The day’s finally here — Baz Luhrmann’s highly anticipated Elvis biopic official hit theaters and we can’t stop thinking about the glitz, the glam, and of course the soulful music throughout the film.
The story documents Elvis Presley’s young life in the segregated South, his tumultuous childhood, and his early career as a provocative performer. It also shows his time spent in the U.S. military, and how he got there, all the way to his famous Las Vegas residency.
Giving credit where credit is due, Elvis highlights the enormous impact Black musicians had on the hip-swinging showman. From Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (played by Yola) to Fats Domino and B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), Presley’s love for the blues and gospel is evident.
There’s also the complicated relationship between Presley and his two-timing manager Colonel Tom Parker, (portrayed by Tom Hanks), as well as his relationship with his wife Priscilla (played by Olivia DeJonge). Plus, there are about a thousand bedazzled fashion moments thanks to custom-made creations from Prada, Miu Miu, and Manolo Blahnik. All in all, there’s never a dull moment in the movie.
For newcomers to Presley’s influence, the film may provide some some insight to the rock icon’s history, while those familiar with his story will still enjoy the exciting ride. Here, GRAZIA USA recalls some thoughts and questions we had while watching Elvis.
What is with Tom Hanks’ accent?
Portraying Elvis’ scheming manager Colonel Tom Parker, the Academy Award-winning actor is completely unrecognizable in the role. Both the villain and narrator of the film, Hanks wears a faux nose and bulging fat suit, and transforms into the character with his dramatic limp, a cigar hanging from his mouth, and an incredibly odd accent — one that has an Anna Delvey-esque twang.
Parker was actually a Dutchman named Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk — not a Colonel — and was eventually charged for his financial abuse of Elvis. Van Kuijk tried to claim he could not be sued, because he was a man without a country.
It’s The Duke!
Australian actor Richard Roxburgh plays Elvis’ father Vernon Presley, and Luhrmann fans may recognize him as the conniving Duke of Monroth in the director’s 2001 hit Moulin Rouge! starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.
The fashion will take your breath away
Costume designer Catherine Martin never misses! Martin often collaborates with her husband, Baz Luhrmann, and created the glimmering and glistening fashions for Elvis and his entourage. She worked with Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada for the rock-glam wardrobe, and teamed with another beloved brand for Presley’s footwear. Stepping into the singer’s blue suede shoes and the hush puppies that lifted him to his toes with his controversial dance moves, Butler slipped into a few pairs of Manolo Blahnik styles.
Having worked with Martin before on Moulin Rouge!, Blahnik said, “It has been an honor to work with the wonderful Catherine Martin once again. I am constantly inspired by cultural movements and music and with Elvis as the muse, these styles were a joy to create!”
Elvis sang to a dog?
As the Colonel was attempting to make “Elvis the Pelvis,” a bit more reformed and “family friendly,” the manager had Elvis perform on The Steve Allen Show, in white tie and tails to sing “Hound Dog” to an actual dog — sans his signature shaking, of course.
How did they maintain Austin Butler’s tan while making him sweat so much?
With makeup artists Anna Gray, Corinne Clery, and Nicolette Eva on-hand to transform Butler into Presley, I found myself wondering how these aficionados were able to accurately execute Presley’s dramatic fake tan, especially throughout the various performance scenes where Butler is sweating beyond measure.
I can’t believe Elvis never went on an international tour!
Even though he had his very own jet plane named “The Lisa Marie,” after his daughter, Presley never took his legendary performances overseas. After having been offered on several occasions and wanting to go and tour abroad, the Colonel always had an excuse to nip that idea in the bud. In the film, his reasoning unfolds in the diabolical fashion.
I never knew about Elvis’ protest song
As we watch Butler’s character struggle with what is going on in the world, the musician is brought to tears by the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. While he was supposed to be filming a jolly Christmas segment, Presley forewent the advice of the Colonel and followed his heart. In one of the best lines of the film, he recalls a reverend’s advice to him, saying, “When things are too dangerous to say, sing.”
Luhrmann created an almost identical recreation of Presley’s performance of “If I Can Dream,” during his 1968 Comeback Special.