Elvis and Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s new film

MEXICO CITY (proceso.com.mx).- He was right Process on July 14 when, after the premiere of the biopic feature film “Elvis” by Australian director Baz Luhrmann, this magazine warned that Elvis had not yet left the building and that “there would be Elvis for a while.”

Two months were enough for the New York director Sofía Coppola, 51, to confirm the news that she will be in charge of writing a new adaptation of the biographical book “Elvis and I”, told in 1985 to the journalist Sandra Harmon by the only wife who between 1967 and 1973 he had The King of Rock & Roll: Priscilla Ann Beaulieau Wagner, born in 1945.

Nearing the end of October, Sofia Coppola opened a new Instagram account, writing: “Back to work! I am excited to tell Priscilla’s story.”

Then the first photos of the shooting directed by Coppola were leaked via paparazzi lens in Toronto, Canada. The actor Jacob Elordi (“Euphoria”) appears as Elvis and in the role of Priscilla, the actress Cailee Spaeny (“The Craft: Legacy”), who embodies the author of the book since she met the already consecrated musician at the age of 14 during his military service in Germany… and until she was 28, which she was when he died, at 42, on August 16, 1974. On this exact date the biography “Elvis and I” concludes.

In the interview that Elordi offered for the cover of “CQ” magazine in September 2022, the actor said he was so interested in the King of Rock & Roll that after seeing the biopic film “Elvis” by Australian Baz Luhrmann with Austin Butler in the starring role, he ran out to buy historian Peter Guralnick’s best autobiography, “Last Train to Memphis.”

“Elvis and I”, the book that Coppola uses as the basis for his script and film “Priscilla” is the one that, three years after its appearance, had inspired the first version in 1988 –authorized by Priscilla– for four chapters of an hour on Canadian television: “Elvis and Me,” with Susan Walters and Dale Midkiff.

In 2015, Ian Denyer directed a one-hour self-titled documentary with Joanna Lumley, directed by Priscilla herself.

Long live Priscilla

Despite the interest aroused by the choice of Jacob Elordi as Elvis, Coppola clarified that he will be a secondary character in the plot of the film, since it will focus on the points of view of Priscilla Presley:

“Some aspects of Elvis’s career are addressed, but it’s all about their relationship and how her identity is being forged.”

Beyond the possible economic gains that the film will bring her, Coppola’s reasons for undertaking this film adventure called “Priscilla” are probably the same ones that reflect the issues that she has tackled since her beginning as a director. Female loneliness, the universe of young women in societies led by male power and the heroines of history are issues that have attracted Coppola’s gaze in his feature films, something that shines through when he sees “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) , “Lost In Translation” (2003) and “María Antoinette” (2006).

The interesting thing will be how Coppola will overcome the thousand and one challenges that this story poses from a distance. To begin with, Priscilla hid in “Elvis and I” events of her existence and changed the names of several men who entered her life sexually, events and identities that have come to light over the years. Some examples:

Currie Grant, a friend of Elvis in Germany, the guy who introduced him to Priscilla when she was in third year of high school in September 1956, was the one who would try to rape her in a car as recounted in the third chapter of “Elvis and I”; but Priscilla gives him another name: “Kurt”. According to Currie Grant himself, he and the adolescent Priscilla (remember, she was 14 years old) did have intimate relations, but “at the request of the same girl Priscilla” who allegedly gave herself to him in exchange for her introducing him to Elvis; In addition, she says that she had a boyfriend in Germany with whom she had relationships “for which Elvis was not the first.” All this was recorded by the journalist Suzanne Finstad who interviewed Grant for the controversial biography “Child Bride: The Untold Story of Priscilla Beaulieu” (in Spanish “Girl Bride”). Accused in court by Priscilla, Currie Grant defended his story to the death…

Elvis and Priscilla divorced in 1973. Before, according to chapter 35 of “Elvis and I”, in 1968 after the birth of their daughter Lisa Marie and while Elvis was filming “Live a Little, Love a Little”, she held a extramarital affair with her dance teacher; Priscilla calls him “Mark”, although we know that he was actually called Steve Peck:

“Mark was a charismatic individual and I was especially insecure. In the absence of a stable marriage, dancing was becoming the most important thing: it had me obsessed and I took all my frustrations and sadness with me to the studio. I had only seen it a few times and yet it was impossible to get rid of it (…) The episode made me realize that I needed much more than what I was getting in my relationships with Elvis.”

Priscilla turns out, then, since she released the biography, a historical source that is not exactly reliable and as CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises, some chapters of “Elvis and I” contain juices that Coppola may take advantage of if she wants to show us the fragility of truth. Number 25 takes place in 1964, when Colonel Parker and all of Elvis’s buddies burn the spirituality books that Elvis’s hairdresser friend and guru had given him, under the complacent gaze of Priscilla.

If in Luhrmann’s biopic “Elvis,” Tom Hanks stars as the malevolent “Colonel” Tom Parker squeezing Elvis to death, Coppola will be able to justify Priscilla as a victim of the game of fame and ambition that has been foisted on her since Elvis arrived. to his life… to never abandon it. Since the death of the King of Rock & Roll, harsh criticism has been expressed about her being a woman “much more complicated than the image of a tender loving widow that she likes to present”.

In short, another inevitable chapter would be number 24, where Priscilla reveals Elvis’s almost pathological appeal to horror movies, his fondness for going to the Memphis morgue with his wife to see the corpses, and his readings on the most there. True: she learned a lot from the King… Sofia Coppola told the fashion publication “Vogue”:

“I’m excited to do something rooted in that style of American history for the first time. And Priscilla is a quintessential glamor icon. She was so interested in Priscilla’s story and her perspective on how she felt growing up as a teenager at Graceland. She was going through all the stages of youth in such an amplified world, something similar to what I was able to do with Marie Antoinette”.

As Elvis will not be the star, his fans have shown little interest in seeing a movie where he (they assure) will come out very badly and she will only say that it suits her to get money out of the Hollywood industry of dreams… You have to think about the musical part, then, and Coppola knows it:

The very day she began shooting “Priscilla,” she included a list of songs selected for “morning on the set” from Canadian filming, featuring songs by Curtis Manfield, Porches, Pray For Rain, Phoenix, Elvis Costello, Brian Ferry, Kool & The Gang, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Shuggie Otis, The Specials, Cocteau Twins, Solange, Faith No More, Pretenders, D’Angelo, Syreeta and New Order.

Elvis and Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s new film