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After several years in the making, the Elvis cast is finally having their moment on the big screen—and fans of 2022 film are already curious to see how the actors compare to their real-life counterparts.
When it came to casting the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, director Baz Luhrmann knew that the actor he picked had some big shoes to fill. According to an interview with IndieWire, the director made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t make the film unless he could find the right person to play Elvis. Actor Miles Teller, along with Harry Styles, were both early contenders for the role. “It’s a privilege for me that they would put themselves on the line and come in and work with me, because I learned about the script working with them,” Luhrmann told IndieWire. However, after going through workshops with the pair, Luhrmann decided they weren’t quite the right fit.
It wasn’t until he got a taped audition from a young former Disney star that Luhrmann realized he’d found his Elvis in an unlikely candidate. “I got this tape of this young guy playing ‘Unchained Melody’ and crying,” Luhrmann said. “It was just strange. I mean, it was so moving. I thought, ‘This isn’t really acting.’” As it turned out, the actor behind the audition was Austin Butler, who filmed the tape while thinking of his mother, who had passed away when he was the same age that Elvis was when his own mother died. “He had this kind of naivete about him,” Luhrmann continued. “He was kind of Elvis. He has basically lived as Elvis for nearly three years.”
While Butler is already a fan of many critics for his portrayal of the King, the jury’s still out on whether he’s a dead-ringer for Elvis. To see Austin Butler compared to Elvis Presley, along with the rest of the Elvis cast and their real-world counterparts, just keep on reading ahead.
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Austin Butler has come a long way from his Disney days. The actor is already sparking Oscar buzz for his performance as none other than the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself in Luhrmann’s 2022 biopic. In an interview with Extra, Elvis Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, couldn’t help but sing Butler’s praises, revealing that he “got Elvis to a T.”
“It is unbelievable what this kid did, Austin Butler. He spent two years studying Elvis, so that was like a shock to watch. Even some of the songs,” she shared, before recalling how Elvis’ former talent manager, Jerry Schilling, also couldn’t tell the rockstar and Butler apart. “I said, ‘Is that Elvis or is that Austin?’ and he goes, ‘No, that’s Elvis.’ And then I go, ‘Are you sure?’ and then about a minute later he goes, ‘That’s Austin.’ That’s how amazing he is.”
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley
Speaking of Priscilla, her role in the 2022 film is played by Australian actress Olivia DeJonge. Priscilla, who met Elvis for the first time when she was only 14 years old, went on to marry the legend in 1967. The pair welcomed a daughter, Lisa Marie, the following year. In 1972, Priscilla asked for a divorce after a series of mutual affairs between the pair. Their divorce, which was finalized on October 9, 1973, was an amicable one.
“When you play somebody who was a real person is always a bit scary because you don’t want to do an impersonation of them,” DeJonge said in an interview with Elle Australia. “Baz was always so helpful with this, he said, ‘It’s an interpretation’—so it was about maintaining some truth and vulnerability, and so long as you’re doing some of the hard work beforehand, whether it’s the accent or the mannerisms you have to just throw that fear away.”
Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker
Elvis is told from the point of view of Colonel Tom Parker, who served as Elvis Presley’s longtime manager. In order to portray the Dutch businessman in the movie, Tom Hanks had to wear a fat suit and have prosthetics applied.
The film opens with Parker, saying a guiltridden line, “Some would have me the villain in this story.” Hanks, for his part, was excited to play the role of Parker, a relatively unknown figure in Elvis Presley’s life story. “Why include the Colonel in all of this?” Hanks said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “One reason is because the Elvis story has become a trope. Everybody’s very familiar with it. And I don’t think it had been done the most righteous justice in order to capture why Elvis was this bend in the river of American culture.”
Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley
Helen Thomson portrays Gladys Presley, the mother of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 film. In real life, Gladys was a person who was filled with a great deal of unhappiness, and when her son achieved fame, she went so far as to refer to herself as “the most miserable woman on Earth.” Elvis Presley was profoundly impacted by her untimely passing in 1958, as he had an exceptionally close relationship with her throughout the years.
Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley
Richard Roxburgh plays the role of Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley. In addition to accompanying his son on tour, Vernon supervised all of Elvis Presley’s business endeavors at Graceland. After Elvis Presley passed away, Vernon was appointed to serve as the executor of his son’s estate.
Shonka Dukureh as Big Mama Thornton
Big Mama Thornton is played by actress and musician Shonka Dukureh. Big Mama Thornton is known for being the first artist to record “Hound Dog,” which Elvis Presley famously covered. In addition, Dukureh is featured with Doja Cat on the song “Vegas,” which was included on the Elvis soundtrack.
Yola as Sister Rosetta Tharpe
British singer Yola makes her acting debut as the Godmother of Rock and Roll herself, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The gospel singer and electric guitarist had a major impact on the genre as we know it, while also influencing Elvis Presley. “It’s just the privilege I have to speak her name, and to speak on it,” Yola told Variety in an interview. “Everyone can talk about it, but the role I have is so central and mainstream and in the purview of everyone, everyone knows about it. So the privilege I get to transmit this message, of rock and roll, and the diaspora’s ownership of this genre, along with everything that it gave birth to, that gives me life.”
Alton Mason as Little Richard
Model Alton Mason plays a young Little Richard in Elvis. In an interview with WWD, Mason reveals that he was beyond honored to be offered the role of the man who is otherwise known as the real king of rock ‘n’ roll. “I went in the bathroom and started crying my eyes out,” Mason said of the moment he found out he would be playing Little Richard. “I was just so thankful because it is like the role found me. You know? It’s like Baz [Luhrmann] found me and chose me. It’s like Little Richard chose me.”
Luke Bracey as Jerry Schilling
Actor Luke Bracey plays former talent manager Jerry Schilling, who was by Elvis Presley’s side from the very start of his career. Schilling was “totally pleased” with Bracey’s portrayal of him, telling the Memphis Flyer that the actor “doesn’t overdo anything. And yet when it was time to maybe have a difference of opinion whether it was [with] Elvis or it was the Colonel, he played it right. He didn’t come back and do a big argument, which I wouldn’t have done either. He got me down.”
For more about Elvis, read Priscilla Presley’s 1986 memoir, Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N’ Roll
. In the book, Priscilla takes readers through her and Elvis’ relationship, from the moment they met to their marriage to their affairs and eventual divorce. The New York Times bestseller also reveals never-been-told details about Priscilla and Elvis’ relationship and why she still considers their bond “unbreakable” decades after his death. Described as a “tribute to both the man and the legend” that was Elvis, Elvis and Me is a must-read for any Elvis fan and written by the woman who loved him—in her own words.
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