|Elton John in Gnomeo and Juliet|
When Elton John makes a cameo in the new animation film Gnomeo and Juliet, he’s the first to proclaim that he is "the gnome-o-sexual in the film." In the updated comedic version of Shakespeare’s classic play Romeo And Juliet with a cast of garden gnomes, John’s brief appearance as a gnome is nothing compared to his much larger presence with the music of the film, which is pulled from both classic songs of John’s and Bernie Taupin but also original songs from the duo. One of those new songs includes one that pairs the notoriously flamboyant John with none other than equally flamboyant Lady Gaga.
As an Executive Producer of the film - along with his partner David Furnish, who is a Producer on the film - John has also worked tirelessly for the last 11 years to get Gnomeo and Juliet off the ground. As the film is set to open Friday, cast and crew recently gathered at the Four Season in Beverly Hills to talk to the press, including EDGE’s Jim Halterman.
In Gnomeo and Juliet, written and directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2), the lives of two feuding gnome-filled gardens (one in the home of the Capulets and the other, the Montagues) become very complicated when blue-hatted Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) and red-hatted Juliet (Emily Blunt) fall in love against the wishes of their respective families. Other familiar voices in the hugely entertaining film include Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Jensen, Stephen Merchant and cameos by Dolly Parton and Ozzy Osbourne.
|Gnomeo & Juliet (James McAvoy & Emily Blunt)|
Red and blue gulfWith the United States political opposition often referred to with the colors red and blue, John is the first to say that there is no correlation with the red and blue-hatted gnomes in the film to the real-life climate in this country. That said, he was moved to share, "It saddens me to see a country that I love so much having such a gulf between the people sometimes that they don’t meet in the middle and talk and put their differences aside."
John added an example of how two opposing sides can come together in, of all things, the conflict over same-sex marriage. At a recent marriage equality concert held in Beverly Hills where he performed, the singer talked about, "the two great lawyers who are fighting for this same-sex relationship recognition in California - one is a staunch republican (Ted Olson) and one is a staunch democrat (David Boies) - and yet they met and they both think this is the right thing to do. That is what life is all about. It’s not about hatred."
Returning to talk of the film, how did John wrangle the busy Lady Gaga to record the "Hello, Hello" duet that is featured in Gnomeo and Juliet? John joked, "the Lady Gaga duet came about really by me tying her down and hitting her over the head and saying, ’Will you do this song with me?’" In reality, Lady Gaga was staying with John and his partner David Furnish (also an Executive Producer on the film) during an AIDS benefit held at their home when he asked her to do the song. Gaga said yes but finding open time in their busy schedules was a problem so John said they recorded their portions separately. However, John added, recording apart didn’t hurt the spirit of the song. "She added so much of her own magic to the song," John said, "and she gave it a new life. Obviously it was a duet and I was looking for someone to sing it with and because she’s one of my new best friends and I love her to death, it was nice that she was so excited to do it. So that was a real plus for us, for having to do it, and it worked out brilliantly."
Classic Elton John songs
|McAvoy at the LA premiere of Gnomeo and Juliet|
While the film is set in two opposing gardens, John admitted to not having a big affinity for the art of gardening himself. "I grew up at my grandmother’s house and it [had] a beautiful garden. But I used to hate mowing the lawn and weeding, which is what you do when you’re a kid. I loathed them and I loathe gardening but I love gardens and I have two beautiful gardens. But I cannot bear gardening."
With a career that’s run the gamut of pop music, Broadway musicals and films, John reflected on the day he received a phone call from Tim Rice about The Lion King. "With that one phone call, to suddenly write musicals for the stage, film scores...it just opened the doors to so many things." John said this proves that a career in the entertainment business is anything but predictable. "I don’t know what’s around the corner, and that’s kind of the way I like it. You really can’t plan. My career has not been planned...you never know what gig you’re going to be offered, and that one part in one show or one project can change your whole life."
One unexpected thing that’s recently happened in the 64 year old’s life is the addition of baby Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, who was born via surrogate in December. How are the new Daddies adjusting? "Oh, it’s fantastic," John gushed. "I love the smell of nappies and diapers. Obviously, it’s been the most wonderful thing that probably has ever happened to me after meeting David and it’s really been the most surprising to me is that it’s been very relaxing. Because this little soul that you’re feeding and you’re changing and you’re barfing and you’re telling bedtime stories to is a blank palate, a blank canvas, and all it needs is love and nurturing. It’s just the most wonderful feeling."
Being a new Dad is not going to stop John from touring Europe this summer. How was performing in front of sold out crowds in huge arenas changed for the singer? "I think it’s so much more comfortable for me now," he said. "I’ve always enjoyed and loved playing live. I relish and cherish it more than anything else because you never know what the performance is going to be." He admitted that there are performances that end up being better than others. "Some nights you do a performance and you’re feeling great. Sometimes you’re not as great as you think you’re feeling. Some nights you’re feeling tired and you give a really great performance. It’s the unknown...but as I grow older I’m much more content in my own skin because when I come off stage now, I have a balance in my life."
With so much going on in his personal and professional life, John does have one future film project on his mind - a film version of his life story. "We have a great script already by Lee Hall who wrote Billy Elliot. Obviously it’s not going to be your normal run-of-the-mill film because my life has been kind of crazy and I think it’s important to do a kind of surrealistic look or take on my life."
With everything he’s accomplished in his career, does Elton John has anything else he’d like to conquer? "I don’t really have any more ambitions other than I just want to work and do excellent stuff and enjoy it. I’m enjoying everything in my life. But I think the element of surprise in this business is what makes us really love it because one day you’re sitting by the phone waiting to do something or not doing anything, and the next day you’ve got the chance of a lifetime."
Gnomeo And Juliet opens this Friday in theaters nationwide. For more on the film, go to www.GnomeoAndJuliet.com.