BUZZINE.COM del 05/2006
intervista di Emmanuel Itier
Interview with Elton John
and David Furnish
Emmanuel Itier: Elton, why do you
want to do
filmmaking now? You have done so much in your career, so why produce
this film, It’s a Boy Girl Thing?
Elton John: I have written
screen musicals, stage musicals, and musical scores for films that also
gave me an opportunity to do a deal with Disney to do a film at our
production company, which David has run for some years. During that
time, we’ve only made one film, Women Talking Dirty, but this
me an opportunity to work with my production company.
EI: What have you got coming up?
We have an animated film on the drawing board called Romeo and Juliet
about two families who hate each other. It’s the classic
film. We have had it on the board for a number of years. When
Schumacher left Disney, it’s been on and off for five years.
time was when Pixar came into the picture when Michael Eisner left, and
they had an agenda of their own and didn’t really want to do
Dick Cook, who is now the head of Disney, was a huge ally. He said
we’ve mucked it around. “We want you to go and make
this film in
England, where you should have made it in the first place. Here is a
lot of money. Go and make this film as edgy as you can.”
back. Projects don’t really happen in a year. They take years
off. Movies are a whole different thing. There are so many factors that
could go wrong. You have to be very patient.
EI: Is movie making different than what you do in music,
or is it an extension?
It’s an extension. I love visual. I am a culture di-vulture,
and I love
to be able to be involved in doing things other than writing albums and
doing tours. I am lucky to do it.
EI: Did you write songs for Romeo and Juliette?
EJ: I have already written three songs for Romeo and Juliet, and I am
writing another four.
EI: Isn’t there a variation of Candle in the
Wind in It’s a Boy Girl Thing?
[laughs] Yes, there is a scene where the radio is playing and the girl
hears it, and she says, “Fuck that guy. I hate this
shit!” And she
throws the music out the window. We did it on purpose because you have
to send yourself up. I think of all the songs I have written, people
will probably hear that one in particular and say, “I
don’t want to
hear that played again.”
EI: Do you write music differently when you write for
EJ: Of course--you have to write for what’s on the screen.
It’s the same in a musical.
EI: Did you do all the music for It’s a Boy
We have a soundtrack with Eminem, James Blunt, The Scissor Sisters,
Black Eyed Peas, and Ozzie Ozbourne. It’s a really great
It’s a multi-million dollar soundtrack because I can ask for
favors here and there. Bryan Adams has written a song for us at the
EI: As executive producer, what is your involvement?
EJ: I sit there and do nothing. [laughs] I read the script. I see the
dailies and say, “That’s not funny.”
Furnish: It’s great to have Elton to have an outside view.
great to have the access to Elton who says, “This works, this
performance works, this plays well.”
EJ: To get a multi-million
dollar soundtrack is very unusual. I can pull in a favor. What you need
in a film like this is chemistry between your two lead actors, and,
thankfully for us, it works incredibly well. When I saw the original
first cut without any music, I was crying. It’s an
movie. I am very happy with that. It’s not just American Pie,
love as well. It has a big heart in it too.
EI: This movie is about putting yourself in each
other’s shoes. When have you put yourselves in the
People ask me what I’d like to be if I was reincarnated. You
come back as a woman. You have to find out what the other side is like.
That’s where the humor comes from in the movie.
He’s a football player,
she has to learn how to play football, she wakes up with an
erection…it’s very funny. If I am reincarnated, I
want to come back as
DF: That’s what happens in the film--the boy becomes a
girl, the girl becomes a boy, and they hate each other. They have been
next-door neighbors for years. She is very studious. His parents are
very working-class. He is the star jock at school. They are completely
the opposite end of the spectrum, and all of a sudden they are on a
school trip in other people’s bodies.
EI: Have you two found the secret to a perfect
A secret to a perfect relationship? I think it’s honesty and
communication. And I think, in any relationship, the worst thing you
can ever do is not be open. You can’t keep things inside. It
balanced--it must be a 50/50 thing. Whenever I had a relationship
before David, I never had a 50/50- relationship because of my position.
I am a celebrity, someone who goes around the world playing. I always
took the other person with me. I never had a person who had their own
job and identity. David already had that when I met him, and he fought
for it. He made me understand that to succeed in a relationship, it had
to be a 50/50 thing. I am so relieved that I have found someone like
DF: Elton helped me. I was very good at confrontation in a
professional context, but I was not experienced with personal
confrontation. I grew up in a family where we didn’t fight
much--we got along quite well. So when there were difficult emotional
issues in my relationship with Elton, I initially found it very hard to
express my feelings. I used to keep things inside. He was very good at
saying, “Hang on a minute. I know something’s
wrong. You have to tell
me about it. Get it off your chest.” I said,
“It’s nothing, it’s fine.”
He said, “No, no, get it out.” He helped me with
EJ: And honestly, because we spend so much time apart, because I am
away and he is away with work, it’s communication.
DF: Be honest about your feelings and be honest about your needs.
It’s not easy being a partner for someone like me because I
entrenched in a career. But by the time I met David, I had done a lot
of work on myself. I had been sober for two years. I was in good shape
physically and psychologically, and I was much more mature.
DF: If we had met ten years earlier, it probably wouldn’t
EJ: No way, no way.
EI: Has marriage changed anything, Elton?
EJ: I feel much happier. The day we did it, it was a very special and
It was overwhelming, the amount of support we had from people. I
couldn’t believe it. We walked outside the Guild Hall, and
all the people and press, and people from all walks of life, and we
went, “Wow!” We thought we were going to get
picketed--it’s still not
everyone’s cup of tea. I mean, the world is still changing.
is still a very divided place, and everyone there was so supportive and
EI: Does that mean we are living in more tolerant times?
EJ: It depends where you are. I mean, if we were in Iran,
we’d be dead. [laughs hysterically]
EI: Did you see the opposite side?
We had a couple of nasty letters that people sent to Guild Hall, but
honestly, compared to the other response we got and the other letters,
it was a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket. I do think sometimes that
a very vocal minority who sometimes make the world seem that
it’s a lot
less tolerant than it actually is. I think most people are straight
down the middle. Everyone is like, “They are not doing any
really love each other. Get on with your life.” I was very
being British that day. I was very proud of my country and of being a
British citizen. We didn’t have all this religious hatred
that went on
in some of the churches in Belfast--they got picketed. We
that. I said to David to watch out for the old flour bomb coming our
way, and we didn’t get it. We could have handled that.
EI: Do you think it’s easier for a
heterosexual marriage to last than a gay one?
Relationships are relationships, whether they are female/female,
male/female, or male/male. Again, you go back to communication, the way
you share things. I think a lot of women in relationships are abused. I
think it’s far harder for women to get out of those
is very sad. That’s why a lot of women turn to other women,
they are so fed up with being abused by other men.
EI: Did one of you get down on bended knee?
EJ: I did.
DF: In front of my parents.
EJ: In front of his parents--and the Scissor Sisters. [laughs]
I had no warning. We had agreed it would be a great thing to do on the
first day it was legal, because it’s history-making
waking up one day and being given civil rights that you never thought
you’d have. It was such a seismic shift in the way you look
at life and
how society looks at you. We said, “Let’s do it on
the first day and
applaud this is happening and make a statement for the world, and
hopefully put something out positive about that.” I
didn’t know there
was going to be any proposal or anything like that. And then he
suddenly got down on bended knee in front of my parents. My mother
burst into tears. It was sweet.
EI: With filmmaking and musicals, will you be cutting
down on touring?
At the moment, we are involved in stage musicals. There are four stage
musicals, ie: The Lion King, Billy Elliot…there are four or
on the plate, including a film of my life story, which is being written
by Lee Hall who wrote Billy Elliot, which will be done through Disney.
It will be a musical fantasy movie, like Moulin Rouge meets Tommy.
EI: Who is playing you?
I think, because of the various weight changes in my life, God knows
who! [laughs] I don’t know. It will probably be two or three
Obviously, I would like Justin Timberlake to do something because he is
so great in music videos. I don’t know. That’s up
to the director. It’s
like a musical fantasy movie. But rather than a What’s Love
Got to Do
With It film, or Walk the Line or Ray, which were all three great films
about musicians, we are going to take it a little further. My life has
taken so many twists and turns. It’s been an incredible
football and God-knows-what I’ve done with my life, and I
have to make it into more of a fantasy thing.
EI: Would you like to be a director?
No. I have produced my own record and have a new album coming out in
September. I have the Vegas show. I am turning 60 next year.
EI: How do you feel about turning 60?
I am very excited by it. We have a trick up our stage for my 60th
birthday. David and I thought about it a couple of years ago. It
involves New York.
EI: Elton, you have classical training. Do
you think the fact that so few musicians have classical training has
taken its toll on the standard and quality of music?
am very glad to have had the experience of having a classical
background, because it makes you appreciate all sorts of music. It also
helps you as a writer because, as a keyboard
player, you tend to write with more chords than a guitar, and I think
that has a lot to do with my piano playing and my love of Chopin, Bach
and Mozart, my love of singing in a choir. I think my songs have more
of a classical leaning to them than other artists who haven’t
classical background, and I am grateful for that.
EI: But do you think that has taken its toll on
No, not necessarily. Paul McCartney didn’t have some
training, and he’s
done some pretty wonderful things. My songs tend to veer towards the
classical style because I just like that kind of music and I like that
kind of chord.
EI: But do you listen to pop music?
Yes, absolutely. Classical gave me a good ear and the ability to pick
up things very quickly because you have to. When you are a student, you
have to sing in a choir and learn quickly. Everyone there is so
talented that you have to keep up.
EI: And why are so few people liking musicals now? Why
is it just Andrew Lloyd Webber?
It is tough writing musicals. It’s a long process.
It’s two or three
years of your life. You don’t know what the outcome is going
to be. I
like the process very much because I am a team player. I like working
with other people. But I have always resisted the Yellow Brick
Road/Elton John musical road. I am not a fan of musicals with songs
thrown together with some pretty bad dialogue. I would rather try
something more adventurous, even if it fails, and put my heart and soul
into it, than do something like that.
EI: As a filmmaker, will you venture into more edgy
We have only made one movie--we have made two now. We have two or three
on the go which will be made. The more you do, the more people respect
you, the more you get offered, the more risks you can take.
We like to take risks, which is why we didn’t want to tell
story as a straight-forward documentary. Let’s see if we can
genre and turn it on its head, and make it more like a fantasy story.
He has had such a wonderful life. You can go to so many different
places with it. And in terms of our animated film, Romeo and Juliet,
now that Miramax has picked it up under the Miramax banner, we are not
as restrained under the Disney banner. Again, we want to make something
that’s a little more grown-up, a little more edgy.
EJ: We want
it to be more like “The Office” or a
“Little Britain”, and it can have
that English ironic humor which the Americans don’t
EI: Working with friends or lovers can create friction.
Do you have that problem working with David because you are now married?
I have been very lucky with partnerships in my life. I have been with
Bernie Taupin 39 years. The reason we have lasted that long is because
we gave each other enough rope, we didn’t stifle each other.
example, when Bernie did go away and write with other people sometimes,
even though we were probably hurt and a little jealous with each other,
we didn’t stop it. We let that happen. Because you cannot
EI: What did you think of the criticism of your musical,
Lestat, in America?
I was aware of the criticism. I saw it in San Francisco and thought the
criticism, on the most part, was valid. Then I brought someone in and
worked on it for six weeks, and the difference between San Francisco
and when it opened in New York was astonishing. It’s nowhere
bad as what people say it is. I was thrilled with the score.
degrees from where it was. I have to be totally honest with you now. I
think the reviews that it got in San Francisco…I think
people still had
that idea. I think the PR on the musical was pretty poor from San
Francisco onwards. I think people thought it was a pile of shit and
made their minds up onwards. But then there are a whole lot of people
who have seen it and love it. Like the Guns ‘n Roses band.
Axl Rose has
been and seen it and loved it. He kept telling people,
“You’ve got to
see this musical.” It’s not the traditional kind of
musical. He wrote
me the most beautiful letter telling me how much he loved it. Although
it’s deeply upsetting to get bad reviews, you have to go on.
things I would change if I had the opportunity to do it all over again.
Sometimes you think you know everything, and sometimes you are proved
wrong. I think some of the reviews were unfair and insulting in a way.
People are going to like what they like. But I just think there is a
groundswell of anti-Elton on Broadway because of the idea of Disney,
because I’ve never done anything on Broadway that
hasn’t been done by
Disney or Warner Bros. People on Broadway are very protective of their
territory. They don’t like Disney, and don’t like
Warner Bros. They
like Broadway to be Broadway. And I understand that mentality, but I
think it’s a little jaded. There is a musical on at the
The Driving Chaperone, which starts off by having a go at me and
Disney. It says, “Unfortunately, in the old days we had
by Cole Porter, and now we just have Elton John and Disney.”
Looking back over your career, is there one performance that you think
is your best performance and one that you consider your worst?
I played in Melbourne, Australia once which was a pretty bad
performance. I was drinking a lot in those days. I think I did a
25-minute version of Rocketman where I was going on about the Ayatollah
and the Pope. And the idiots still clapped at the end of it. As far as
good performances, you’re only as good as your last
performance. I did
a charity thing last week in Britain on my own for 50 minutes, and I
really sang well. The great thing about performing is that you never
really know what kind of night it’s going to be. You set
certain standards, but I can’t honestly say there was one
When I went to the Troubadour Club in 1970 and played to 250 people
with a three-piece band and became well-known more or less overnight in
America because of one review in a newspaper in the LA Times, that was
a groundbreaking performance. We had been performing like that in
Britain, but the Americans hadn’t seen it. There are some
remember because of the occasion. Dodger Stadium was incredibly moving,
playing to 75,000 at Wembley Stadium. I am not one to reflect. I am
more thinking about how I can improve.
EI: Where do you see yourself going, in terms of
expressing yourself as an artist?
I’ve given up the idea of trying to write hit singles. I
mean, my last
three albums I have tried to be as honest I can. With Songs from the
West Coast and “Peachtree Road”, and the new album,
which is called
Captain Captain and the Kid (a follow up to Captain Fantastic), I have
tried to be as honest as I can. I am not 30 anymore. I am not going to
go straight to the charts. I get played on certain radio stations in
America, but not much. I am not listening to record companies who say,
“You have to have a hit on your new album.” I am
just going in there
doing what I want. The new album, which was written and recorded in 20
days, is probably the best work I have done since 1976. And
me up because I don’t have the expectations of having a hit
I’ve made my albums, but what happens now is I can have a hit
with 2Pac music, because Eminem will produce a track. I’ve
new Scissor Sisters record with them: I have written Are You Ready for
Love, which was a huge hit single. I can have little things like that
which will keep me interested by doing other projects. After this new
album, the next album will be so different. I am going to be doing an R
& B album with people like Dr. Dre, Eminem–a fusion
my piano-playing and my song-writing, and their production people. I
have always wanted to do that kind of album, but I don’t know
how to do
hip hop or beat. So I am pushing the barriers. Then I want to do an
album with Diana Crawl–a jazz album.
EI: You were talking about your marriage, but is there
anything else you want to see introduced in Britain?
EJ: I would like to see a much firmer step on crime.
EI: What about AIDS? There was so much publicity about
it years ago, and
I think there is not enough money being spent on education. When HIV
started in Britain, it was the Thatcher government in power. It did a
tremendous job of educating people, and we had one of the lowest
infection rates in the western world because of the education and the
money spent on it. I don’t think the current government is
to educate people again. There are so many things going on in the world
that is horrible, but the AIDS academic is not going away. We have the
information to educate people in our hands, but to not to be able to
educate a whole new generation is terrible. The Catholic Church has
been responsible for so many people dying, it’s unbelievable.
genocide. I’m sorry, but it’s true.