‘Rocketman’ could be the best kind of challenge for the ‘Jurassic World’ star.
Bryce Dallas Howard is about to make a leap into her next big cinematic venture, and this time, it’ll be of the singing, dancing, and even (somewhat) truth-based variety. Howard has joined the already stacked cast of Rocketman, the ambitiously fantastical take on Elton John‘s life that we’ve been waiting years for.
As Variety reports, Howard will act alongside the likes of Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Jamie Bell (Jumper), and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) in Rocketman. Each of these actors will depict key players in John’s legacy. Egerton is set to play the eponymous pioneering musician, Bell is lined up for the role of principal lyricist Bernie Taupin, and Madden will fill the shoes of long-time manager and ex-lover John Reid. As for Howard, she is due to portray John’s mother, Sheila Eileen Farebrother (née Harris).
John’s mother played a significant role in planting the seeds of talent during the musician’s early years. Both of John’s parents were actually musically inclined, and his father, Stanley Dwight, was even a trumpet player for a semi-professional band that performed at military dances. But John was specifically introduced to rock & roll music through the Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets records that Farebrother brought home.
After a rocky childhood fraught with domestic arguments and a physically absent father, John’s parents divorced when he was 14. His mother later remarried painter Fred Farebrother, and together with John, the family moved into an apartment in London. That flat became the site of many a songwriting session between John and Taupin. They would go on to pen many of the musical hits that characterized John’s career, including “Your Song,” “Skyline Pigeon,” “Levon,” and “Tiny Dancer.”
John’s mother continued to support his professional endeavors throughout her life. The duo had a falling out later during the late 2000s but reconciled before she passed away last December.
Overall, the relationship between John and his mother fostered the musical prowess the public grew to love, and Howard has her work cut out for her. And let’s get a potential concern out of the way: yes, Howard is actually only eight years older than Egerton in real life. But movie magic will happen and these actors have to be aged up or down multiple times to really cover a broad enough section of John’s acclaimed and long-running career either way.
Yet putting those technical logistics aside, as far as Howard’s skill goes, such a motherly role doesn’t feel out of place alongside Howard’s recent endeavors like Pete’s Dragon and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. In fact, even her earliest breakout role in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village serves as the perfect precursor to such an empathetic part.
Of the three films, The Village allows Howard the most room to explore a tender character due to the nature of its relationship-driven story. Even as the movie draws closer to the classic outrageous Shyamalan twist at the end, Howard never loses grip of her implicit, grounded performance. She doesn’t dip into bad melodrama for a second even when the confines of her character’s reality begin to crumble around her.
That kind of realness in Howard’s performance is present in her decidedly less lovable roles too. The shrillness of Hilly Holbrook in The Help, the cruel irresponsibility of Rachael in 50/50, and the frantic perfectionism exhibited in her showstopping Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” may appear light years away from the role of a caring single mother.
Yet – and this should go without saying – the role of a mother should be as three-dimensional as anyone else. If anything, Howard’s darker characters remind us that she isn’t just in this business to be likable and naïve and predictable. And as Rocketman fully intends to explore the “less wonderful” experiences in John’s life along with the glitz and glamor, her brand of versatility will become a real asset to the production should she appear substantially in the movie.
Of course, Rocketman wouldn’t be half as exciting if it didn’t also bring something new to the table for its stars. Howard has never sung onscreen before (nope, she was not the voice behind the viral hit “I Am Not Jessica Chastain”). However, her roots as a performer do stem from theater, and she has at least appeared in one stage musical, A Tale of Two Cities. She even recorded vocals for the concept soundtrack of the production. This will come in handy should Egerton’s promise of more singing cast members in Rocketman actually be a reality. We have no reason to believe anyone will be left out of busting out a tune.
Furthermore, the biopic genre will also be a new arena for Howard. Considering how many actors are out there gunning for real-life parts to chew scenery with, the fact that she hasn’t yet played a biographical role is surprising. That said, creative liberties will be taken by Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher (Bohemian Rhapsody) and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) to produce a “fantasy musical” rather than a straightforward biopic, and this may affect the true biographical nature of the film in the end. Regardless, paying homage to someone so vital in a musical legend’s career is no mean feat, and Howard will be plunging into the deep end in a film with such a noteworthy subject.
Really, bless the existence of Rocketman anyway. It could be an ideal opportunity for Howard’s multifaceted talent arsenal to really shine.