Australian director Baz Luhrmann is finally ready to unleash "Elvis," his epic biopic of the Army veteran and king of rock ‘n’ roll. The Elvis Presley movie made news at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 when co-star Tom Hanks was the first famous American to test positive for the virus just before cameras were set to roll in Australia.
The cast came back together in September 2020 once production safety protocols were devised, and now the movie is scheduled for release in theaters on June 24, 2022. The studio has just released the first trailer.
We get a brief glimpse of Presley in his Army uniform in this trailer, providing confirmation that the movie will portray the King's decision to accept his draft status and leave his career behind to serve at the height of his musical career.
Of course, the other reason that Germany is important in the Elvis story is that's where he met his future wife, Priscilla Beaulieu. Priscilla was the 14-year-old stepdaughter of U.S. Air Force officer Paul Beaulieu, and her family was stationed in Germany when she met Elvis at a party in Bad Nauheim in 1959.
They eventually married in Las Vegas when she turned 21 in 1967. There are a lot of fuzzy details in between, but Priscilla moved to Memphis, Tennessee, at some point and lived with Elvis' dad and stepmother a few blocks from Graceland while she finished high school.
If you were really planning to tell the story of Elvis in detail, you'd plan a 10-season HBO or Netflix series and give each shocking twist and turn its own chapter. Luhrmann, director of such flashy movies as the 1996 "Romeo + Juliet" with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, "Moulin Rouge" and the 2013 version of "The Great Gatsby," prefers to take a couple of hours to blow the audience away with his spectacular camerawork and blaring soundtracks.
Why does an Elvis movie film in Australia? Because Luhrmann comes from Sydney and he's a big enough deal that he gets to stay home when he works. How well will Australia stand in for Tupelo, Memphis, Germany and Los Angeles? The trailer makes it look promising.
Hanks plays the mysterious Col. Tom Parker, the manager with a shadowy past who made Presley the biggest star in the world. Parker played up his honorary Kentucky colonel title, but he was actually born in the Netherlands and illegally immigrated to the United States at the age of 20. Hanks loves a weird accent, and he seems to be trying out some kind of Dutch and Southern hybrid in this movie.
Austin Butler plays Elvis. He's the star of the upcoming Band of Brothers sequel "Masters of the Air" and previously played Manson family member Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood." There are a few American actors and musicians portraying musicians in the movie. Blues artist Gary Clark Jr. plays Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, the Black singer who originally recorded "That's All Right Mama" and inspired Elvis' recording. Soul singer Yola plays R&B guitar pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays B.B. King and Alton Mason plays Little Richard.
Otherwise, it's pretty much a cast full of Australians trying out their American accents. Olivia DeJonge plays Priscilla Bealieu and Kodi Smit-McPhee, Oscar-nominated for "The Power of the Dog," plays country singer Jimmie Rodgers. Elvis' parents, his friends, country singer Hank Snow and even the receptionist at Sun Studios are all played by local actors.
How much time will Presley's Army career get in "Elvis"? That's going to be interesting. The singer's decision to serve was a huge deal in '50s America, and a detailed telling of his life story would devote a lot of time to the decision, his service and the impact it had on his career when he came home.
At least the Army uniform made the trailer, which means that his service won't be forgotten in what's likely to be the definitive movie about the singer.
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