Austin Butler is the ‘King’ in Baz Luhrmann’s epic biopic Elvis: Rachael Davis chats to the star and director about Presley’s fame, legacy and tragedy
Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is, by the director’s personal admission, not “a conventional biopic”.
Rather than merely telling a narrative, the Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby director says he wished to emulate Shakespeare’s histories by taking a historic determine and asking: “What can we find out about at present?”
Luhrmann’s movie tells the story of the King of Rock and Roll’s life from humble beginnings in Mississippi, to launching his music profession in Memphis within the Nineteen Fifties, throughout his electrical years of fame to his premature and tragic dying in 1977.
It explores the great, the dangerous and the ugly elements of Elvis’s life, diving into the African-American origins of the musical style he delivered to the mainstream, the sophisticated relationship along with his manager and the toll his fame took on his household, culminating in a heartbreakingly visceral depiction of his remaining years – all instructed in Luhrmann’s trademark exuberant cinematic type to parallel the rollercoaster experience that was the lifetime of Elvis Presley.
Elvis himself is performed by 30-year-old Austin Butler, recognized for starring on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon in his youth and extra lately in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, whereas legendary cultural icon Tom Hanks, 65, stars as Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker.
“First and foremost, it was an enormous honour for me. Just the privilege of my lifetime,” Butler says of being forged to play the King.
“But that being mentioned, it was additionally a duty and a weight that I’ve by no means felt earlier than.
“Any time you play anyone who’s truly lived there’s that duty, however with him there’s so many individuals world wide who love him a lot that I need to do justice to.
“There are so many misconceptions about Elvis, so many concepts of him: the icon, the god-like determine, the Messianic Elvis, however then there’s additionally the Halloween costume, and the man who marries you in Las Vegas.
“Stripping all that away and getting all the way down to who he was as a person, the core of his humanity, that was what fascinated me about it. That’s what actually drove me day by day.”
Butler says he devoted day by day to Presley’s music, dwell concert events and interviews to not solely good his voice, mannerisms and physique language, however to really perceive Elvis Aaron Presley, the person behind the glitz, glamour and performances.
“I knew his work, particularly the songs of the 50s, and I’d seen a few of his movies and a few dwell performances, however not almost had I scratched the floor of all the knowledge and recordings which are on the market,” he says.
“It was such a tremendous factor to get to only dedicate day by day to listening to each one in every of his songs, and watching each interview he ever gave and listening to each interview that he ever gave, and watching each live performance and each movie.
“Through that course of I used to be continually like this detective, looking for keys into his humanity, keys into the reality of this man.
“Every time I discovered one it was essentially the most exhilarating feeling – I might go: ‘Oh, that’s why he does that!’. It was so inspiring.”
In Elvis, the story is instructed from the attitude of Colonel Tom Parker, an illegal-immigrant Dutch carnival employee turned musical entrepreneur who, the movie exhibits, held Elvis Presley firmly underneath his thumb for greater than twenty years.
For Tom Hanks, who Luhrmann describes as “a celebrity” and “one of many nice actors of all time”, the position of the Colonel offered a singular alternative to play somebody inherently unlikeable and morally disreputable.
“I instructed him the story, and Tom immediately associated to the concept of this kind of carnival huckster manager,” Luhrmann says.
“He stopped me in the midst of ten minutes of speaking and went: ‘Hmm. Well, if you would like me, I’m your man’. And that was it.
“Actors wish to play new notes on their devices, and Tom’s performed lots of issues, however he’s by no means performed a very unsavoury human being.”
Luhrmann says he determined to inform the story of Elvis from the Colonel’s viewpoint as a result of “any storytelling, even a documentary, is simply anyone telling anyone’s fact”.
“He’s a reasonably unreliable storyteller,” he says of the character. “But then once more, who isn’t? If you instructed me the story of one thing that occurred final evening, and I instructed you the story, we’d inform it in a different way.
“He’s not likely telling the story truly, what he’s actually doing is, he’s arguing within the court docket of public opinion that he’s not answerable for all of the dangerous stuff.”
The “dangerous stuff” that Luhrmann speaks of are the low factors of the rollercoaster experience that was Elvis’s life and profession: the star noticed unimaginable highs and unimaginable lows over his 20 years of fame, and the director believes that we, at present, have classes to study in regards to the influence of fame from Elvis’s story.
“What we will find out about at present is there’s positively a really huge difficulty referred to as prompt fame. Anyone may be well-known in a single day,” he says.
The character of Colonel Tom Parker, Luhrmann provides, is born of a world which nurtures “the power to kind of go: ‘Hey, I’m type of mendacity to you and making up stuff, making you consider in stuff, and although you understand you’ve been labored over, you type of prefer it’.”
“You put these two issues in Colonel Tom Parker – by no means a Colonel, by no means a Tom, by no means a Parker, spoiler alert – with this extremely delicate soul who finds himself, like Eminem, in one of many few white homes in a black neighborhood, rising up round this music, and this motion, absorbing it – and increase, there’s an explosion,” he says.
“You have Elvis the punk, Elvis the unconventional, Elvis the Hollywood caught in a bubble. And then he finds himself once more, after which he’s caught in a lure in Vegas.
“It’s like an opera. It’s a tragic, American opera.”
Elvis is in UK cinemas on Friday, June 24.