‘Elvis’ Director Baz Luhrmann On Working With Austin Butler & Why The Film Was Like Making Shakespeare – Contenders LA3C

Elvis director Baz Luhrmann joined Deadline’s Contenders Film: LA3C awards-season event to talk about the craft of making his larger-than-life biopic and capturing the unique frenzy of the King’s aura and music.  

Released by Warner Bros, Elvis takes a 20-year walk on the wild side depicting the unprecedented superstardom of the legendary Elvis Presley (Austin Butler). The story is told through the eyes of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), as he navigates Presley’s career through rock ’n’ roll, Hollywood movies and a consuming relationship with Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge).

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For Luhrmann, taking on the Presley story went beyond the historical and more into the personal. “I grew up in a very tiny country town; [my family] ran a cinema,” Luhrmann said. “So we had [an] Elvis matinee, he was in my life early. [Making] it wasn’t so much I said ‘I had to do a biopic,’ it was more in the same way like Shakespeare will take a historical figure into a larger idea. But it’s really a film about jealousy. And I just thought, ‘If you want to explore America in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, then the relationship between Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis is just a great platform for that.’” 

Luhrmann also went on to explain why Presley was such a disruptive force in prudish culture, especially with the wiggling and gyrating onstage. 

“It took us a lot of science to get that right.” Luhrmann said. “There was an atomic reaction in the audience — that audience wanted to eat Elvis, you know? And women just wanted to tear him to pieces. There was something about that almost spiritual existence onstage that is a gift beyond dance or choreography.”

Check back Wednesday for the panel video.

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