If you didn’t recognize Tate Donovan in “Rocketman,” don’t feel so bad.
Even good friends didn’t recognize the “The O.C.” star in the role of Doug Weston, owner of the famed Troubadour club.
“It’s all about the wig. The wig did everything for me,” says Donovan, speaking about his “Rocketman” (out on Blu-Ray Tuesday) role. “I’ve never acted with a wig before, and now I never want to act without a wig. It was the greatest thing on the planet.”
Donovan was presented with the wig just before shooting the scenes featuring Weston welcoming rising star Elton John (Taron Egerton) and Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) to the famed Los Angeles music venue for a landmark 1970 performance that would launch John’s career.
While the Weston wig helped Donovan step into the real-life character, it has led to some incredulous reactions, even from friends.
The man who played Elton John: Taron Egerton shoots for the moon in ‘Rocketman’
First ‘Rocketman’ footage at Troubadour: Elton John, then the musical blasted off from there
“I was getting emails every day, especially when it first came out. People couldn’t believe that was me. Good friends didn’t know it was me,” says Donovan, who tells of a friend of more than 20 years who posted on Instagram raving about “Rocketman.” Donovan gave her a call, jokingly pointing out that he hadn’t received a shout-out in the post.
“My friend was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And I was like, ‘I was in ‘Rocketman.’ She was like, ‘No you are not! The club owner?’ She had no idea,” says Donovan, who was flattered. “That’s like an actor’s dream.”
The portrayal worked for those who knew the eccentric Weston as well. After seeing the film for the first time, Taupin talked to Donovan almost as if he was the club owner, who died in 1999. “Bernie Taupin told me, ‘You were awesome. It was so much fun watching you again.’ “
Donovan says it was a trip shooting the Troubadour scenes, a music venue that he has frequented. The filmmakers rebuilt The Troubadour on the London sound stage and it felt like an exact replica, right down to the wood paneling.
“The only thing that was missing was the smell of spilled beer,” says Donovan. “Other than that, it was perfect. They really nailed it.”
Without the wig, Donovan, 55, is looking fit enough to step into the role of Hercules, the titular character he voiced in Disney’s 1997 animated film. He jokes that if Disney starts up the live-action film, as rumored, he’s ready to take the casting call.
“I’m so there. I’ve started working out with a trainer,” laughs Donovan. “Hopefully, they’ll go with the 50-year-old version.”