CANNES, FRANCE – Elton John limped into Cannes Thursday for the premiere of “Rocketman,” the much-hyped warts-and-all movie about his wild rock ‘n’ roll years.
The 72-year-old British singer — who once wowed his fans with handstands on his piano — seemed to have difficulty walking as he attended a photo call at the world’s biggest film festival.
Cannes director Thierry Fremaux has hinted that Sir Elton, who has admitted he nearly died from a rare viral infection two years ago, would play at the premiere.
“A piano will be hidden behind the curtain,” he told reporters, with the star also poised to play afterward at a private party on the beach at the French Riviera resort.
But as he arrived for the shoot, the singer was limping heavily on his left side, prompting speculation he may have a hip problem.
Wearing an eggshell-blue suit and matching diamond-encrusted glasses, the showman laughed off the problem.
Instead, he joked with husband David Furnish — who produced the film — and stuck out his tongue at actor Taron Egerton, who plays him.
Furnish said earlier that the movie, which was a decade in the making, is brutally frank about the singer’s struggles with drugs, alcohol and most of all, his own sexuality.
“We didn’t want to compromise the fact we felt it had to be hard-hitting and truthful,” he said.
“I think we would have got a lot more interest (from studios) … if we’d been willing to produce a more sanitized version of Elton’s life.
“That never appealed to Elton,” he said.
“His life has had incredible moments of lightness but also moments of real darkness. We wanted to be very honest about those and not gloss them over.”
Although the film is also directed by Dexter Fletcher — who was drafted in to save the Freddy Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” — and has a thumping jukebox soundtrack, the parallels end there, the filmmaker insisted.
That near-billion-dollar blockbuster was criticized for drawing a veil over much of the Queen frontman’s private life, something that cannot be said of “Rocketman,” Fletcher told AFP.
“Elton is a gay man and we know that, we also know Freddie was gay,” Fletcher added.
The singer, who helped campaign for gay marriage, “gave us his blessing and the strength and the beauty to be honest. It’s real.
While parts of Elton John’s five-decade career was lived in a hazy whirl of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, he set up his AIDS foundation in 1992, months after his friend Mercury died of the disease.
It has since raised more than $400 million.
Speaking to AFP, Fletcher said that despite the huge success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” his real passion was always for “Rocketman.
“This music is the best of the ’70s and ’80s,” he said.
“I did what I had to do (on the Freddie Mercury film) but really my focus was always ‘Rocketman.’ “
Fletcher said the film is not “an official biography,” but instead an expression of John’s own memories which, given his years of hard partying, were sometimes hazy.
“We are inside Elton’s memories of his life. And memories are fallible … things get mixed up and confused,” Fletcher said last month.
The film centers on the flamboyant performer’s relationship with his long-time lyricist and collaborator, Bernie Taupin, who is played by Jamie Bell of “Billy Elliot” fame.
Taupin also appeared on the Croisette on Thursday to support his old friend.
British actor Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) is his lover and manager John Reid, while Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”) is John’s formidable mother, Sheila Dwight.
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