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Rocketman's Gay Sex and Kissing Scenes Scrubbed in Russia

Richard Madden

UPDATE: Elton John and the other Rocketman producers released a statement condemning the censorship of the film in Russia:

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. 

A de-gayed version of Rocketman has premiered in Russia.

The Moscow Times reports that scenes involving gay sex and kissing were excised from the Elton John biopic. Even a photograph of John, with his husband, David Furnish, was removed from the closing credits, along with a caption about their relationship and their two sons, Zachary and Elijah.

Around five minutes of the film was removed — including an intimate scene between John (Taron Egerton) and his former lover and manager, John Reid (Richard Madden). Some depictions of drug use were also reportedly nixed.

The alterations were confirmed by Yegor Moskvitin, a critic who had screened Rocketman at the Cannes Film Festival. The film debuts in Russia June 6, but an advance screening was held Thursday in Moscow.

Another critic, Anton Dolin, also criticized the cuts in a social media post. "Only five minutes were removed from the film, but this is very noticeable. This is a fundamental five minutes, very important for artistic design," Dolin said, concluding, "Sorry Sir Elton."

Dolin, who called the cut of the end credits particularly "disgusting," also claimed that representatives from Paramount Films were present at the Moscow screening.

Russia's notorious "gay propaganda" law prohibits public displays of LBGTQ visibility. This law has been used to penalize people for a broad range of acts, ranging from Facebook posts to protests.

However, the country's culture ministry denied any involvement with the changes to Interfax, a Moscow-based news agency. The decision to cut the scenes was made by Central Partnership, the official distributor of Paramount films in Russia, the ministry claimed.

“Indeed, changes were made to the film to comply with the legislation of the Russian Federation,” a Central Partnership spokesperson told Cinema Arts, a Russian magazine.

Both John and Egerton have been vocal about the sex scenes remaining in Rocketman — even if it impacted the film's rating and distribution. "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.

"Those scenes are desperately important when you have an icon of that magnitude, who means so much to one community," Egerton told GQ U.K. in April "[John] has been such a standard bearer. And for me, especially as a heterosexual actor, not to push the envelope as far as I can or try to make it a wholehearted celebration of being a gay man would be wrong."

“It’s a studio movie. It’s Elton John. We’ve got to own that," he continued. "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?”

Tags: film, Elton John

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