IT’S almost as if Elvis Presley never left the building.
Nearly 45 years after his death, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll is back – on the big screen, at least.
Nearly 45 years after his death Elvis is back – on the big screen – pictured Austin ButlerCredit: Alamy
Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis is released next monthCredit: Getty
Tom Hanks plays Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom ParkerCredit: Alamy
Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, Elvis, is released next month, eight years after the Moulin Rouge director first suggested he would make it.
Here Kate Jackson looks at what we can expect when Elvis rock ’n’ rolls into cinemas . . .
ELVIS tells the story of the singer’s rise – from discovering gospel music as a child to achieving global superstardom in his 20s – all as seen through the eyes of his domineering manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
Parker, who managed Elvis for more than two decades, was a fraud who made up his military title and tied the singer into a Las Vegas residency so he could pay off casino debts.
Elvis tells the story of the singer’s rise to achieving global superstardom in his 20sCredit: Alamy
The film delves into how Parker exploited the star, telling him in one scene: “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley.”
It also looks at Elvis’s relationship with his ex-wife Priscilla Presley, who has praised the depiction of her former husband.
The story is set against the backdrop of a changing cultural landscape in America from the 1950s to 1970s.
FINDING the right man to play Elvis involved a lengthy search which reportedly considered Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, from 2014 romantic drama The Fault In Our Stars, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played John Lennon in the 2009 biopic Nowhere Boy.
But it was little-known Austin Butler, a former Disney and Nickelodeon child actor, who landed the part after sending a video of himself singing Unchained Melody in his dressing gown.
Little-known Austin Butler landed the part after sending a video of himself singing Unchained Melody in his dressing gownCredit: Alamy
A-lister Denzel Washington also put in a very good word for him.
Until now, 30-year-old Austin’s most famous screen outing was as crazed cult follower Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
The actor, who dated High School Musical beauty Vanessa Hudgens for nine years, revealed he connected with Elvis Presley’s life story after learning they were both 23 when their mothers died.
He said in an interview with GQ magazine: “It was one of those things where I got chills.”
Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie, has tipped Austin for an Oscar for his performance, saying: “Austin Butler channelled and embodied my father’s heart & soul beautifully. His performance is unprecedented and finally done accurately and respectfully.”
ASIDE from two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks, the rest of the cast are virtual unknowns.
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley and Austin Butler as ElvisCredit: Alamy
She has most recently come to our attention in the Netflix drama The Staircase, playing Caitlin Atwater in the true-crime story.
Kelvin Harrison Jr takes on the role of blues guitar legend BB King.
The 27-year-old US actor was nominated for Bafta’s Rising Star award in 2020 following the success of two independent films, Luce and Waves.
Kelvin, from New Orleans, was also in romantic musical Cyrano and legal drama The Trial Of The Chicago 7.
Chanel model and musician Alton Mason, 24, plays rock ’n’ roll legend Little Richard. He called the experience “life-changing”.
DIRECTOR Baz Luhrmann – who also co-wrote the screenplay – first announced he was going to make a movie about Elvis in 2014.
With a reported budget of £112million, the finally finished film has all the high energy and technical flamboyance we have come to expect from the creative genius behind Romeo + Juliet and The Great Gatsby.
The story is set against the backdrop of a changing cultural landscape in America from the 1950s to 1970sCredit: Alamy
Like many releases, Baz’s baby suffered from Covid cancellations.
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson contracted the virus in March 2020 – three days before filming was due to begin
When it re-started that September, Tom returned but Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rufus Sewell had to drop out of playing Elvis’s parents due to other commitments.
It was initially set for release last October but has been postponed three times.
TOM HANKS is barely recognisable as the weighty Colonel Tom Parker and it is likely he beefed up by way of a fat suit, with prosthetics for those impressive jowls.
He also had to perfect immigrant Parker’s Dutch accent and shave his head.
Tom Hanks was beefed up by way of a fat suit and had prosthetics for those impressive jowls
Meanwhile Austin immersed himself in research to play the world’s most imitated singer.
He made a pilgrimage to Graceland – Elvis’s home in Memphis, now owned by daughter Lisa Marie – met his ex-wife, Priscilla, and even hired a movement coach to get those distinctive “rubber legs” and lip curls.
He kept up the Southern drawl throughout filming, to the extent that even Baz Luhrmann had barely heard Austin’s real Californian tones.
After filming finished, Austin said he had been so involved, he struggled to keep track of who he was, and was bedridden with a virus for a week.
He said: “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis.”
GETTING Elvis’s unmistakable sound just right involved a lot of work.
The early years stuff is sung exclusively by Butler, who had voice coaching for a year to prepare.
Rapper Doja Cat has recorded an original track, Vegas, which samples Hound DogCredit: Getty
Butler, who would super glue his bleeding fingers after overplaying the guitar as a child, said: “I set out to get my voice to be identical. That instills fear. So that got the fire burning.”
As Elvis ages through the film, Butler’s voice is mixed with recordings of The King himself.
But it wouldn’t be a Baz Luhrmann movie if there wasn’t a modern twist on the music.
Last year’s Eurovision winners, Italian group Maneskin, has covered If I Can Dream.
Australian actress Olivia plays Elvis’s wife PriscillaCredit: Getty
Dutch-born music manager ‘Colonel’ Tom ParkerCredit: Capital Pictures
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is in cinemas on June 24thCredit: Getty
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