The Real Elton John
The man/myth/legend is going strong 50 years into his career: The man formerly known as Reginald Dwight released his debut album in 1969, and rose to prominence with the single “Your Song,” from his second album, in 1970. Among the many accolades the 72-year-old has received throughout his career: an Oscar, multiple Grammys, a Tony, a Golden Globe, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and — oh yeah — he’s a knight, too.
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Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin
Fun fact: Bell’s first big celebrity sighting was in 2000, after the premiere of Billy Elliot — it was Elton John. “I met him for the first time when I was a child, after the screening of Billy Elliot at the Cannes Film Festival. That was the first time I’d ever met anyone that famous, and that was quite overwhelming for me,” Bell told Deadline of his previous experience with John.
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The Real Bernie Taupin
The longtime songwriting partners met in 1968 after answering an advertisement in a music magazine. John writes the music, and Taupin writes the lyrics. In addition to writing a recent memoir about his life, Taupin also met with Bell to help him prepare for the role. While Taupin has mostly been tight-lipped about his friendship with John, he did answer Bell’s many questions about the role.
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Richard Madden as John Reid
Madden plays John’s manager of two decades and boyfriend of several years, John Reid. Madden not only shares a steamy love scene with Egerton, he also does a bit of singing and dancing himself. Singing is not Madden's strong suit, as he told Jimmy Fallon during a visit to The Tonight Show. “Thank god for AutoTune,” he cracked to the late-night host.
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The Real John Reid
This is actually not Reid’s first portrayal on screen in the past year — he was played by Aidan Gillen (a.k.a. Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger) in another movie biopic of another popstar: Bohemian Rhapsody.
Before retiring in 1999, Reid was also the manager of famous acts including Queen and even Irish dancer Michael Flatley (yeah, the Riverdance guy). While Reid and John dated for about five years, they remained business partners for another 20 after that (until the two had a falling out and John took him to court his business practices).
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Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s Mom, Sheila Dwight
The Jurassic World star told The Hollywood Reporter that playing John’s mother was a complicated process. While she wanted to play a typical proud mother, that wasn’t what the two’s real-life relationship was like.
“They had a really dysfunctional, toxic relationship and that wasn't the dynamic between them, of being supportive. It was so fun to be a part of this, but it’s truly so sad,” she said. “Just the relationship between them and the lack of love and the void that Elton felt in his life starting from a really young age.”
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Elton’s Real Mom, Sheila Eileen Dwight
The relationship between the real-life Sheila and her son was more than cold — it was downright sub-zero. To wit: Days before her death in 2018 at 92, she changed her will so that her mega-famous son would inherit just two decorative urns and a couple of family photos. Yeah, he doesn’t need the money, but here’s another example of their chilliness: For her 90th birthday, Page Six reports that she hired an Elton John impersonator.
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Charlie Rowe as Ray Williams
The 23-year-old Rowe plays A&R rep and record producer Williams, who was just 20 years old when he discovered John. Rowe’s most recent roles have been a trio of TV series — Red Band Society, Salvation, and the latest adaptation of Vanity Fair — and his first film role came in 2007’s The Golden Compass.
The Real Ray Williams
The world has Williams to thank for discovering John and teaming him up with Taupin. Williams also managed John for the first few years of his career, before moving on to other artistic ventures including music publishing, music supervision, and startup CEO. While Williams hasn’t yet seen Rocketman, he did tell a local news outlet near his North Carolina home that based on the trailer, they “mixed up all the stories.” In reality, “It was a little more complicated.”
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The Real Doug Weston
Nightclub owner Weston — and his Los Angeles venue, the Troubadour, which is still around — was responsible for elevating the careers of many a 1960s-1970s singer-songwriter, John included. It was Elton John's run of shows at the Troubadour in 1970 — and the glowing reviews from rock critics, including the Los Angeles Times’ — that turned him into a mega-star.