Metro Weekly

Russia deletes gay sex scenes from Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman’ over “gay propaganda” fears

Distributors feared falling foul of Russia's ban on "gay propaganda"

Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocketman — Photo: Paramount Pictures

Cinemagoers in Russia who see Elton John biopic Rocketman won’t get to see the film’s steamy gay sex scene.

Forty seconds of footage showing Elton John (Taron Egerton) and manager John Reid (Richard Madden) having sex for the first time has been excised by Russian censors, Gay Star News reports.

The scene — which Elton John reportedly demanded be kept in the final version of the film — is among five minutes of footage cut from Rocketman before its June 6 release in Russia.

All instances of gay sex or relationships — including kissing and oral sex — have been deleted from the film, according to those who attended the film’s premiere in Moscow this week.

Censors even removed a photo of Elton John and his husband David Furnish, which appears in the film’s closing credits.

In addition, scenes showing drug and alcohol abuse were also cut — which only further hampers the version of the film being distributed in Russia, as Elton John’s downward spiral into substance abuse is a central part of the narrative.

Russian website Interfax says that the film’s distributor Central Partnership censored the biopic to avoid falling foul of Russia’s “gay propaganda” ban, which prevents the promotion of homosexuality or homosexual relationships.

However, Russia’s Ministry of Culture claimed that it had no part in the decision to cut the scenes, with a spokesperson saying it was “solely a decision of the company that rolled the tape.”

Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” caused worldwide outrage when it was introduced in 2013.

The law prohibits any distribution of material that condones homosexuality, portrays it as “normal,” or presents it in a positive or value-neutral light. The law is intended to protect minors from being exposed to any information that contradicts or undermines “traditional family values.”

Last year, a teenager was found guilty of spreading “propaganda of homosexuality among minors” and fined 50,000 rubles after posting pictures of partially nude men on social media.

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights called the law discriminatory, and ordered Russia to compensate three LGBTQ activists who sued over the law.

The court said that the 2013 law “had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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