Elton's half-brother Geoff Dwight says the film totally misrepresents their father as cold and unloving: "That's not the Dad I remember."
As fans and critics alike continue to clamor over the Elton John biopic "Rocketman," the iconic singer's much younger half-brother Geoff Dwight is less than impressed with what he sees as its rewrite of his family history.
The film depicts father Stanley as cold and unloving toward Elton, but Geoff insists their father was nothing like he was portrayed. "This coldness, it's a million miles away from what Dad was like," Geoff told the Daily Mail. "He was a product of a time when men didn't go around hugging each other and showing their feelings every minute of every day, but he had plenty of love in him for all of us."
The film also depicts Stanley as disdainful of Elton's burgeoning musical talents, and unsupportive of his aspirations, but Geoff says "he was incredibly proud of Elton and everything that he achieved."
It's worth noting that many of Stanley's coldest moments toward Elton happened before Geoff was born, or certainly before he would have been old enough to remember. The film depicts a scene where Stanley comes home after time overseas and doesn't seem to have missed his son at all, asking about dinner instead.
Geoff says that he "cannot believe that," but it's certainly also possible that Stanley softened as the years progressed, and took a gentler approach to raising his younger children. Geoff was practically a toddler when Elton was becoming a superstar, which could have also had an impact on Stanley's demeanor.
Regardless, Geoff refutes key elements of the film, such as Stanley's lack of support for Elton's interest in music. "Dad bought a piano for Elton and had it sent round to where he was living with his mother," Geoff said. "Dad encouraged all of us to be musical. He was in a swing band himself, so I see no reason why he'd have thwarted Elton."
Again, it's worth noticing that this is speculative language.
He also denied that Stanley had any issues with Elton's sexuality. "Dad didn't have a homophobic bone in his body," he said. "When Elton came out, he didn't care, didn't even mention it because it wasn't important to him." Nevertheless, the film depicts Stanley lashing out at a young Elton when he's caught looking at dresses in his mother's closet.
Geoff and Elton have never had much of a relationship. Stanley moved out when Elton was 14 and the half-siblings didn't spend much time together. As Elton's star began to rise, Geoff found himself on a path that led to the more bohemian lifestyle.
In fact, according to Geoff, it was Elton who was cold about their father when he finally tracked him down to tell him their father was dying. By the time the half-brothers connected, Stanley had passed. "He'd died the day before," Geoff said. "I told him about the arrangements for the funeral and Elton just said, 'No Geoff, I'm not coming.'"
He also recalls another scene in the film differently. When a now-successful Elton comes to see his father and his younger half-siblings, Stanley receives him coldly and ushers the youngest two back in the house immediately because they don't have shoes on. Geoff recalls the visit, too, but primarily because "it was the only time Elton came to see us."
Geoff did qualify his own resistance to the depiction of the father he loved in the film with the possibility he had it wrong. "Dad could have been telling me a pack of lies about his relationship with Elton for all those years," he admitted. "But knowing Dad as I did, I doubt it. He never lied about anything and he and I were close."
More than likely, the truth lies somewhere between the two versions of Stanley Dwight. Elton's memories are clouded by his feelings of hurt and abandonment by his father after their divorce, while Dwight genuinely would not have known the version of Stanley that was when Elton was young and growing into his own.
Nevertheless, "Rocketman" is the version of Stanley that exists in Elton John's mind, and it is the version of Stanley that helped shape him into the man he became. Reality can be subjective when memory is involved, but that makes it no less real for those who live with that version of the person in their minds.