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Elvis Presley reimagined by Baz Luhrmann

Elvis movie, the biographical musical drama, brings to scenes two incredible characters belonging to two different generations.

The movie stars Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. They play their respective roles as if they were destined by fate to bring memories of Elvis Presley to new generations.

They portray what Elvis Presley meant to the American pop culture in the 50s up to the 1980s in a 2h 39 m emotional experience imagined by director Baz Luhrmann.

The new movie premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 25 and was released theatrically by Warner Bros Pictures in Australia on June 23 and in the United States on 24th.

“Elvis Presley was a cultural signifier as much as a great rock and roll singer and an amazing force of pop culture in America”, says Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks revealed at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival why he decided to take up the role of Elvis Presley’s longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Getty Images

The American singer and actor who was dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll” distinguished himself as someone who gave a new generation its everything: sound, look, and the kind of freedom his art and personality were reflecting.

Elvis Presley. FROM BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

The movie captures the sheer over-the-top press of Elvis Presley the King and all his over-the-top-excessiveness.

It brings to light Elvis’s life from his childhood to becoming a rock and movie star in the 1950s, as well as Elvis’ complex relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker

Legendary songwriter Mike Stoller who got to see the movie’s screening that was hosted by Priscilla Presley appreciates the incredible work by the two actors whom he says are jointly over the top of their roles.

“The kid who plays Elvis is fabulous as well as Tom Parker”.

Austin Butler did a great job to capture the way Elvis Presley was singing as if his life depended on it.

The 89-year-old songwriter who together with Jerry Leiber wrote two dozen classics for Elvis including “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse” and “Trouble”.

He praises Hanks and Butler to do their best to highlight what he has known about Elvis Presley for a long time.

 Two opposite challenges to building the film’s characters

Since knowing their roles, Austin, and Tom found themselves with two opposite challenges.

By the time Tom Hanks was born in 1956, Elvis Presley was already an accomplished Rock & Roll artist and movie star.

“He was a guy who was racing cars a day and singing in nightclubs at the night. He didn’t bother anything rather than a guy whose celebrity was based on something he had done much earlier,” says Tom Hanks.

On the other hand, Austin Butler was born in 1991 and is further disco-located from Elvis fame. He came into contact with Elvis Presley through his grandmother, who was in high school in 1956, a period Elvis Presley’s career was blossoming.

Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler

Elvis’ movies such as King Creole (1958), Viva Las Vegas (1964), and a couple of other films further increased Butler’s curiosity about “Elvis the man”.

“So great was the joy behind these ideas, and you also can’t help but know about the Halloween costume version of him”, says Austin, who is as talented, handsome, and good-looking as Elvis Presley was.

As a curious musician and actor whose Elvis’s favorite song is “Feeling in my body”, Austin naturally started to wonder who this man was and where he came from. He started to put him into context to familiarize himself with the music of the late 60s and 70s, which he argues is some of the greatest music ever recorded.

When the director came to talk to Hanks about his prospective role in the movie, he didn’t have any idea who was Colonel Tom Parker and had never seen a photograph of him, nor didn’t he know how he sounded.

To incarnate Elvis Presley’s manager sounded like a big challenge to him. How was he going to incorporate a completely mysterious character into the movie?

“And this is the new thing the movie was going to have along with the great sacrificial land that was Elvis to American culture and the great Rubicon he presented as a dangerous concept”.

Luckily, director Baz fed him from the amount of research he had on Elvis Presley. At the end of the day, Hanks almost perfectly recreated a character whom no one knew anything about.

Austin’s challenge on the other hand was the opposite of Hanks’s as there was a mountain of materials about Elvis Presley.

For two years, Austin didn’t do anything but follow his curiosity to unpack everything about Elvis Presley. He was determined to leave any stone unturned. He read any book that was written about him, in addition to watching everything about the character he was going to incarnate.

But every time Austin thought he had satisfied his curiosity, he would stumble upon new shreds of evidence.

“I would find out archives that fans had compiled, and each time my hair would stand up as I discover a new moment of truth”.

Both actors spent so much time preparing and bringing to screen their respective characters. One of the particularly amazing scenes is Elvis Presley 1968’s comeback special.

This is a relatively intimate scene where Elvis in a black leather suit is with his manager Colonel Tom Parker talking in the dressing room.

For Tom Hanks, the comeback special is the epitome of Elvis Presley.

“Everything that was incorporated in the 1968’s comeback special redefined Elvis Presley and bring everything he had meant since 1956,” says the 65-years-old American actor and filmmaker.

Before seeing the movie, Priscilla Presley, former Elvis’s wife, was a bit nervous because she didn’t know what to expect from Baz Luhrmann.

“He lives in his world and can go either way, and I was a little bit nervous, to be honest”.

Although she was nervous, there is a part about Baz she loves.

“He is unique and knows what he likes”

After Priscilla saw the movie, she was very emotional and the same way with her daughter. At the end of the day, Priscilla was over the moon about Baz Luhrmann’s imagination in the final movie.

The biographical film directed by Baz Luhrmann is proving itself as a beautiful emotional experience that can bring together three generations to connect with a once-in-a-lifetime popular icon that has characterized American pop culture in the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

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