The latest news on Baz Luhrmann’s
new Elvis Presley film
Meet the cast of the upcoming
Elvis Presley biopic
Tom Hanks will play Colonel Parker and Austin Butler will play Elvis Presley in an upcoming movie about The King of Rock and Roll. The untitled film explores the life and music of Presley focusing on the complicated relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. It was a partnership that spanned over 20 years, enabling Presley’s rise to unprecedented stardom. The film is being directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) and is scheduled for release by Warner Bros. on November 5, 2021.
Priscilla Presley mentioned in a 2019 interview that she has discussed the movie with Luhrmann and that the Presley family is very much involved:
“Baz has been over to my home a couple times for lunch with his beautiful wife and talked about all the things that he wants to do with the film – and this is with Elvis and The Colonel. So it’s going to be a very interesting picture. Of course, with Baz it’s going to be stylized very different and I think a different take and something quite honest. We’re looking forward to it. We’re very involved.”
The screenplay is being co-written by Baz Lurhmann along with Sam Bromell, Kelly Marcel and Craig Pearce. In March 2019, after it was announced that Tom Hanks had signed on to play Colonel Parker, Baz Luhrmann started posting several photos of himself on social media visiting famous Elvis Presley locations, including Graceland in Memphis where he was doing research at the archives.
In July 2019, 27-year-old actor Austin Butler was cast in the role of Elvis Presley. Butler has had an extensive acting career starting as a teenager in television, and later moving on to Broadway and film. He recently appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
“I knew I couldn’t make this film if the casting wasn’t absolutely right, and we searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist,” Luhrmann told Deadline.com. “I had heard about Austin Butler from his stand-out role opposite Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh on Broadway, and through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”
Baz Luhrmann took Butler along with him while doing research in Tupelo, Mississippi at Elvis Presley’s birthplace. He posted a picture on October 1, 2019 of Austin standing at the entrance to Tupelo Hardware, the place where Presley’s parents bought him his first guitar.
In October 2019, it was announced that young Australian actress Olivia DeJonge will play Priscilla Beaulieu.
2020 Updates on Elvis Presley film
Filming began in Luhrmann’s native country of Australia in January 2020, but was halted in March when lead actor, Tom Hanks, tested positive for the coronavirus. Film production resumed again in the summer of 2020.
Focusing on the early part of Presley’s career, Luhrmann has also cast actors for the roles of Presley’s parents, Gladys and Vernon. Gladys Presley died in 1958, when Presley was only 23 years old. Due to filming delays and scheduling conflicts as a result of the coronavirus, a few of the roles had to be recast.
In September 2020, it was announced that Gladys Presley would be portrayed by Helen Thomson, an award-winning theater actress who also appeared in “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” Richard Roxburgh, who worked with Luhrmann on Moulin Rouge, will portray Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley.
Other roles cast include Presley’s friends, George Klein, Charlie Hodge and Jerry Schilling; musicians Hank Snow and Bill Black; and producer Steve Binder. Also, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, known as “The Godmother of Rock and Roll,” will be portrayed by Yola. She was the first gospel singer to have a song cross over to the R&B charts, and was said to be an influence on Elvis, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash. [For a full list of cast members, visit the film’s IMDB page. ]
In December 2020, Tom Hanks talked about the film in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
“He was both a genius and a scoundrel,” Hanks said of Parker, Presley’s manager. “He was a very disciplined man, but also a guy who you might want to check your wallet to make sure you still have all those fives and 10s.”
Hanks was surprised to learn how Priscilla Presley felt about Colonel Parker:
“I was expecting to hear stories about the distrust she had for Colonel Tom Parker over these many years. And she said, ‘No. He was a wonderful man, and I wish he was alive today. He took really great care of us. He was a scoundrel in his way’,” Hanks said.
2021 Updates on Elvis Presley film
The untitled film is scheduled for release by Warner Bros. on November 5, 2021.
Author’s note: Although the stereotype of Colonel Parker is extremely negative, as viewed by many Elvis fans and in the media, don’t believe all the hype! As I discuss in my second book, Elvis And The Beatles, there are many positive attributes that people do not know about The Colonel including:
- He organized many charity events that Elvis took part in, including raising funds for the memorial at Pearl Harbor
- He was very helpful to The Beatles and their manager, Brian Epstein
- After Brian Epstein died, The Beatles wanted Colonel Parker as their manager