Two of the biggest musical biopics of the past year almost came together in a major way. It is hard to ignore all the similarities between the newly released Elton John biopic Rocketman and last fall's awards season juggernaut Bohemian Rhapsody — both are rock docs centered on queer artists in '70s and '80s, and both share characters and a director — and they nearly overlapped even more. Rocketman almost had a Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury cameo, director Dexter Fletcher revealed in an interview with Gay Star News.
Adding to all the obvious similarities between Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody is that both rock docs were directed by Dexter Fletcher. Bryan Singer directed the bulk of Bohemian Rhapsody, but he was replaced by Fletcher towards the end of the film's production due to allegations of unprofessional behavior on set, and Fletcher was also working on Rocketman at the same time he was brought onto Bohemian Rhapsody. With Fletcher behind the reigns of both Elton John and Freddie Mercury's stories at the same time, he feasibly could have thrown a winky cameo into one of them to further connect the two films. After all, both movies are set in the same time period and even include the character of music manager John Reid in major roles — Reid, who managed both Elton John and Queen in the '70s, is played by Richard Madden in Rocketman and Aiden Gillen in Bohemian Rhapsody.
And apparently, Dexter Fletcher actually was planning to include a short scene with Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Rocketman. Fletcher said that he planned out a scene where Freddie would wave to Elton from across a restaurant, but he wound up cutting the scene for fear it may pull the audience out of the movie:
There was an idea I had one point, where Elton's in a restaurant with his mother. I thought John Reid and Freddie could be at another table and they wave at each other. That would have been amazing, [but] it didn’t come to pass. It would’ve been a little too knowing… I'm not looking to set out to make a cinematic universe!
The scene in question would have likely come towards the end of Rocketman, when we see a fame-addled Elton John having a particularly tense dinner with his mother at a fancy restaurant.
Despite all the similarities between the two movies, Dexter Fletcher clearly thought it was important to keep their subjects separate to do their stories justice. And Rocketman really does feel like a totally different film from Bohemian Rhapsody in terms of tone and spectacle. While Bohemian Rhapsody featured realistic performances by Queen during their rise to success, Rocketman elevated Elton John's life story by including fantastical, colorful performances interjected into the film. Also, Rocketman star Taron Egerton actually re-recorded all of Elton John's hits for the movie, whereas Rami Malek performed to Freddie Mercury's real voice.
Although this little crossover did not work out, it is still cool to know that it actually did nearly happen.