Taron Egerton as Elton: 'It was hard for him to look in the mirror'
Taron Egerton’s Golden Globe-winning turn as Sir Elton John in Rocketman called on him to sing, dance and age convincingly by around 40 years.
Luckily, the 30-year-old Welshman had the help of Oscar nominated make-up artist Lizzie Georgiou to make him look the part.
It clearly did the trick, bagging him best actor in a musical or comedy at last night’s star-studded event.
The designer from Haringey, north London, says there was never a moment when Egerton let actor vanity get in the way of embodying the 72-year-old musical legend.
She tells Sky News: “I think it would’ve been really hard for Taron to look at that in the mirror. But he knew he had to do it for the part. And it helped him really feel it too.
“I think that’s where actors give away their vanity, because they can see in the mirror that it’s going to help that character.”
Egerton has since said playing Sir Elton was “the best experience of my life”, and now lists the artist as one of his friends.
But to convincingly tell the story of Sir Elton’s life, the film needed to delve into the darker parts of his journey as well as the light.
And that required the use of a bald-cap, make-up, wigs, and 10 prosthetic pieces, including eye bags, crow’s feet and nose to mouth labial lines.
Rather than balking at the challenge, Egerton was so keen to perfect the look, Georgiou admits: “Once I’d met Taron he didn’t want me to go”.
She describes the 12-week shoot as a “roller coaster ride” through Sir Elton’s life, with the make-up helping the actors access a different set of emotions in their roles.
“I felt that a lot with Taron and Jamie Bell [who plays lyric writer Bernie Taupin]… You could just see them changing in the mirror – the way they’d hold themselves and the way they’d look at you through that make-up – it was very different”.
One of the things Egerton had to sacrifice for the part was his crowning glory.
Georgiou explains: “Taron already knew they would have to cut his hairline back for part of the film. I shaved part of Taron’s hairline and took hair out of the back of his head to give him that male pattern baldness. He was very good about it.”
She says the emotional journey was always king, taking priority over fashion or aesthetics.
“You couldn’t make it about beauty make-up. We had to be real. And that was one of the things that Elton wanted, and so did Dexter [Fletcher, the director].
“We discussed whether Taron was going to shave his head or not, because it’s quite a big part of Elton’s life when he lost his hair and went for surgery for it. It didn’t work and then he started to wear other hair pieces. It was a drastic thing for Elton to deal with.”
The film moves through four decades, assisted by a troop of dancers who help show the movement of time. Each dance number bookends around five years of the story.
Lizzie says she devised five looks for her leading man: “Elton develops from this young man who’s got a little bit of a Beatles look into the pop star that he became when he went to LA.
“There he has a big lifestyle – the hair got bigger and of all his clothes got louder.
“Then then you get to the point where he’s doing the drugs and the drink and he’s not able to sustain that lifestyle and decides to put himself into rehab.”
It’s that low point in Sir Elton’s life that the film uses as a framework to tell his story.
As one of the executive producers, Sir Elton himself even dropped in on the set.
Georgiou got her chance to meet him while the dancers were rehearsing a fairground scene: “They put up a little tarpaulin up for him and he sat in that in the coolest bit that he could be in because it was one of the hottest days of the year.
“I had a little stare at his face to try and see if there was anything that stood out more to the eye when you met him for real rather than just in photographs.”
She says two things took her attention: “The little gap in the teeth – the lucky gap – and the eyebrows which always show above all the glasses. Taron had much finer eyebrows than Elton, so that was one of the things I took away from our meeting.”
Georgiou says she thinks Egerton did a cracking job.
“For a 28-year-old actor [Egerton’s age at the start of filming], taking on the task of playing one of the most famous artists in the world and also carrying through those different stages of his life as well, it was a massive job for him to take. And I think he pulled it off really well.”
Rocketman has been short-listed for a make-up and hairstyling Oscar. The rest of the Academy Award categories will be announced on 13 January 2020.