“When we made this, we wanted to make it theatrical to bring audiences into theaters,” said Baz Luhrmann at the Cannes press conference for Elvis, the morning after the pic received the longest standing ovation of the fest at ten minutes.
“That was the innovation for the film, and for cinema,” continued the filmmaker whose career shot to fame at Cannes with Strictly Ballroom in 1992.
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“Cannes has saved us once again,” he added about the rebound of the big screen experience.
One of Luhrmann’s inspirations for taking on the tale of the King of Rock n’ Roll and his acerbic manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who ruled over the performer tirelessly and milked every penny from him, was Milos Forman’s Oscar winning movie Amadeus. “It’s not really about Mozart. It’s about the jealousy between Salieri and Mozart,” said Luhrmann about that pic.
“No review would ever mean the most to us than the woman who was married to Elvis Presley,” said Luhrmann who had to rewrite the film during Covid.
After showing the film to Priscilla Presley, he received a note from her in which she said, “‘I just wasn’t ready for that. Every breath about Austin, every move, the spirit of the person, the humanity'” recalled Luhrmann, “‘If my husband were here today he’d look him in the eye and say ‘How dare you? You are me.'”
Luhrmann emphasized that the entire Presley clan including Lisa Marie and Riley Keough was over the moon for the film.
“He was a father, he was a husband, and a grandfather and a person, and they have children,” the filmmaker added, “The greatest review I got from them in my life; now there’s something they can look to that is the truth of the humanity of the man.”
Hanks didn’t know anything about Parker before signing on until Luhrmann pitched him the carnival-barker manager; a guy who was known for pulling folks to the outer lights of town at a cost to see the greatest show on Earth. Essentially, Elvis portrays, what Luhrmann calls “the snowman and the showman.”
“He realized that guy was forbidden fruit, and could make money off of him,” said Hanks about Parker’s fascination with Presley.
“He was running away from an aspect of his past,” added Hanks on Parker, who moved from a small town in Holland to American, taking on a whole new alias. He wasn’t a Parker and he certainly wasn’t a colonel.
Said Austin Butler about losing himself in Elvis after landing the role: “I put the rest of my life on pause for two years and absorbed everything I could; I went down the rabbit hole of obsession.” Butler also “listened to how his voice and movements changed over the years.”
Luhrmann also went method in his prep for the film, living in Memphis (“I had a space at Graceland”) and traveled to Presley’s birth place of Tupelo, Miss. The filmmaker was curious about the period of the singer’s life where he went to jail, and worked in the South.
“He was an incredible spiritual guy,” said Luhrmann.
Elvis opens in the U.S./Canada on June 24.
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