The new Elton John biopic Rocketman, due to be released in NZ on May 30, looks set to be banned by Chinese censors for its depiction of gay sex.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this morning NZ time and has been hailed for being the first major studio release to show gay male sex on screen.

Starring Taron Egerton as Elton John and Richard Madden as John Reid, Elton's first gay lover, the film has scenes of men kissing, simulated oral sex and a scene showing the first time Elton has sex with a man.

Although there have been other films that contained similar scenes, such as Brokeback Mountain and Call Me By My Name, they were never aimed at broad audiences and were released on specialty labels. Rocketman is being released by movie giant Paramount.

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Rocketman's unflinching love scenes are in stark contrast to Bohemian Rhapsody, which was criticised earlier this year for failing to include gay sex despite telling the story of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.

Even that film was heavily censored in China with officials editing out any suggestion that Mercury was gay, leaving it highly unlikely that Rocketman will ever reach Chinese audiences.

The film tells the story on Elton John's love for music manager John Reid. Photo / Supplied
The film tells the story on Elton John's love for music manager John Reid. Photo / Supplied

Lead actor Taron Egerton recently told Attitude magazine that he treated his scenes with co-star Richard Madden with "love, care and affection".

On shooting Elton John's first kiss with John Reid, Egerton added: "The rawness of that experience, the fear of that experience, but also the joy of the experience of Elton's first kiss… it's electric, it's exciting, your stomach is doing somersaults."

Speaking about the scene that shows Elton John first having sex with Reid, Egerton said: "They were falling in love and it's beautiful because it should be.

"We didn't want to play like they were a couple who were eventually going to fall apart, we wanted to play it like two guys in their early 20s who are falling in love and who are incredibly sexually attracted to each other."

Actor Taron Egerton, left, and singer Elton John pose for photographers at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo / AP
Actor Taron Egerton, left, and singer Elton John pose for photographers at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo / AP

Heterosexual Egerton has faced some criticism for taking on the role but believes his casting as the gay musician is "inclusive and progressive".

The 29-year-old star said he can "understand" why his casting could have disappointed some members of the LGBTQ community who would have wanted the part to go to an openly homosexual actor.

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But Taron insists it is his job as an actor to play characters who are different to himself and he feels "proud" to not only have got the job but to have been selected by Elton John himself to tell his life story.