Long live the King! Elvis, the Baz Luhrmann music drama based on the life of Elvis Presley and the people who helped him become the “King of Rock And Roll,” will soon hit theatres. Austin Butler had the task of stepping into Elvis’s blue suede shoes and rhinestone jumpsuit, but he’s not the only big star involved in this production.
The film, rated PG-13, is a biographical musical drama, meaning that this isn’t a straight biography. Considering that Baz Luhrmann directed Moulin Rouge!, 2013’s The Great Gatsby, and produced The Get Down series for Netflix, no one expected him to do a straight biography. Instead, Baz “shoots the works, leaping from high point to high point, trimming away anything too prosaic,” according to Variety’s review of the film. Baz “taps into the Elvis of our reveries, searing us with the king’s showbiz heat and spinning his music — and how it was rooted in the genius of Black musical forms — like a mix-master across time.”
Baz also found a convincing Elvis impersonator in Austin Butler, as seen below. Here’s all the information you need to know about Elvis.
Elvis is set for a June 24, 2022, release date.
Cast & Crew
Elvis will see Tom Hanks play Colonel Tom Parker, the former carnival worker-turned music manager, and promoter who helped discover Elvis. Olivia DeJonge portrays Priscilla Presley, with Kelvin Harrison Jr. portraying B.B. King. In the movie, Alton Mason appears as Little Richard, with Yola Quartey as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Gary Clark Jr. also appears in the film as Arthur Crudup. These names are real people whose influence on rock and roll is as significant as if not arguably greater than Elvis’s.
“I got this tape of this young guy playing ‘Unchained Melody’ and crying,” Luhrmann told Indie Wire. “It was just strange. I mean, it was so moving. I thought, ‘This isn’t really acting.’ Now I learned years later that it was Austin thinking about his mother, who passed at the same year that Elvis’s mother did.”
The big question going into the movie is this: does Austin Butler sing in Elvis? “He does some of his own singing, and while he doesn’t quite nail the power and richness of the real thing, it’s a good enough approximation,” reports Vanity Fair.
“When I began the process, I set out to get my voice to be identical. That instills fear. So that got the fire burning,” Austin told The Hollywood Reporter. “For a year before we started shooting, I was doing voice coaching.” Austin added he watched as many videos of Elvis in order to get the voice down. “I feel such a responsibility to Elvis and to Priscilla and [daughter] Lisa Marie, and all the people around the world who love him so much,” he added.”
Elvis is directed by Baz Luhrman, who also wrote the screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce, and Jeremy Donner (who shares story credit with Baz).
“I’d been talking about using Elvis as a way of exploring America,” Luhrmann told IndieWire. “And then at some point, [Warner Bros. Pictures] buys the estate thinking I’m going to do it. Actually, the world had changed to this idea of the commercial carnival barker figure who puts his name on everything and knows how to exploit people and emotions and the artist. This suddenly became relevant to me: ‘Well, hang on, this is really important.’ So I came back to the idea of doing it.”
“The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America,” the official synopsis reads, per HypeBeast. “Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis’s life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge).” Expect Luhrmann’s dramatic style to shine through.
“Luhrmann has always had the fearlessness of his own flamboyance, and from the first moments of Elvis, which take off from an outrageous bejeweled version of the Warner Bros. logo, the film lets us know that it’s going to risk vulgarity to touch the essence of the Elvis saga,” reads Variety’s review.
In addition to featuring the music of Elvis Presley, Elvis will have original music. Doja Cat has contributed her original song, “Vegas,” as have Eminem and CeeLo Green. Those hip-hop icons partnered for “The King and I,” a song produced by Dr. Dre. Kacey Musgraves will cover “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” while Maneskin’s version of “If I Can Dream” was used for the trailer.
Chris Isaak, Denzel Curry, Jack White, Lenesha Randolph, Jazmine Sullivan, Les Greene, Nardo Wick, Paravi, Pnau, Rufus Thomas, Stevie Nicks, Swae Lee & Diplo, Tame Impala, and Yola will appear on the soundtrack. Elvis will also feature cast members Alton Mason, Austin Butler, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Shonka Dukureh, and Gary Clark Jr.
The first reports that Baz was working on an Elvis Presley biopic appeared in 2014. There wasn’t any movement until Baz cast Tom Hanks and Col. Parker and landed his Elvis in Austin. “Look, I always avoid getting in and heralding the work we’re doing, before we do it, but during the testing process, his commitment, [Austin’s] transformative abilities from the young Elvis to beyond, he had been playing so very well,” Baz told Deadline.
The production was in full swing in March 2020 when Tom Hanks famously became the first A-list celebrity to catch COVID-19. “So I’m getting ready to begin shooting on a Monday, and I’m rehearsing the scene where we’ve built the Vegas showroom, and Tom guides in Austin as Elvis, and it’s a scene where basically hundreds of girls are kissing Elvis, in a ’70s show,” Luhrmann told Deadline. “Tom guides him through the crowd. All of a sudden, I see my producer, Patrick McCormick, on the set, and he had the same look in his eyes like he had a week earlier. And I thought, well this can’t be good. You and the world knows what happened next. Tom and Rita handled it all so well, and we were so fortunate we had this direct connection with the head of infectious diseases because it was an immediate shutdown.”
In the two years since then, Baz has completed the film and is ready to unleash his vision. Elvis hits theatres on June 24.