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Husband and wife collaborators Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin are coming home to work on what will probably go down as their biggest career gamble to date: recreating the life and times of music icon Elvis Presley for the big screen.
Naturally, the local film industry is excited by the huge Warner Bros project coming to Australia, with the production being split between Queensland and Sydney.
Luhrmann and Martin have previously recreated Belle Epoque Parisian nightclubs and Jazz Age New York with much fanfare in Sydney, so Gracelands on the Gold Coast is highly feasible.
But with so little detail about the production available, knowing exactly what to expect with the Elvis film is uncertain. One thing however is clear: in 2019 we do not need another celebrity hagiography.
Indeed, while Luhrmann and Martin share a love of sequins with Elvis, when delving into the the real life of the King of Rock, things can get quite murky. Ignoring that is not doing anyone any favours.
Back in June I was told to keep my voice down by the management of the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood as we walked passed the bungalow where Luhrmann was working on his Elvis epic, a project which has been on the backburner for several years.
"He's just about to cast Elvis, we're trying to not to disturb him," I was told in reverential tones. I later discovered that Luhrmann had won the blessing of both Elvis's ex-wife, Priscilla, and his only child, Lisa Marie Presley, to make the film.
Both women have been long-term defenders - and fierce proponents - of the Elvis Presley image and estate, which has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue since his death in 1977.
But questions remain about just how accurately the legend of the much-loved Elvis Presley showbiz icon and "Southern gentleman" reflects the reality of Elvis Presley the man.
Handsome young actor Austin Butler will portray Elvis in Baz's film which covers a 20-year period tracking Presley’s rise from “very famous” to “minor American God.”
Central to the story will be Presley's tumultuous relationship with his manager, a colourful and rather disturbing character named Colonel Tom Parker, who will be played by Tom Hanks.
When Presley died in August 1977, Parker did not join the global outpouring of grief. Instead he flew to New York to negotiate a deal for the merchandising rights to the name and likeness of the dead star.
Posthumous sales of Elvis records and memorabilia boomed. "Elvis didn't die," the Colonel told callers in the days following Presley's death. "The body did. We're keeping Elvis alive."
Before managing Elvis, Colonel Parker worked in a travelling circus with a dancing chicken act. The fowl were encouraged to perform by placing them on a kitchen hotplate, invisible to the audience.
Some have argued Colonel Parker's methods did not change much by the time he got hold of Elvis, who at the end of his career was touring Las Vegas in an endless series of fairly low rent productions at Parker's behest.
But what about Elvis himself? How will he be presented in the film? As the hip-swivelling love god or as the grown man who, by today's standards, dated young girls of an unacceptable age.
Elvis was 21 when he released his first big hit, Heartbreak Hotel, in 1956.
In his book Elvis Presley: A Southern Life, Joel Williamson writes about Elvis's life on the road, including his time spent with teenagers. Williamson writes that while on tour, Elvis preyed on a group of three 14-year-old girls who would pillow fight, tickle, wrestle, and kiss Elvis, who was 22 at the time.
Elvis found himself a 14-year-old who would become his one and only wife, Priscilla. The pair met in 1959 when Elvis was a 24-year-old serving in the military in Germany.
They dated for six months before he returned to the US. In her memoir Elvis and Me, Priscilla writes that Elvis remained a gentleman until they married many years later in 1967.
"It was as if Priscilla's virginity was another thing that Elvis strangely and sorely needed to maintain," Williamson notes in his book.
However claims that Elvis and Priscilla did not have penetrative sex until their wedding night are disputed, particularly by Suzanne Finstad, author of the Priscilla Presley biography Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley.
Two years after Elvis and Priscilla divorced in 1973, Elvis went after yet another 14-year-old girl by the name of Reeca Smith. Smith claims Elvis did not "take advantage of her" during their six-month relationship.
That may well be, but it's still creepy, no matter how many sequins you dress it up in.
Originating Source - The Sydney Morning Herald
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