Make a Classic Rock Cinematic Universe, You Cowards
This weekend, Rocketman passed $100 (£79) million at the box office, which is pretty impressive considering it's an R-rated musical, and also a solid showing, given the film's $41 (£32) million budget. A few months ago, Bohemian Rhapsody passed an astounding $900 (£710) million at the box office as it was bafflingly nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
It's safe to say that people really fucking love classic rock biopics—enough so that this could be the formula for a new wave of Hollywood successes. In fact, these numbers are somewhat comparable to the trend that's currently dominating the movie business: Superheroes. Bohemian Rhapsody's box office success is actually far better than a little movie called Iron Man, which kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008.
So, I ask: If kids have their MCU, where the hell is our CRCU, our Classic Rock Cinematic Universe?
Yes, Bohemian Rhapsody was an absolute disaster, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't have been thrilled to have seen Rami Malek and his bad teeth appear on screen with Taron Egerton's Elton John. This idea was briefly considered by director Dexter Fletcher when he was making Rocketman. As the director told Gay Star News:
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!
Why not, Fletcher? Every movie studio in Hollywood is trying to create a cinematic universe. There have been failed attempts at a Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe, and a DC Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros. is actively building out its Harry Potter universe. Universal will keep making movies in the world where Jurassic Park exists. Star Wars will never end. And, of course, the MCU is entering its next phase after the climactic Avengers: Endgame.
Fletcher even told Gay Star News that if he makes another rock biopic it would absolutely be a Madonna movie. And good lord do I want to see the great Madonna and Elton John feud recreated on the big screen.
Look, Hollywood is very clearly out of new ideas. Everything in theatres will soon be a reboot or a sequel or a prequel. The only film in the top 10 highest grossing movies of the year that's not a reboot or a sequel is Jordan Peele's Us. So it seems somewhat surprising that studios aren't clamouring at opportunity to crank out movies that seem like new ideas but are not, in fact, anything original.
What are the only challenges facing these other cinematic universes? Well, for Marvel at least, they must gamble on relatively lesser known comic book characters and figure out a way to write them into their greater story. How do you get X-Men and the Fantastic 4 into the MCU now?
With the CRCU, that's not a problem. We already know people love Madonna. We know that the Rolling Stones are more invincible than The Hulk or Captain Marvel. We already know Guns N Roses is still headlining festivals in 2019 for some reason. We know how these potential biopic subjects exist in the universe that we currently inhabit. In fact, the crossover already quietly happened in Rocketman, as John Reid (who was played by Aiden Gillen in Bohemian Rhapsody and Richard Madden in Rocketman) managed both Queen and Elton John at the height of their careers.
It's truly shocking that—for an industry that's built upon lazy ideas that make millions of dollars—no studio has stepped in to make the CRCU a thing. Sure, procuring rights to all of these living artists' lives would be a nightmare bordering on impossible since there's no easy way to gobble them up under one roof (as Disney has done), but more miraculous things have happened in Hollywood before.
Either way, if we're going to be doing classic rock biopics now, let's maybe do them right. Give me separate David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young biopics followed by an ultimate CSNY team-up film. Give me a biopic of each of the Beatles, then show me Elton John's November 28, 1974 Madison Square Garden concert when John Lennon joined him on stage. Yes, I want to see Egerton and, I don't know, maybe Robert Pattinson as Lennon performing "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", and "I Saw Her Standing There." I want to see a Prince biopic that crosses over with an Amy Winehouse biopic that ends with a crossover between Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne biopics for their 2004 performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Do it, Hollywood, you cowards.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.