Coming to IMAX and cinemas across the UK on June 24, new biopic Elvis tells the story of Elvis Presley, the King of rock ‘n’ roll.
Every biopic walks the same tightrope, balancing fact with artistic license. But when the subject is a musical icon, one with millions of devoted fans around the world, how the hell do you keep them all happy?
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Elvis Director Baz Luhrmann considers his latest big show “not really a biopic. It’s really for me about America in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” he explained to him at Cannes.
“If you want to talk about America in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, at the center of culture, for the good, the bad, and the ugly, there was Elvis.”
However, he aimed for historical accuracy in the film, while also giving it his distinctive flair and style. “I would say it’s my kind of movie. But it’s more grounded and I guess from the beginning it’s more accessible to the public.”
The film packs more than 20 years of the rock ‘n’ roll legend’s life into 2 hours and 39 minutes, from his rise to stardom, his military service and marriage to the Las Vegas years and his decline.
But how fair is it when it comes to painting an accurate picture?
It is Elvis historically accurate? An expert’s view
When the first trailer for the film arrived, Elvis expert Billy Stallings Spa Guy posted a video discussing its historical accuracy.
A renowned expert on The King (he runs the Tigerman Karate Dogo and Museum in Memphis, where Elvis practiced martial arts), he begins his commentary with “If you’re an Elvis purist, this movie, like the rest of the movies, is going to blow your mind.” angry because there will be things that will not be accurate.
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From the trailer, the Ferris wheel scene stands out, when Elvis and Parker discuss partnering up, saying it never happened.
He also claims that the moment when Elvis seems nervous before performing occurred on a completely different occasion, when he was about to record his first single.
And the Captain Marvel Jr. lightning bolt that young Elvis wears is, he believes, “artistic license,” which is how Parker describes it in the film.
There are others, but he also confirms that “the way they portray Elvis with the girls falling on him and the huge crowds running after him, all of that is accurate.”
For him, the film in general is ‘pretty beautiful’, but he doesn’t see it as something for “us Elvis purists. Who is this for, it’s for the younger generation who don’t know who Elvis is.
“This will make it iconic in their eyes.”
What have Priscilla and Lisa Marie said about Elvis?
Ex-wife Priscilla Presley and her daughter, Lisa Marie, have praised the film, especially Austin Butler’s lead performance.
After seeing it in April, Priscilla posted her reaction on Facebook. “This story is about the relationship between Elvis and Colonel Parker.
“It’s a brilliantly and creatively told true story that only Baz, in his unique art form, could have delivered. Austin Butler, who played Elvis, is outstanding.
“Halfway through the movie, Jerry[Elvis’soldfriendtalentmanagerJerrySchilling)andIlookedateachotherandsaidWOW!BravotohimheknewhehadbigshoestofillHewasextremelynervousplayingthisroleIcanonlyimagine”[Elvis’soldfriendtalentmanagerJerrySchilling)andIlookedateachotherandsaidWOW!![elviejoamigodeElviseldirectordetalentosJerrySchilling)yyonosmiramosydijimos¡GUAU!BravoparaélsabíaqueteníagrandeszapatosquellenarEstabaextremadamentenerviosointerpretandoestepapelSólopuedoimaginar”[Elvis’soldfriendtalentmanagerJerrySchilling)andIlookedateachotherandsaidWOW!!Bravotohim…heknewhehadbigshoestofillHewasextremelynervousplayingthispartIcanonlyimagine”
On Instagram, Lisa Marie described the film as “absolutely exquisite. Austin Butler beautifully channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul. IMHO his performance is unprecedented and was FINALLY done with precision and respect.”
Did Elvis want to be an actor?
Yes. His first screen test was in 1956, the year he began with his first number one single, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. In mid-November, she made her screen debut in love me Tender and went on to make a total of 31 films.
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He talks about his dreams of acting in the film and some lines from his interview with Life magazine: “Look at Frank Sinatra. Until he added acting to singing, he found himself sliding downhill”, are used in the film.
But unfortunately, as we see, his films fell out of favour, the public decreased and the last one, change of habitit premiered in November 1969, just thirteen years after its debut.
There is also a discussion about Presley starring in the 1976 remake of A star has been born. She was in the running for the role for a while, but his health problems ended with his return to acting.
Did Elvis join the army?
Yes, and his star status meant great publicity in December 1957 when he was drafted. The film only briefly addresses his first military service, focusing on the death of his mother in the summer of the following year, but then stops at his time in West Germany.
While in uniform, he continued to receive sacks of adoration mail and the film shows him being chased by legions of fans. He met Priscilla Beaulieu, the daughter of a US Air Force captain, during this post.
By the time he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1960, Elvis had risen to the rank of sergeant and, after a long courtship, he and Priscilla were married in 1967.
Was Colonel Tom Parker really a colonel?
No. And, as the film reveals, Parker’s past was shrouded in mystery and deception. Born Andrea Cornelis van Kuijk in the Netherlands in 1909, he was an illegal immigrant in the United States.
Smithsonian magazine mentions that he may have fled there after committing a murder. He joined the army, but was never a colonel, and after he left, he worked carnivals before turning to talent management. Despite what is shown in the film, his origins were not revealed until the 1980s.
He was, as the film shows, behind Presley’s rise to fame but, as we also see, he made financial deals that were worth more to him than to his client.
During a dramatic confrontation, Elvis refers to him taking 50% of his winnings and this is generally believed to be true.
So how accurate is Elvis?
Although it is his first biographical film, Luhrmann is not the first to tackle the King’s life on screen. So Far 1979 by John Carpenter Elviswith Kurt Russell in the title role, it was the most notable.
Presley’s story is a familiar one, but this is the biggest and boldest take yet and it’s one with an attention to detail that should please most fans.
Sure, Luhrmann takes some creative liberties, but overall, the film is clear when it comes to the main facts of the story. It should satisfy even the most suspicious minds.
Elvis opens in theaters June 24. Check out a clip below.