Priscilla Presley’s Doubts Over Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ Movie
Elvis director Baz Luhrmann said Priscilla Presley wrote him a letter after she saw his biopic, explaining that it had allayed all her fears about the project.
The film – starring Austin Butler as the rock ’n’ roll icon – premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022 before opening wider. In a recent interview with Deadline, Luhrmann recalled that he saw Presley cry as the closing credits rolled.
“I really mean this with great respect, because now we’re like family,” he noted. “But she got a little bit vocal about her doubts. She said, ‘I don’t know. This film could be crazy. Baz can be wackadoo. And how can this skinny kid play Elvis?’”
Luhrmann knew his approach to the Elvis Presley story was challenging. “There were things that were going to be difficult for [people] to see about Elvis, but they were also going to see the humanity and true spirituality of him, which was the most important thing,” he said. “Elvis had become wallpaper. He was sort of a Halloween costume. But to his family, he was always a husband, a father, a grandfather and a person.”
He recalled receiving a letter from Priscilla afterward, saying, “I won’t share all of it, but the key thing she said was, ‘My whole life I’ve had to put up with people impersonating my husband, and I don’t know how that boy did it, but every move, every wink. … If my husband was here, he’d say, ‘Hot damn, you are me.’”
Luhrmann also revealed that he was so certain that Butler was right for the role of Elvis that he couldn’t recall ever offering him the job. “I just remember the moment he walked in. Then one day we made the movie,” he explained. The director added that he wasn’t even sure Butler could sing. “Austin said, 'Well, I don’t really sing but I’ve practiced one Elvis song.' I’ve still got it on video. I mean, when you hear him sing, it’s crazy. You cannot believe. It’s spine-tingling. We just started riffing, and hours would go by.”