Elton John Opens Up on Why Being a Performer 'Saved My Life' (Exclusive)
By Scott Baumgartner
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Elton John says that taking the stage has saved him -- from himself.
ET's Kevin Frazier sat down with the musical legend at the Cannes Film Festival to talk about his career and the upcoming biopic Rocketman, which includes a pivotal moment for the singer: His iconic Dodger Stadium concerts in 1975. The discussion prompted John to open up about another more painful memory.
"Two days before Dodger Stadium, I was having my stomach pumped," he recalls. "I took an overdose and there I was, two days later, at Dodger Stadium with Cary Grant and Billie Jean King having the time of my life."
"You can say that I'm resilient and that's one thing. I'm resilient," he adds. "I wasn't gonna pass by the opportunity of playing that great stadium for two days...It was [the] highlight of my career to play Dodger Stadium, [are] you kidding me! But I was not mentally well before that."
And while it's his resilience that allows John to be a performer, it's performing that saved his life. "Look at Judy Garland for example. She wasn't well, but she came on and delivered," he says. "You have to. That's what you do [when] you're a performer and that's what saved my life -- being a performer."
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'Rocketman' Trailer Shows Off Taron Egerton's Impressive Singing Skills as Elton John
Rocketman's star, Taron Egerton, joined John for ET's interview and discussed singing the GRAMMY winner's classic tracks for the film. "I have to say, in our movie, 'Your Song' is a bit of a triumph as a storytelling moment," he weighs in.
"I'm the one singing, but it's actually Bell's work too," Egerton says of co-star Jamie Bell, who plays John's friend and longtime songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. "He's a beautiful singing partner in the movie and he pays attention wonderfully. It's a real moment, a real celebration of Elton and Bernie's friendship."
John chimes in: "I haven't seen the movie [yet], but I've heard the music and [Taron] has done the most phenomenal job with the music. Our songs are not easy to sing. They're not. They're quite complicated. 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me,' 'Tiny Dancer' aren't straightforward songs to sing. He really put every fiber of his body into that, into the singing, let alone the acting. He's worked double hard."
Cannes holds a special significance in John's career. The premiere of Rocketman is his latest milestone, but it is also where he filmed the music video for "I'm Still Standing" in 1983. When ET reminded him of this, it prompted a thoughtful reflection on his career and overcoming personal demons.
"My life has been a miracle," he says. "It's been a series of serendipity and luck and good fortune and brave decision, but sitting here in this room now, the movie is showing tonight, it is surreal. Because what I've tried to do to myself, I shouldn't be sitting here and I've been very, very lucky in that."
"I suddenly realized that I had two choices: one was to die, one was to live," John explains. "And it took me 16 years to ask for help. To say three words: 'I need help.' Because I was so proud. I knew I had a problem and I was really unhappy with myself, so I was ashamed of myself."
The singer, 72, also shared a plea to anyone who might be suffering from addiction or depression.
"If you have a problem and you're unhappy and sad in your life and lonely, ask someone for help," he says. "They will help you. People help straight away. I was so bowled over by kindness and people wanting to get my life back on track. I had to do a lot of work myself, but people are so kind and so fantastic."