Arlene Phillips shares behind-the-scenes secrets of Elton John's 'I'm Still Standing' video

·3 min read
Arlene Philiips worked on the iconic video for Elton John's 1983 hit 'I'm Still Standing' (Getty/UMG)
Arlene Philiips worked on the iconic video for Elton John's 1983 hit 'I'm Still Standing' (Getty/UMG)

Former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Freddie Mercury.

The choreographer spoke to White Wine Question Time host Kate Thornton about the stories behind some of the hit videos she worked on — including Elton John’s 'I’m Still Standing' — which had to be replanned on the spot when health and safety put a stop to the original plans.

She also explained Bruno Tonioli’s role in the quickly re-imagined 1983 video.

She said: "The video, that everybody knows with the painted dancers, came about by accident."

The video should have centered around Elton driving around the south of France in an open top car, with Tonioli in the back.

WATCH: Arlene Phillips on making music videos with Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross

“We found out that Elton was not allowed to travel in an open-topped car coming down the mountain for health and safety reasons," she said.

“So it was quick thinking. I had a friend who had a massive dance school [in the] south of France. I said: ‘Send me all your dancers.’

A still from the music video for Elton John: I'm Still Standing (UMG/YouTube)
A still from the music video for Elton John: I'm Still Standing (UMG/YouTube)

“The director said: ‘Let’s get them body painted’, and everything was choreographed on the spot.

“It was like pouring out instant soup. Right, we’ve got this hotel, let's come down the stairs! We’ve got La Croisette, let's dance along it!

“Thrown together! Choreograph, do it, choreograph, do it.

A still from the music video for Elton John: I'm Still Standing (UMG/YouTube)
Elton John and Bruno Tonioli in a still from the music video for Elton John: I'm Still Standing (UMG/YouTube)

“Bruno Tonioli was supposed to be sitting in the back of the car when Elton drove down the mountainside. Instead we played around."

She joked: “Bruno here, Bruno there, just use Bruno! [He] hates taking his clothes off, hates his body being seen!”

Listen: Arlene Phillips talks learning to believe in herself again after losing Strictly role

Phillips, who was made a Dame in the Queen’s birthday honours this year, also spoke openly about working with stars including Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Duran Duran.

Having worked with Whitney on the video for 1985’s 'How Will I Know', Phillips worked with the star again two years later for 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)'.

UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01:  Photo of Whitney HOUSTON; Whitney Houston performing on stage, profile  (Photo by Suzie Gibbons/Redferns)
Whitney Houston performing on stage circa 1988 (Suzie Gibbons/Redferns)

Phillips said: “There was this bubbly bright Whitney who wasn't afraid to dance, who wanted join in, who sat, chatted to the dancers, had the best fun in the world. And she was absolutely adorable.

“It was watching her believe in herself. It’s really interesting, I don't think anyone realised that she really didn’t have a lot of confidence at the beginning.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Arlene Phillips attends the opening night of MAMMA MIA! The Party at Building 6 at The O2 on September 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Mamma Mia)
Arlene Phillips attends the opening night of MAMMA MIA! The Party 2019 (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Mamma Mia)

“And then her confidence grew, and with that her warmth and her reaching out and allowing people to love her and to love was such a momentous thing.

“To be able to share that and to have seen one side of her and then see her grow, was so beautiful and we had such fun. Two of the best days of my life.”

WATCH: Arlene Phillips opens up on how it felt to become a Dame

Hear Arlene talk about what it was like to work with Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and more in the new episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on Apple podcasts and Spotify.

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