All shook up! Elvis Presley fans have been dreaming of Baz Luhrmann‘s biopic since it was first announced in 2014, and seven years later, the wait is almost over.
The Moulin Rouge! director also cowrote the screenplay for the film, simply titled Elvis. In July 2019, Austin Butler landed the role of the “Jailhouse Rock” singer after a highly publicized search process. Though the California native is known for his roles in movies including Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Dead Don’t Die, he also has a musical background perfectly suited for playing a rock ‘n’ roll icon.
“I play the guitar and I play the piano, and my first instrument was the violin,” he told Interview magazine in October 2019. “I started playing the violin when I was in elementary school. I got a guitar when I was 13 and fell in love. I would play for eight hours a day and that became my obsession.”
After shooting began in early 2020, Luhrmann gushed about Butler’s take on the role, which would be daunting for any actor. “I always avoid getting in and heralding the work we’re doing before we do it, but during the testing process, his commitment, his transformative abilities from the young Elvis to beyond, he had been playing so very well,” the Australia director told Deadline in March 2020. “He was terrific. There was such great energy and excitement in the cast and company, about the show we were about to shoot.”
The production process, however, hasn’t always been easy. Tom Hanks, who plays Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 while shooting the film in Australia. The Oscar winner became one of the first celebrities to publicly reveal a coronavirus diagnosis, sending shockwaves across Hollywood.
“If there was anything good about it, the very best thing that came out of it was when someone like Tom Hanks got it, I noticed that globally and particularly in America … suddenly everyone went, ‘This is real,’” Luhrmann told Deadline. “He became an advertisement for it.”
The Forrest Gump star and his wife, Rita Wilson, quickly recovered, but Hanks later said that he experienced some fatigue. “I couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than about 12 minutes,” he told The Guardian in July 2020. “That last bit is kinda like my natural state anyway.”
With the on-set coronavirus scare in the rearview, the first teaser for the film finally debuted in November 2021. “Made a little something to let you good people know we are taking care of business on June 24, 2022,” Luhrmann tweeted at the time alongside a short clip from the film. (“Taking care of business,” as Elvis fans know, was the singer’s motto as well as the name of his band.)
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