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In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Elton John said that his No. 1 pick to play him in his forthcoming biopic is Justin Timberlake, “because he played me before in a David LaChapelle video of ‘Rocket Man’ and was superb.”
We saw that video, which played behind John’s performance of “Rocket Man” during his multi-year Las Vegas run of his “Red Piano” show, and agree that Timberlake did a great job portraying John in the early ‘70s, but he’s not our first choice.
John has already said that he sees the film as a “surreal” look at his life, more in the manner of “Moulin Rouge,” so that instantly gives the casting director latitude. Plus, if John’s thinking Timberlake, who looks nothing like Sir Elton, that frees up any notion of having to find someone who physically resembles him since that can be accomplished with make-up and wigs (or may not be necessary). John also wants the story to end in 1990 when he was 43 and entered rehab, so the actor doesn't have to age too much.
Here are our top 5 choices:
1) Daniel Radcliffe: He just ended a successful Broadway run as J. Pierrepont Finch in “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” and while he’s shorter and slighter than John, he’s got the right look, he can sing, and he doesn’t have to fake the British accent. While Timberlake is rapidly proving that he can play almost any type, and could certainly handle John’s flamboyant stage side, Radcliffe seems a better fit in playing his off-stage, less confident self. And who doesn’t want to see him in a Daffy Duck suit?
2) Andrew Garfield: (remember, physical resemblance is not an issue here) Someone who can go from a Harvard nerd in “The Social Network” to scaling walls in “Spider-Man” has the right blend of vulnerability and swagger to play John. Other than laughing his way through the “Bed Intruder Song,” we’re not sure of his singing abilities. This video hardly serves as an audition tape, but remains good for a laugh.
3) Nick Jonas: No, he’s not British, and at 19, he may be too young to even play a young Elton, but anyone who has seen him knows that his talents lie far beyond The Jonas Bros. He started on Broadway when he was 7, and replaces Radcliffe in “How To Succeed” starting in mid-January. Yes, it’s a stretch, but we think he’s got the intensity and drive that matches John’s early days.
4) James McAvoy: He’s not a great singer (if his warbling in “Penelope” and “Shakespeare Retold—MacBeth)” are any indication, but he’s got the right look and sensitivity. He could also pull off John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. In fact, he may make a better Taupin than John.
5) Jamie Bell: Given that “Billy Elliot” scriptwriter Lee Hall is also writing the script for John’s biopic, and Bell starred in the screen version of “Billy Elliot,” it’s worth considering...but even we have to admit that we'd probably cheat and put Timberlake before Bell.
6) Longshots, but intriguing possibilities: What about Tom Hardy, who can seemingly play anything, or Jared Leto, who may be too old, but can definitely sing? We bet Zac Efron’s agent is dying to get him an audition, but we don’t see it AT ALL. Same with Robert Pattinson.
Who do you think should play a young Elton John?
Follow Melinda Newman on Twitter @HitfixMelinda