How Elton John Upset Rod Stewart Over ‘Tommy’ Movie Role
Elton John recalled how he managed to upset Rod Stewart – and not for the only time – over the role of the Pinball Wizard character in the Who’s 1975 movie Tommy.
John is seen performing the song “Pinball Wizard” in giant boots as he becomes increasingly infuriated by lead character Tommy, the “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who “sure plays a mean pinball.”
Writing in a new article for the Guardian, John looked back on his movie appearances. “I’ve been very successful writing songs and soundtracks for films," he explained. "But I’ve never been very comfortable with seeing myself on a big screen.”
He said that "amazingly, the director, Hal Ashby, offered me the male lead in Harold and Maude in 1971, but I turned it down: I loved the script, but it seemed like the wrong thing to do at the time. I’ve played myself in a couple of films, none of them exactly Oscar winners: Spice World and a Disney thing called The Country Bears. I suppose my one famous film role was in Tommy, although it didn’t really involve acting, just trying not to fall over while wearing a pair of four-and-a-half-foot Doc Martens.”
He said he rejected the idea of taking the part when it was first offered to him. “They contacted Rod Stewart and I told him to turn it down as well. ‘I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole, dear.’ Then Pete Townshend from the Who rang me and I felt like I couldn’t say no. Rod was absolutely furious: ‘You bitch! You did that on purpose!’ I’ve obviously spent a significant proportion of my life deliberately trying to annoy Rod Stewart – that’s very much the nature of our friendship – but that time it was completely accidental.”
Watch Elton John as the Pinball Wizard
Stewart’s most recent public dig at John came in 2018 when he described John’s farewell tour announcement as “dishonest.” “I did email her and said, ‘What, again, dear?'" he said. "And I didn’t hear anything back!"
Before that, John had joked about Stewart’s series of themed LPs, saying that his own record company had “wanted me to make Christmas albums, cover albums, Motown records, but that's so silly, you know? I'll leave that to Rod Stewart and people like that.”