The Sunday Conversation: Elton John


Elton John will be up for a Golden Globe for song for “Hello, Hello” (co-written with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin) from the film “Gnomeo & Juliet” on Jan. 15. John’s third Globe nod comes amid a whirlwind of activity for the 64-year-old pop legend.

Your nominated song is a duet with Lady Gaga, whom I know you are very artistically simpatico with. How did that happen?

When she asked me to do the [2010] Grammys, one of her songs merged into “Your Song,” and I left it up to her. I said, “We’ve met before, but this is your moment on the Grammys. Tell me exactly what you want me to do.” It was such a fun thing. I was kind of like that at the beginning of my career. I dressed outrageously, and I didn’t care about boundaries.


It wasn’t like handing over the torch, but it gave her my blessing, because it’s nice to endorse young people. She was doing pretty well before that, but it was like me saying to her, “I absolutely love you, and you go ahead and do what you want to do because you do it great.” That happened to me with people like George Harrison and Neil Diamond.

I know you’ve been working on a biopic. Is that still in the works?

That’s very much in the works. We’re making an announcement about that very, very soon. We have a director on board, and then it’s just going to be a matter of getting the script exactly the way we want it. Lee Hall has written a script — he wrote “Billy Elliot” — and then we’ll start trying to cast and plan.

And who will be you?

I don’t know. I’ve got a wish list of people. No. 1 on my wish list is Justin Timberlake, because he played me before in a David LaChapelle video of “Rocket Man” and was superb.

So that would be a jukebox musical in earnest?


That would be a jukebox musical in earnest, maybe with a couple of new songs. You never know. Because it’s going to be a surreal look at my life, and not just a factual look at my life, more in the manner of a “Moulin Rouge!” I just don’t want it to be a normal biopic because my life hasn’t been like that. And it only goes up to when I go into rehab in 1990. It starts with me going into rehab and ends when I come out.

Same director as “Moulin Rouge!”?

We tried to get Baz [Luhrmann], but Baz is so busy. We can’t announce it yet, but we have got someone on board that we’re very excited about.

HBO is airing Cameron Crowe’s documentary on the making of “The Union,” your latest album with Leon Russell. Do you know when that’s airing?

I think in February.

How did your collaboration with Leon Russell on the album come about?

He was my idol in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. I toured with him and then we seemed to go in separate ways. And I was in Africa about three years ago, and I was listening to his CD, and I got very emotional and I just said to my partner, David [Furnish], “I need to find this guy and go have dinner with him.” I found him, and I haven’t talked to him for 38 years and eventually I said, “Would you like to make a record?” I just wanted Leon at his age to get the recognition that he deserved as a songwriter and artist and performer. “The Union” came in at 3 on the Billboard chart, and this year he became a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Everyone remembers him now. He’s one of the American great songwriters, and I just wanted him to get his respect back, and he has got that now. We manage him now; my company manages him. He has a good future now. And before that, he was in the wilderness, and I just wanted to bring him back from the wilderness and introduce him to a generation of people who didn’t know who he was.


I understand you’re going into the studio soon. But you’ve said you don’t need to make pop records anymore.

Yeah, I’m going in January. I have the lyrics from Bernie, and I’m very excited about them. I haven’t any clue what the songs are going to be like because I haven’t written them yet. I’m going to try to write them in Honolulu in January in my hotel room on an upright piano. If not, I’ll be writing in the studio.

When I say I don’t have to write pop songs anymore, there’s no way I’m going to get on the radio at 60 years of age unless I’m doing a duet with Gaga or I was on “All of the Lights,” which was a Kanye West record that managed to get on the radio. As Elton John, my days on pop radio are over, and I know that and I accept it and I’m not unhappy about it. It’s a different time of my life now, and it gives me the freedom to do whatever kind of music I want to do. And it may end up being pop, but I don’t know. There’s no pressure for me to go out there and say, I’ve got to have a top 40 hit because it’s not going to happen.

So your son, Zachary, turned 1 on Christmas?

We had a great year, but this is the icing on the cake. I’ve been with my partner for 18 years, and we’ve had our son. He’s been traveling with us; he’s coming to Hawaii with us, he’s coming to Los Angeles with us. I love him so much. It’s a different kind of love for your child than you have for your partner. Everyone kept saying that, and now I realize that, having had Zachary. He’s the light of our lives. I’ve had an amazing professional life, personal life, but at 64 to have a son who gives us that much love and enjoyment is, wow!

Is there any news about your Oscar party?


We haven’t really thought about it yet. We have to put our minds together and think. We’ve got two or three ideas, but we’ve just got to sort it out very quickly. It’s our 20th one this year, so we’re very, very excited.