'Rocketman' Blazes Trail as First Major Studio Film to Depict Gay Male Sex

Where other studios have balked, Paramount is leading the way as the first major studio to depict gay male sex onscreen with its Elton John biopic, Rocketman.

The Dexter Fletcher-helmed film, which made its long-awaited debut at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday night, featured multiple scenes with overt gay coupling, including ones between Taron Egerton, who plays John, and Richard Madden (portraying his first gay lover, music manager John Reid). In addition to frank talk about John's sexuality (unlike last year's Bohemian Rhapsody), scenes included men kissing, simulated oral sex and a steamy bedroom scene with both Egerton and Madden unclothed.

Other films have shown a sex scene between two men, including Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain and Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name, which certainly struck a chord with audiences, making $178 million and $42 million, respectively. But neither were ever aimed at broad audiences like Rocketman and were released by specialty labels — Brokeback Mountain by Focus Features and Call Me by Your Name by Sony Pictures Classics.

In the '70s and early '80s, gay male sex occasionally popped up in films from companies that might be comparable to a Paramount today. For instance, United Artists backed the 1980 Al Pacino thriller Cruising, about a serial killer targeting gay men. But in recent decades, the prospect of major studios depicting steamy gay sex has become a nonstarter. Fox's Bohemian Rhapsody didn't feature any despite the fact that its protagonist, Freddie Mercury, was bisexual and died of AIDS-related complications. The 1982 Harry Hamlin starter Making Love also broke ground at the time for depicting a gay male couple. Read more via Hollywood Reporter