Rocketman costume designer talks Elton John and Bohemian Rhapsody comparisons

Elton John is known for his iconic wardrobe, with fans used to seeing him appear on stage covered in plumes of feathers, dressed as Donald Duck, and practically sporting a new pair of sunglasses at every public appearance.

So no wonder the costume designer Julian Day lived out his wildest fantasies when working on the Dexter Fletcher musical, Rocketman.

Putting his own stamp on the Honky Cat hitmaker’s most well-known outfits, the mogul opened up about some of his favourite looks and how he brought the masterpiece to life through fashion.

‘It was fantastic,’ Julian gushed when talking to about his experience working alongside Elton: ‘He’s an incredible artist and getting to represent him on film was a dream come true.’

The star explained how he was given free rein when it came to designing the outfits, and how nothing was vetoed.

‘Elton came down to the set and I did a show and tell for him, and showed him all of the concept drawings, which he loved,’ Julian said.

‘He is a real collaborator and he wants people to get on and do their jobs, he will do that and he expects people to do that as well, so it was great he let us get on and do it and didn’t interfere at all – it was a very brave thing to do, I think.’

And it seems the 72-year-old was more than impressed, especially with a certain pair of shoes.

In the film, a teenage Elton, who is played by Taron Egerton, can be seen buying a pair of eccentric boots, adorned with wings, from a shoemaker (Leigh Francis).

When seeing the creation, Julian revealed how the living legend fell in love, and so he gifted the star a pair.

‘He liked them so I had those made for him,’ he said.

But while they might have been Elton’s favourite piece, Julian opened up on the Pinball Wizard scene, that saw Taron change into six different looks out of the whopping 80 costumes designed for his character alone.

‘That montage is my favourite. I think it really represents what Elton looked like, and I think we really nailed that look,’ he stated.

Describing his technique of making each design his own, the artist continued: ‘I think the thing you look at the silhouettes that Elton used and then you go and look at who designed Elton’s outfit and find out where his inspiration came from – then exaggerate things from there.’

The devil look that we first see Taron in was dripping in Swarovski crystals, which Julian pointed out: ‘Where there’s one crystal you put 20 in its place to make the look bigger and bolder.

‘I used his outfits as the basis for them and then I adapted them to my own designs or created my own designs on shapes and fabrics.’

However, this meant that there was only one version of the costume with Taron previously joking that it didn’t smell the best at the end of the summer shoot.

‘It was a big, orange, lycra suit,’ Julian laughed: ‘But he did very well. He had a special room that had fans to keep him cool and like he’d take it off in between takes – but he did very well.’

He continued: ‘The budget wasn’t massive on Rocketman so we had to be careful with money and not have a lot of repeats.

‘But to make a repeat – trying to place all the crystals in the exact same place is quite a difficult thing to do.’

Elton isn’t the only 70s star Julian has had the pleasure of working with as in 2018 he found himself on the set of Bohemian Rhapsody where he recreated some of Freddie Mercury’s most iconic looks.

‘I think that the whole thing about Rocketman, which was different from Bohemian Rhapsody, is that we weren’t recreating the outfits,’ he said.

‘It was a musical fantasy rather than a biopic, the whole premise was to not recreate the outfits identically. It was very much a film about memory and his memory of his life.

‘Memories are quite deceptive, he saw things differently.’

Yet, everyone knows how Freddie looked at Live Aid, as he went on: ‘The fanbase for Queen is so different from the fanbase of Elton’s.

‘You can’t change Live Aid, you can’t change what he was wearing. They were very particular outfits that Freddie wore – I think the way they shot it you needed those correct costumes to make it believable.’

Comparing the two industry giants, Julian said: ‘I have only ever met Elton once, I didn’t meet Freddie, but from what I can see and what you read about is that Freddie is shy and very over the top, and I guess that’s what Elton is like, shy and exaggerated.

‘There are a lot of similarities.’

He added: ‘Elton used a theatrical side of things on stage whereas Freddie was much more toned down. I think he brought the gay clubwear and mainstream looks onto the stage with him whereas Elton was more operatic and theatre-like.’

‘I think it was easier to disassemble them and reimagine them it was easier on Rocketman,’ he noted.

But despite what he may have thought of his own designs, Julian confessed his main aim of the movie was to please Elton.

He said: ‘I think the biggest challenge was to make sure Elton liked them, when he watched it he needed to feel comfortable, if he didn’t like it then that would be a problem.

‘So that was my biggest challenge really, he had to like them.’

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