Elvis Presley: ‘Elvis’ Director Searches for ‘Humanity’ in ‘the Most Impersonated Man on the Planet’

Elvis Presley‘s life has been a topic of speculation ever since he first burst onto the music scene in 1954. However, while much ado has been made about his life and career, Presley’s humanity remains an interesting topic for his fans. This topic was one that director Baz Luhrmann wanted to address in Elvis, the buzzy biopic starring Austin Butler.

Austin Butler, Baz Luhrmann, and Tom Hanks walk the red carpet at a premiere for the film 'Elvis' where Luhrmann wanted to show the singer's 'humanity.'
Austin Butler, Baz Luhrmann, and Tom Hanks | Karwai Tang/WireImage

What is the film ‘Elvis’ about?

Per the film’s official website, Presley’s story’s told through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Col. Tom Parker (Hanks).

The film delves into the complex dynamic between the two spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America.

One of the significant and influential people in Elvis’s life is central to that journey, Priscilla Presley.

Elvis’s extraordinary body of work spans the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and the film contains key moments documenting those eras of his life.

Pivotal moments in the film include the making of Presley’s first record, the purchase of Graceland, his induction into the United States Army, marriage to Priscilla, and the birth of their daughter Lisa Marie.

‘Elvis’ Director Baz Lurhmann searched for ‘humanity’ in ‘the most impersonated man on the planet’

But the film, which clocks in at a remarkable 159 minutes in length, attempts to pull together the threads of Presley’s life, weaving them into a story that has the full support of the Presley family.

However, Luhrmann was leery of attempting just another biopic that shared critical moments of the entertainer’s life. He wanted moviegoers to experience Presley’s soul.

Subsequently, Luhrmann’s search for Presley’s “humanity” leads to some critical moments in the film, particularly after the death of Gladys Presley, Elvis’ mother.

“What gets lost is that the guy is just a guy. It’s his humanity,” Luhrmann consequently said to The Los Angeles Times.

Likewise, “My number one mission was to humanize him. And that might have been my mission, but Austin Butler was the one that flew the plane,” Luhrmann continued.

For instance, “It was probably the hardest thing. Elvis Presley is the most impersonated man on the planet. But the humanity Austin had from the get-go,” the director said of the Elvis star.

Austin Butler, who plays Presley in ‘Elvis,’ says it’s a ‘test’ finding the entertainer’s humanity

Butler admitted that finding the entertainer’s humanity was a “test.”

After that, Butler told the LA Times, “That’s the test I saw in front of me.”

But, the actor likened his extensive research to doing detective work,

“How do you take Elvis, who’s seen as this icon or this caricature, strip all that away and find out who he was as a man?” Butler questioned.

Moreover, Butler studied every photograph, listened to Presley’s music, and watched every interview to better understand the man behind the myth.

In conclusion, Butler explains, “No matter what it was, no matter what Baz asked, anything, I was all in. Sometimes that’s unhealthy. But at that time, I just knew that this was what I needed to give myself to.”

Austin Butler is ready to fly as Elvis Presley in Elvis in theaters now.

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