Olivia DeJonge in an interview about “Elvis”: “He was the first of his kind”

  • With “Elvis”, star director Baz Luhrmann has created a cinematic monument to one of the greatest singers of all time.
  • The film tells the life story of the King, from the first musical steps to the tragic end in Las Vegas.
  • Olivia DeJonge plays Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla Presley, who reveals what Elvis means to her and what it was like to work with Tom Hanks.

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Baz Luhrmann is not a fan of quiet productions. With visually stunning music films such as “Moulin Rouge” or “Romeo and Juliet” he created real classics. His new film is also an extra-long visual spectacle. “Elvis” tells the story of the life and unique career of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – from the point of view of his controversial and seedy manager Colonel Tom Parker.

Austin Butler plays Elvis, who has a truly stunning screen presence and knows how to charm cinema audiences with his charisma and trembling upper lip. After two hours and 39 minutes, you can’t be entirely sure that you’ve just seen one of the best films of the year or that you’ve fallen in love.

Joining Butler is Tom Hanks in a fat suit and with a fake nose as Elvis’ seedy manager “Colonel Tom” Parker. The trick of telling the singer’s life from the perspective of this greedy and ruthless man is a real godsend for the film, as Parker’s excuses and attempts to gain understanding are as repulsive as they are understandable – emotional ups and downs are guaranteed .

Another important figure in Elvis’ life, his then-wife Priscilla (they divorced in 1973), is played by young Australian actress Olivia DeJonge. In an interview, she spoke to us about working with Tom Hanks and the effects of the corona pandemic.

Shooting a biopic about Elvis Presley, the king of rock ‘n’ roll, is a huge undertaking. It can be movie of the year or flop terribly. Have you ever had doubts about taking on the role and being part of the project?

Of course – that was definitely what went through our heads! This movie might as well have been a huge disaster – which it obviously hasn’t been. baz [Luhrmann, der Regisseur] is a truly inspiring person. He made me feel very safe. He made me feel like I could do it and he really supported me. Of course, I can do all this via Austin [Butler, als Elvis] say and of course about Tom [Hanks, als Elvis‘ Manager]. Baz has just put together a really great community – made up of hard working people who absolutely love what they do.

Olivia DeJonge: “Elvis the first of his kind”

The image that many people have of Elvis Presley today is often characterized by imitators. He is usually shown distorted like comics, all too often the overweight singer of the Vegas years. Can the film give him back his dignity?

Yes absolutely, definitely! What drove Baz (Luhrmann) to make this film was his love for Elvis. And that goes for Austin too [Butler]. He had a tremendous task ahead of him, and he put his whole heart and soul into it. I think you can see the respect in the film that everyone had – for Elvis, for what he did for music, his impact on pop culture, rock and the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

“Colonel Tom” Parker, as played by Tom Hanks, is a truly intriguing character. He’s unpleasant, downright repulsive – but without him, Elvis Presley, the King, would never have existed. Is he a villain? What does it mean to you?

The opposites in man. It’s a very fascinating thing to portray that dichotomy and I think Tom [Hanks] who did incredibly well. Tom Parker was the first of his kind. Just like Elvis was the first of his kind. They were moving into territory that no one had ever entered before them. There was greed, jealousy, wealth. It was about celebrities, fame and women – all the forbidden fruits that led these men on their path. Tom did an excellent job with this. It was great working with him. With that mask, his voice, the performance—that energy he brought to work. He guided us.

Austin Butler (l) as Elvis and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla.

© picture alliance/dpa/Warner Bros./-

“I believe the changes will remain”

Do you associate something with Elvis? Do you have a favorite song?

I didn’t really have a personal connection to him – but of course I knew who he was. And of course I listened to a lot of his music growing up – as I guess most people around the world did. At least I think so. My favorite song has always been “Blue Moon” – with “Bossa Nova Baby” coming second.

“Elvis” will forever be remembered as one of the first films to be hit hard by the corona pandemic. Now it’s finally in the cinemas – a sign that everything is “normal” again? Or are cuts still noticeable?

When I think about the community, even outside of the film business, I think we’ve all changed. I think the changes will remain. The film was a kind of lifeboat for us. We worked on it in a time that felt like it was filled only with unhappiness and chaos. But somehow we managed to bring it all together. I think the root of the film is that shared experience. And I hope that this film will get people to storm the theaters and see it together. I hope it brings people together – like Elvis’ music brought people together.

Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler, Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, hits theaters June 23.

Baz Luhrmann is known for his visionary music films. In his new work, he dares to take on the life of a true legend: Elvis Presley. The focus is – of course besides the music – the relationship between the King (Austin Butler) and his seedy manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The rapidly changing political and cultural climate in the USA also plays a special role – and of course the love for Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). “Elvis” will be in cinemas from June 23rd.