The true story behind Elton John's strained relationship with his mother, Sheila Farebrother.


After downing a swig of whisky, Elton John hopped into a phone booth and dialled his mother’s phone number.

“I’m a homosexual,” he told her through tears.

“I know,” his mother Sheila Farebrother responded, before telling him to keep the news to himself.

“You’re choosing a life of being alone forever. You’ll never be loved properly.”

The relationship between Elton John and his mother is a theme that runs right through new film Rocketman.

Take a look at the trailer for Rocketman below. Post continues after video.

Throughout the movie, Sheila Farebrother (played by Bryce Dallas-Howard) appears to both despise and ignore her son (played by Taron Egerton) in equal measure.

And in reality, their relationship was much the same.

From his difficult childhood to long periods of estrangement, Elton John’s relationship with his mother has long been strained.


Although the pair struggled with their relationship in earlier years, it’s believed things began to turn for the worst at the civil partnership ceremony of John and his now-husband David Furnish in 2005.

According to The Sun, Farebrother was told she couldn’t appear in any of the photos at the event because she refused to wear a hat.

“That didn’t go down well with Furnish because he wanted it to be the Wedding of the Year,” she said.

Elton John and David Furnish. Image: Getty.

Two years later, the relationship reportedly suffered another blow when Fred, Farebrother's husband and John's step father passed away without a visit from the much-loved performer.

“I think [Fred] was just hung on thinking that Elton would come to see him and he never did,” Farebrother explained.

But it wasn't until 2008 that John cut off communication completely with his mother.

A fight between the mother and son broke out when John demanded she cut ties with two of their oldest and closest friends – Bob Halley, who previously worked with the singer and John Reid, John's former manager and partner.

After refusing to cut ties with the two men, Farebrother instead lost complete contact with her son.

They didn't speak again for eight years.

"I told [John]: 'I'm not about to do that and drop them. Bob is like a son to me. He has always been marvelous to me and he lives nearby and keeps an eye on me,'" Farebrother told the Daily Mail. "Then to my utter amazement, he told me he hated me. And he then banged the phone down. Imagine! To me, his mother!"

“He told me I thought more of Bob Halley than I did of my own son,” she added.

ewlton john mother
Taron Egerton as Elton John and Bryce Dallas-Howard as Sheila Farebrother in Rocketman.

"I said to him, ‘And you think more of that f*cking thing you married than your own mother,'" she said of John's husband David Furnish.

In the same interview, Farebrother said that she'd like to "give Furnish a punch right on the bloody earhole."

John wasn't afraid to talk abut their disagreements either.

"I don't hate her, but I don't want her in my life," he said in an interview.

It wasn't until 2015 that the pair began talking again, after John paid for his mother's hip replacement.


Two years later, in 2017, Farebrother passed away, aged 92.

"So sad to say that my mother passed away this morning. I only saw her last Monday and I am in shock," John wrote online at the time.

"Travel safe Mum. Thank you for everything. I will miss you so much. Love, Elton."


It was later revealed that Farebrother left half of her estate to Bob Halley, leaving just family photos and two ceramic urns to her only son. The will was said to be changed just three weeks before she passed away.

Speaking to CinemaBlend about playing Farebrother in Rocketman, actress Bryce Dallas Howard shared how she learned more about their relationship ahead of her role.

"I not only struggled to connect, I questioned it. A lot. I had a lot of questions for production, but what I was interested in was hearing about Sheila from people who were not involved in the production," she explained.

"So I had a lot of confidential conversations, and again and again and again, heard stories where I realized that it was actually worse than what it was on the [script] page," she continued.

"It’s not that it tipped over into abuse. But it was absolutely chronic cruelty. It was an incredibly toxic, dysfunctional relationship."

Rocketman will play in cinemas Australia-wide from Thursday 30 May, it is rated M. 

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