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Rocketman: The 'secret weapon' that makes the Elton John movie sing

Music director Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, reveals how the biopic has a bit of Fab Four spirit.


Rocketman's musical director and producer credit Taron Egerton's singing ability as the biopic's secret sauce.

David Appleby/Paramount Pictures

As you'd expect, Rocketman is all about the music.

The Elton John biopic, in theaters now, saw its set list balloon from 13 songs in the initial script to 26 in the final cut, so musical director Giles Martin had to pull actor Taron Egerton (who plays John) back into the studio to record more classic songs long after principal photography wrapped.

"Great things would happen," Martin told me in London shortly before the movie's UK release. "I'd be at Abbey Road and bump into the rhythm section from Chic, for instance. I'd go 'You around tonight? Do you wanna record Honkey Cat and Take Me to the Pilot?'" 

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Giles Martin reckons Rocketman has "grit" despite its occasional dips into the fantastical.

Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Martin, the son of Beatles producer George Martin, said he followed in his dad's footsteps by taking an old-school approach to the movie's musical energy.

"It's a kind of thing where you say, 'Let's get a band together, let's go record something.' And that's how we did the film -- really organic," he said.

The musical director, who won a pair of Grammys for his work on the 2007 Beatles-Cirque du Soleil theatrical production Love, reckoned that having real musicians backing Egerton's exceptional singing grounded the movie.

"Even though the actual film is quite fantastical, it has a grit to it," he said. "I think you need that."

Producer Matthew Vaughn, who directed Egerton in the two Kingsman movies (the third is coming in 2020), reckoned the 29-year-old's singing is the film's "secret weapon."

"He was born with a pair of lungs on him and he knows how to belt them out," Vaughn said, noting that Egerton didn't need any training for the role.

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Vaughn said modern music often "misses the mark" for him for its lack of staying power, and that's one of the reasons it was time for Rocketman to bring Elton John's timeless classics to the silver screen.

"The songs -- it's like fast music, fast fashion and fast food," he said. "The songs come and go, but Elton's music is here to stay." 

Originally published May 30.