Elvis | The desire for a big show

Nine years later The Great Gatsbythe director of Red mill Baz Luhrmann offers a “Shakespearean” vision of the life of Elvis Presley through that of Colonel Parker, the king’s famous impresario. Starring Austin Butler, whose performance received unanimous acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival, and Tom Hanks, elvis brings the icon to life on the big screen.

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Marc Andre Lussier

Marc Andre Lussier
The press

Known for his extravagant approach to directing, thanks to films like Ballroom only, Romeo + Juliet and Red millBaz Luhrmann belongs to a generation that grew up listening to the hits of David Bowie, Elton John and Michael Jackson rather than the singer Love me Tender. For the Australian filmmaker, the desire to make a feature film about the life of Elvis Presley stems above all from the artist’s extraordinary stage performance, but also from the social environment in which he developed.

“In the performance, Elvis was a force of nature,” recalls Baz Luhrmann during a virtual press conference The press took part. For a long time I resisted the will to narrate his life in cinema until I realized that a great idea deserved to be explored through him. In order to understand today’s world, one has to go back to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s: At that time there was an urge to break new ground, which crystallized above all in a convergence of different cultures in music. What makes Elvis’ life a tragedy is the way he was taken advantage of. »

amadeus for model

Thinking about this feature for five years, the filmmaker wanted to take a “Shakespearean” approach to go beyond the traditional biographical drama. In his eyes remains the greatest role model of the genre amadeus, a masterpiece created by Milos Forman almost 40 years ago. Just like the director of Flight over a cuckoo’s nest Baz Luhrmann told the story of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) by bringing Peter Schaffer’s play to the screen and told the story of Mozart through the vision of his “rival” Salieri by adopting the perspective of Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) borrowed ). The latter managed the singer’s career by squeezing the lemon to the maximum.


Tom Hanks, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler at the presentation ofelvis at the Cannes Film Festival

“Part of that is that Elvis himself was a man of few words,” the filmmaker clarifies. Rather, he revealed himself through his songs and deeds. He was also very sensitive, very concerned, but he exploded on stage. »

Emerging at a time when America was in turmoil, Elvis Presley can hardly be detached from the political and social context of a time when calls for more social justice, including the recognition of civil rights for African Americans, were beginning to get louder and louder clear.

“Politics isn’t the subject of the film, but it sure is always there, implicitly,” states Baz Luhrmann. It’s impossible to talk about the life of Elvis Presley without talking about segregation and racism. He was at the heart of this reality. As I met people who knew him at Graceland, I could see how Elvis was a spiritual being who was very attracted to gospel music. On the political level, too, something tragic happened in a short space of time: the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Robert Kennedy was assassinated while Elvis was filming the TV special that marked his comeback to music. »

Austin Butler, great asset

Above all, Baz Luhrmann wanted to make the life of Elvis into a great cinematic spectacle. He’s practically made it his job.

“I carry a passion for cinema that dates back to my childhood,” he says. I love this idea of ​​bringing strangers together in a dark room and letting them share common emotions. I almost make it my mission, especially with what we’ve been through in the last two years. »


Austin Butler and Tom Hanks will be there elvis

Aware that his flamboyant approach may not always be unanimous (the critics the day after the launch ofelvis at the Cannes Film Festival were rather so-so), the filmmaker is sure of a great enrichment: Austin Butler.

“When I first met Austin, he had been living with Elvis in his head for quite a while. To the point where today it’s hard for me to say if it really was me who chose it. it’s so big I have done all possible and imaginable tests with him. Everyone will have their opinion on this film and it’s not my place to say one, but I can say unequivocally that Austin’s performance is impressive. »

For new generations

The filmmaker also knows full well that in bringing to the screen the life of an icon who, 45 years after his death, still holds such a place in the American collective imagination, he exposes himself to the grievances of die-hard Elvis Presley admirers .

“I understand the emotions of Elvis fans. He opened so many doors that I have commissioned myself to tell his story and the generations new to Colonel Parker. But I didn’t make this film to tell them to love it like their parents did. »

elvis hits theaters on June 24th.

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