Taron Egerton discusses the ‘controversy’ of being a straight actor playing Elton John

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Rabat

Taron Egerton reminds me of Jack O’Connell. Two working-class British guys who are challenging the posh-actor British establishment. I also think both Jack and Taron are utter dolls, although Taron seems to be drawn to flashier material. Taron is probably best known for his role in The Kingsman franchise, but this year he’ll be known as the young working class bloke who plays the young Elton John in Rocketman. The Hollywood Reporter put Taron on their Cannes Film Festival preview issue – Rocketman will have a big, splashy premiere in Cannes, and I’m looking forward to it. As for the interview, Taron comes across well. He’s 29 years old, so he’s been around for years and he understands how the industry works. You won’t catch him acting above it all or like he doesn’t want attention. He’s here to play. Some highlights:

On Rocketman possibly making as much money as Bohemian Rhapsody: “I’m at peace with however much money it makes. But I hope it does really, really well. If it made half of [Bohemian Rhapsody], it would be terrific for my career.”

His working class family: When his parents split, Taron (it means “thunder” in Welsh) moved with his mom to Wales. “Growing up, we never had space,” he recalls. “We never owned places. We always rented.”

He’s sensitive: “I’m loath to psychoanalyze myself. But I am someone who is quite sensitive. I feel things very acutely.”

He lost the lead role in Solo: A Star Wars Story to Alden Ehrenreich. “I didn’t go to the last audition because it didn’t feel right to me. To be honest, I think it was always going to be Alden’s part.”

He was in the 2018 flop Robin Hood: “I don’t regret it. I thought the pitch was genuinely interesting, and I thought it sounded like a legitimate, gritty reimagining of something that’s always been dealt with in a flowery, glossy way.”

The gay plotline in Rocketman: “Everyone is obsessed with it,” he marvels. The fact that Egerton identifies as heterosexual — his girlfriend of more than two years is assistant director Emily Thomas, currently working in Jamaica on the next Bond movie — even sparked a backlash of its own, with some on social media questioning why a gay actor wasn’t cast to play John. “I have spoken to gay people for whom it’s not a problem, and I’ve spoken to gay people for whom it is a problem. I completely understand. But for my part, I’m an actor, and I did not get into acting to just play people like me. You have to draw the line somewhere, and I don’t want to live in a world where straight people play straight people and gay people play gay people.”

He “threw himself into the part ‘a hundred percent’”: “For me, kissing a man onscreen is no less appealing than kissing a woman onscreen. I’m not in any way repulsed by the male form. It’s an uncomfortable thing regardless of who you’re with — it makes no difference as to your sexual preference.”

He’s a simple bloke: “I don’t really have a lofty lifestyle — I enjoy things like this,” he says, nodding to the ninth-story view of West London. In fact, since becoming a movie star, Egerton has only splurged on one big purchase: a townhouse for his mom. “Now when I go home, the family finally has space and we all have room and can sit around a kitchen table. It’s a proper family home.” 

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

I’m sure there will be people who refuse to see the movie just because they think the role should have gone to a gay man, and I like that Taron accepts that and listens to that criticism without getting defensive. But as THR makes clear, Elton John and David Furnish fell for Taron from the word go, and Elton particularly loved Taron’s singing. I think for Elton, it was more important that they find someone who was musically compatible rather than someone who was gay. Does Elton’s seal of approval mean something? I hope so, because I feel like Taron is leaving it all out there for people.

Photo and cover courtesy of THR.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

13 Responses to “Taron Egerton discusses the ‘controversy’ of being a straight actor playing Elton John”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Lala11_7 says:

    The fact that Elton John was ECSTATIC by the choice…which I would have been too…I mean…MY GAWD…the man IS REG! He’s got that swagger…physically they’re similar…that energy is on point…This is a biopic that doesn’t have the HORRIBLE baggage that BR had…cause I will STAY mad about Sacha Baron Cohen not being able to do his Mercury picture…because the other chaps thought it was…”too graphic”….

  2. Cee says:

    The problem isn’t that a heterosexual man won the part of a gay musician. The problem is that gay actors aren’t given the same chance to portray heterosexual characters. If the only thing required is the ability to ACT then the actor’s sexual orientation should play little part. The problem lies with casting directors and studios.

    EDIT – I assumed the most vital part for this biopic was going to be the music and Elton John’s career, not his sexuality. If the man himself vouched for Taron and chose him, then him playing the part shouldn’t be questioned.

    • Lilly says:

      There are TONS of openly gay actors who have played heterosexual characters. Neal Patrick Harris, Matt Bomer, Wentworth Miller, Sara Paulson, Wentworth Miller, Jodie Foster, Portia Di Rossi. The list goes on and on.

  3. BANANIE says:

    I love how well-spoken he is! He comes across very well. But then I’m always drawn to people who say “loath to” and people who never write it as “loathe to” (unless they truly hate doing something.)

  4. Lucy says:

    He’s a fantastic actor. I like that he’s receptive and doesn’t play dumb nor acts defensively. It’s good to know he was chosen by EJ himself.

  5. MG says:

    He’s hella handsome and seems sweet. But we’ve all seen that gif of him gazing adoringly at Hugh Jackman so I’ll hold off on calling him straight…

    • minx says:

      Honestly, I don’t know that much about him—I thought he was gay. I don’t even know why I thought that.

    • Alyse says:

      Meh I know a lot of straight guys have massive man crushes on Hugh…

  6. otaku fairy... says:

    I’m not bothered by it, especially since the person he’s portraying approves of it.

  7. BeanieBean says:

    I cannot wait to see this movie. It takes me straight back to high school. I never heard of this actor before, but from the trailers, it seems as though he really embodies Elton John. I get tingles watching him–and I got to see Elton perform twice!

  8. lucy2 says:

    I’m looking forward to this, it looks good, his singing sounds great, and he really looks like a young Elton.
    If Elton is happy with who was chosen to portray him…good enough for me. I’ve only seen him in Kingsman, which I didn’t like, but he seems like perfect casting for this. I can’t imagine who else they could have cast.

  9. Eden75 says:

    If you have seen “Sing” then you have heard Taron sing Elton John songs. If you have not seen “Sing”, then you should and you can be amazed at what an awesome singer he is.

    I am super excited to see this for that reason alone. Taron’s version of I’m Still Standing is the one that is on my playlist. Great actor, great voice!

  10. Jenn says:

    I struggle with this — with “the role should have gone to a gay man,” etc — because, if an actor happens to be closeted (as is often the case in Hollywood), that argument puts a lot of pressure for the actor to open up about his sexuality before he’s ready. To that point, some actors’ representation won’t ALLOW them to be “out,” which is terribly sad.

    In any case, casting a “straight” actor in a “gay” role is not the same thing as whitewashing. And even if the two WERE equal, how would a casting director enforce such a policy?! Start taking actors’ sexual histories, to make sure they’re “gay enough” for roles?? Sexuality is a spectrum, and oftentimes a deeply private thing: it’s really no one’s business whether an actor is “gay enough” to play a part. Bleurgh.