Or, at the very least, they don’t condone its sexual and drug-related content. According to Russian critic Anton Dolin, who broke the news on his own Facebook page (via The Hollywood Reporter), “all scenes with kissing and sex between men were cut out.”
The Hollywood Reporter suggests that up to five minutes of content has been excised, including the film’s closing statements that detail how John and his current partner David Furnish have since gone on to raise two of their own children.
Russia’s conservative culture minister Vladimir Medinsky has denied any state interference. “We do not cut anything, I don’t even understand what this is about,” Medinsky told state news agency RIA Novisti, stressing that “everything is decided by the distributor.”
The film’s distributor, Central Partnership, told news agency TASS that the censorship was required in order to comply with Russian laws. While Russia has strict anti-gay laws, making it illegal to promote any “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors, the film carries an 18 rating.
Naturally, John and filmmaker Dexter Fletcher have since released a statement:
“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. 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. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world.”
Their thoughts are similarly echoed by Paramount, who wrote, “We are incredibly proud of the movie that we made, which is told in the way that Elton John wanted his story to be depicted. We are releasing the film in its entirety around the world regardless of rating, but like all studios, we must adhere to local laws and requirements in certain territories in which the film is being shown.”
The irony, of course, is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a longtime fan of John, who praised the singer in 2014, saying: “Elton John is an outstanding person [and] outstanding musician. Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation.”
Rocketman is currently in theaters. Senior writer Blake Goble praised the film, calling it “a vanity project done right; it pops and dresses up an old hat with some much-needed glitz.” Read his full review, revisit the trailer below, and get your tickets.