Priscilla Presley Talks Elvis Presley's Legacy on Death Anniversary: 'A Big Responsibility'

·4 min read
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 26: Priscilla Presley attends the photocall for "Elvis" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 26, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 26: Priscilla Presley attends the photocall for "Elvis" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 26, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Lionel Hahn/Getty Priscilla Presley

Priscilla Presley is keeping Elvis Presley's memory alive.

On the 45th anniversary of the King of Rock & Roll's death on Tuesday, Priscilla, 77, spoke to the TODAY show about what the day means to her. "Oh my gosh," she said to hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, "It's a big week that's for sure."

Elvis died of a heart attack at the age of 42 on Aug. 16, 1977, at his Graceland home in Memphis.

As for how his former wife is keeping the singer's legacy intact, Priscilla shared that her goal is to "carry out and give him the things that he always wanted to do in his life." For example, she recalled that one of Elvis' biggest dreams was to sing with an orchestra, an achievement Priscilla accomplished in 2015's If I Can Dream compilation album with Elvis and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

"Anything he wanted to do or wished to do as far as in life, I want to try to get that to happen," she said. "It's a big responsibility"

RELATED: Elvis and Priscilla Presley's Relationship: A Look Back

Wedding Photos of Elvis Presley to Priscilla on May 01,1967
Wedding Photos of Elvis Presley to Priscilla on May 01,1967

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Prior to the interview, Priscilla was joined by over 30,000 fans and supporters during Elvis' candle-light vigil on Monday. "To see the amount of people that still come to see Elvis is unbelievable," she said.

Also in the interview, Priscilla talked about the Baz Luhrmann-directed movie based on her late husband's life. "I mean what a great movie," she said, "Baz Luhrmann I have to say is a genius, I don't know anyone else who could've done this movie like he did."

She went on to share that she was initially concerned about Luhrmann making the movie, later asking him over to her house and spending hours together talking about the project. "He put me a little at ease but I still didn't know how it was gonna come out," she said.

Luckily, the movie surpassed her expectations. She first watched the feature in a private screening with Jerry Schilling, a longtime friend of Elvis'. During the movie, the pair barely spoke. "We didn't talk at all and at the end we went, 'Wow, this is Elvis,'" she recalled.

RELATED: Priscilla Presley Walks Met Gala Carpet with 'Elvis' ' Austin Butler and Doubles Down on Movie Praise

Though she enjoyed the movie, some parts were admittedly tough to watch. Priscilla recalled having a hard time watching the arguments between Colonel Parker and the singer. "I lived the arguments that they had," she said. "I lived Elvis trying to explain that he didn't want to do the movies with all the girls and the beaches and everything, that he really wanted to do serious things so living that with him and then watching the movie brought back a lot of memories."

But for Priscilla there is no grudge against the Colonel, who was played by Tom Hanks in the movie. "There were two colonels, there was the colonel who was the manager and the colonel who was very very sweet and very very nice," she explained, noting that his promise to Elvis to make him "a million dollars" sometimes got the best of him.

Austin Butler and Priscilla Presley attend The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City.
Austin Butler and Priscilla Presley attend The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic Austin Butler and Priscilla Presley

RELATED: Priscilla Presley Says She Wishes Elvis 'Could Have Seen' Baz Luhrmann's Film: 'It's Perfection'

This is not the first time Priscilla has given the movie praise.

In June, during an interview on Good Morning America, Priscilla was joined by Olivia DeJonge, who plays her in the upcoming film Elvis, to talk about the experience of watching her life unfold on screen.

"I'm sitting there watching this movie and going 'God I wish he could see this,'" Priscilla said of the film. "It was perfection."

Priscilla also praised Austin Butler's performance as the late-rock and roller.

"Austin was just unbelievable," she said. "As I was watching it, actually, I was going wow, this is a movie that he would have really loved. Showing who he was, what he was striving for, what his dreams were."

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During the Met Gala in May, she said, "I think it's a movie for everyone."

"Even the people who've heard stories about Elvis before, they're gonna learn something," she added. On Instagram days later, she reiterated her feelings, writing alongside a trailer for the film, "I've seen Elvis the film, I watched the trailer over a dozen times."