John Reid is the music manager who shepherded both Queen and Elton John (Taron Egerton in the film) to astronomical fame. Coincidentally, Reid is portrayed by two Game of Thrones alums: Richard Madden (aka Robb Stark) in Rocketman and Aidan Gillen (better known as Littlefinger) in Bohemian Rhapsody. In a way, Madden and Gillen swapped roles: In Rocketman, Madden abandons Robb Stark's nobility and adopts Littlefinger's manipulative danger.
Reid plays a more prominent role in Rocketman than Bohemian Rhapsody, because Reid played a much more prominent role in Elton John's career (and life) than Queen's. Reid was only Queen's manager from 1975 to 1978, whereas Reid was John's manager for 25 years, before they acrimoniously severed ties in 1998.
John and Reid's relationship is too complicated and history-laden to characterize as simply a working relationship. "The relationship between John Reid and Elton John is very much like a marriage. They know each other so well and know so many personal things about each other that a manager can't talk about,” music manager Bruce Findlay told The Daily Record in 1998, during their public break-up.
By then, they'd had many "firsts" together. When John was 23, he met Reid (aged 21) at a Christmas party in California for the Motown record label. "I remember this hip, shy young man," Reid told The Scottish Daily Mail in 2018. "There was a gawky sweetness about him."
They slept together that evening; it was the first time John had sex. At the U.K. premiere of Rocketman, John said the movie got that first encounter exactly right: They "tear their clothes off in the movie, that was how it happened."
John and Reid's sexual relationship lasted for five years, from 1970 to 1975. During that time, John's career skyrocketed — this period is responsible for hits like "Candle in the Wind" and "Your Song." In 1972, the Scottish-born Reid launched John Reid Management, with John as his first client (Queen was his second).
John and Reid's relationship was characterized by tumult and excess. In Rocketman, Reid and John go on spending sprees to the tune of "Honky Cat." It's an exaggerated but accurate depiction — the duo's spending was prolific. John bought Reid a yacht for his 25th birthday; Reid reciprocated with a million-dollar diamond ring. Reid told The Scottish Daily Mail John had "no concept of money — I have seen him spend a million in an afternoon."
Reid and John remained business partners until 1998, when auditors discovered $20 million missing from John's accounts. Reid paid John a $3.4 million out-of-court settlement. Two decades on, the former lovers no longer speak. “I’m fond of Elton and proud of the work we did together,” Reid told the Scottish Daily Mail. “One day I’ll bump into him and there may be hugs and kisses. Or maybe not.”
Reid's break-up with Queen was friendlier. In the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, he's fired for suggesting Queen frontman Freddie Mercury strike out on his own. In reality, the band and manager parted on good terms.
Reid, who has retired from music management, hasn't commented on either film. Allegedly, though, he's working on a project of his own: an autobiography called Too Close to the Candle.