Rami Malek Almost Appeared In 'Rocketman' As Freddie Mercury, Studio Considered PG-13 Rating After 'Bohemian Rhapsody's Success

Rocketman, the Elton John musical starring Taron Egerton, nearly established a connected cinematic universe with last year's Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.Rami Malek, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, almost reprised that role for a small cameo in Rocketman, a connection the film's director said "would have been amazing." And speaking of Bohemian Rhapsody, after that film became one of 2018's biggest surprise hits, Paramount considered turning Rocketman into a PG-13 movie to try to copy the earlier movie's success. They ultimately decided to stick with an R rating, but it wasn't just the studio that was considering the change – apparently the filmmakers and producers thought about it, too.

Rocketman Cameo

In an interview with Gay Star News (via Yahoo UK), director Dexter Fletcher – who directed Rocketman and also came in to replace Bryan Singer as the director of Bohemian Rhapsody – was asked if he thought about adding Rami Malek's Freddie Mercury to Rocketman, and he said yes:

"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!"

John Reid managed both Elton John and Queen; he was played by Richard Madden in Rocketman and Aiden Gillan in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ultimately, not pursuing this cameo was the correct call. While seeing Malek may have been another almost hallucinatory moment in Rocketman, a film that's already packed with them, that cameo likely would have taken the spotlight away from Elton John's story and further linked these two films together in history.

Rocketman Rating Conundrum

Meanwhile, Vulture has a new report about Rocketman's development history and revealed that Wyck Godfrey, president of Paramount's motion picture group, considered altering the rating after Bohemian Rhapsody pulled in $903 million globally:

"We were testing it, going, 'Okay, is there a tamer version that can play just as well and satisfy audiences?' Internally, we looked at scenes, and what you would have to lose to make it PG-13. There was certainly a wobble."

But to hear Godfrey tell it, this wasn't just some studio note coming down from on high. It sounds like Fletcher and the movie's producers were also temporarily tempted by the dollar signs Rhapsody was raking in:

"That's your knee-jerk reaction, of course. You work in a big company and everyone's like, 'Look what that's doing. We should chase that.' By the way, it was a wobble that took place with the filmmakers and producers as well. But pretty quickly, we came back around to the fact that we committed and believed in this movie before we knew what Bohemian Rhapsody was going to do. It's always better to lead than to follow."

These are fascinating pieces of trivia, and I think it's safe to say they made the correct call in both instances. While Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody seem destined to be compared to each other forever, time will allow each of them to stand on their own, and that bond would have been more difficult to break if one of the lead characters from one movie appeared in the other, even briefly.