We ended up not being especially hot on Dexter Fletcher’s Elton John biopic Rocketman, a film that came in less euphorically bizarre than its quite excellent trailer might have led one to believe (or hope). Still, the version that arrived in American theaters this week was at least complete; as reported by THR, the Russian version of the film was—not entirely surprisingly, given the country’s institutionally homophobic government—chopped all to hell by censors to remove “objectionable” content, like drug use, or the fact that Elton John enjoys kissing or having sex with men.
All told, about five minutes of Fletcher’s movie was cut for the sensitive eyes of Russian audiences. That includes, on a darkly hilarious note, a message at the end of the film, noting that John found happiness raising two children with his husband, David Furnish. (Russian Elton is presumably assumed to be a happily childless bachelor, content to share his life only with his own awkward framing devices.) Fletcher—whose (sort of) last movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, got a similar treatment from Chinese censors last year—and the film’s producers, including John himself, issued a statement today, condemning the decision:
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.