When Bohemian Rhapsody, the popular biopic about the band, Queen, was released last year there were news stories that the movie’s specific references to homosexualiy had been censored in various foreign countries, including China, per Time. Considering how notoriously chaste that film was, the censorship only affected about two minutes of screen time.
With the release of another film about a famous gay rock star, there’s now another, similar controversy, this time in Russia. Rocketman, the new biopic about Elton John, has also had gay-related content removed in the former Soviet Union, per Variety.
The Elton John film, directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton as the rock star, spend much more time on the star’s relationships with men than the Freddie Mercury film did. The film includes multiple love scenes between Egerton and more than one male co-star. Meanwhile, Elton John’s brief marriage in the 1980s to a woman, Renate Blauel, is dealt with in less than one minute of screen time.
The Russian edit of the film removed about five minutes of content, said Variety. This alteration was first noticed when Russian journalists viewed the film on Thursday.
Both Elton John — who is credited as an executive producer on Rocketman— and the production team behind the film issued a statement rebuking 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,” the statement said, per Variety.
Russia cuts Rocketman scenes citing 'homosexual propaganda' law https://t.co/E5jTVyt6Vk
— The Guardian (@guardian) May 31, 2019
“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.”
Russia passed a law in 2013 banning “homosexual propaganda.” Ironically, per The Guardian, Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to Elton John in 2014 as “an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation.” John went on to state that, on a Moscow visit, John had met with LGBT people who had suffered under the law, offering to introduce those people to Putin.
Rocketman tells the story of Elton John’s rise to fame, while also depicting him battling drug and alcohol addiction. While the story ends in the mid-1980s, prior to John becoming more publicly out and marrying his longtime partner David Furnish, the film does depict the singer’s relationships with men, including manager John Reid (Richard Madden.)