Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Elton to Appear on Saturday Night Live, Will Buy iPad 2.0 with Skype
Elton John is beaming with bonhomie and has the look of a proud new father about to hand round the cigars as he enters the Beverly Hills hotel suite with his companion David Furnish.
They have both been busy, he says, working on a new musical project that is intended solely for the ears of their son Zachary.
“We’ve been putting music on his iPod and he now has Chopin, Mozart, Carole King, the Carpenters, James Taylor, me, Linda Ronstadt and even Led Zeppelin lullabies,” laughs the flamboyant singer-composer.
Zachary was born in Los Angeles on Christmas Day to a surrogate mother. Both Elton John and Furnish, who were married in England in 2005, contributed equally to the conception, as it were, although Elton is listed on the birth certificate as the father and David as the mother.
“I’ve had the most amazing things happen to me in my personal life and career, but this is the icing on the cake,” says 63-year-old Elton, conservatively dressed in a dark navy suit and crew-necked shirt. “It’s been the most blissful few weeks of all time.
“A lot of people have said I’m a little old, but I’m 60 going on 40. I’m young at heart, I work hard, and I do more shows now than I ever did before. I’ll play football and tennis with him and I’m still an active kind of guy. But David is 15 years younger than me so I may leave some of the physical exercise to him. I have 10 godchildren whom I spend a lot of time with every summer, so it’s not as if I haven’t been around children. I think I’ll do all right.”
Although Zachary already has his own iPod, his dad, surprisingly, does not. “I’m a Luddite,” he acknowledges with a grin. “I don’t have a phone, I don’t have a computer, I don’t have an iPad and I don’t have an iPod. But this is going to be a problem for me because they’re coming out with a Skype iPad in April and I’ve got to get one because I want to see my son when I’m not there – I’ll have to enter the world of technology.”
He knows enough, however, to be the executive producer of a new animated film, Gnomeo and Juliet, with which he has been involved for the past 11 years and which has been produced by his production company, Rocket Pictures.
The comedy takes Shakespeare’s tragic tale of two teenage lovers and retells it – with garden gnomes and a happy ending. Set in Stratford-upon-Avon, the film highlights the rivalry between neighbours Mr Capulet and Miss Montague, who have taken their zeal for gardening to new heights. Gnomeo is an expert gardener while Juliet is a beautiful gnome on a pedestal, kept there by her stern father, Lord Redbrick.
A cast of stars, including Michael Caine, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Matt Lucas, Maggie Smith, Ashley Jensen, Ozzy Osbourne, Patrick Stewart and Dolly Parton, provide the voices, while the soundtrack features new songs from Elton and Bernie Taupin as well as classics such as Crocodile Rock, Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting), Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and Your Song.
The multi-Oscar nominated composer James Newton Howard, who used to be in Elton’s backing band, created the score, which also incorporates iconic John-Taupin melodies including Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Bennie and the Jets among others.
“Romeo and Juliet is one of the greatest love stories of all time and we thought it would be a really good idea to do it with garden gnomes,” says Elton. “It’s quite colloquial and British and very funny.
“I never ever envisaged doing a film about gnomes, but one of the funniest things in my life was when Tim Rice gave me a lyric for The Lion King and it started off ‘When I was a young warthog’. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing? I’m writing songs about warthogs.’ But gnomes, of course, are very popular in Europe and they’re gaining popularity in America. They’re funny characters and they’re great.
“I hope I’ve always had the capacity not to take myself too seriously and I think being able to send yourself up in visual ways as well as verbal ways is great. That’s why I do things like Gnomeo and why I’m going to do Saturday Night Live.
“Artists should never take themselves too seriously. We’re blessed to be who we are. We’re not more important than anybody else, and if you can’t take a joke, then you’re a sad person.”
Elton has another animated project, a musical version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, in the works and is also involved in a film that is being planned about his life.
No decision has yet been made as to who will portray him. “It will have to be someone who can change weight quite quickly because I was very thin when I was young,” he laughs. “It’s fascinating. We’ve talked about it and it depends when the film is made. We’re talking about maybe three of four years’ time, so I think Robert Downey Jr could definitely play me at one point in my life because he’s musical and he sings. He’d be wonderful.”
But for now Elton, who was knighted in 1998, is focused on Zachary. “I have a gnome of my own,” he said. “David and I will be able to steer him in the right direction, but I know he’s going to teach me far more than I could ever teach him.”
The couple have homes in London, New York, Nice and Venice, and are currently living just off Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in a luxury apartment Elton bought in 2007 for £1.6 million. They also own a smaller apartment next door, bought for £1.3 million, which is intended for Zachary and his nanny.
But, says Elton, “David and I are very hands-on. The nanny has one day a week off and we change Zachary’s nappies and feed him. Every night one of us reads him a story – last night it was The Best Nest and the night before it was Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers – and 6.30 is now a sacrosanct time in my life because I spend it solely with my son before he goes to bed.
“When I was growing up in the early Fifties, I didn’t get the tactile love from my father that I will give to my child. I’ll be a very loving parent. All he’s doing at the moment is pooping, eating and burping, so he’s a blank canvas and it’s very lovely to see. He lies there and he has no mortgage worries or thoughts about what he’s going to do tomorrow. We just need to make sure he’s a loving person.”
A lifelong supporter and former chairman of Watford Football Club, Elton is already making plans for baby Zachary’s future as a fan.
“I was talking to the Watford manager Malky Mackay this morning and they’ve dropped off a Watford kit for him at my house in London,” he said. “One of the great things about having a boy is that he’ll be brought up as a Watford supporter. I can’t wait to take him there for his first game.”
Then he laughs: “If he chooses Chelsea, I’m going to kill him.”