Elton John and 'Rocketman' Filmmakers Slam Russia's Cuts of Sex and Drug Scenes
Russian critics have reported that at a Moscow preview of the film, which will be released across Russia next Thursday, at least five minutes had been cut, including a sex scene between Taron Egerton (who plays John) and Richard Madden (who plays his manager, John Reid).
The closing credits had also been amended to drop references to John's relationship with husband David Furnish.
Anton Dolin, one of Russia's best-known film critics, said in a Facebook post that "all scenes with kissing and sex between men were cut out."
Critic Misha Kozyrev also reported that scenes involving drugs had been cut from the film.
In a statement released today, John and the filmmakers said:
"We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor 'Rocketman' for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today. Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all. That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world."
Local distributor, Central Partnership, told news agency TASS that the film had been amended to comply with Russian laws. Russia has strict anti-gay laws that make it illegal to promote "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors, but since the film has an "over 18 only" classification, additional edits seem unnecessary.
Paramount released its own statement Friday:
We are incredibly proud of the movie that we made, which is told in the way that Elton John wanted his story to be depicted. We are releasing the film in its entirety around the world regardless of rating, but like all studios, we must adhere to local laws and requirements in certain territories in which the film is being shown."
Russia's official stance is notoriously anti-gay, but Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the singer mixed praise in 2014, saying, "Elton John is an outstanding person [and] outstanding musician. Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation."
Both John and Egerton were adamant about keeping in the film's sex scenes, which are the first gay male sex scenes in a major studio release.
"Some studios wanted to tone down the sex and drugs so the film would get a PG-13 rating. But I just haven't led a PG-13 rated life," John wrote in The Guardian before the film's release.
Egerton knew that wouldn't play well in Russia, telling GQ UK in April, "I don’t care how well the film does in Russia. It doesn’t matter. It can’t matter. What’s an extra $25 million at the box office? What are you willing to do for that? Sacrifice sleeping at night because you watered the whole thing down?”