Elvis biopic: is the new 2022 movie a true story, film release date, what happens - and how accurate is it?

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By his own admission, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is not "a traditional biopic."

The Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby director claims he intended to imitate Shakespeare’s histories by looking at a historical figure and asking, "What can we learn about today?" rather than just telling a story.

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The King of Rock and Roll’s life is chronicled in Luhrmann’s film, from his modest Mississippi upbringing to the start of his music career in Memphis in the 1950s, through to his tragic and premature death in 1977.

But just how true to real life is it?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

What happens in Elvis?

In the film, manager Colonel Tom Parker - an odious figure beholden to gambling tendencies and who himself admits that he can be regarded “the villain of this here story - recounts Presley’s ascent and fall.

When we first meet young Elvis (played by Chaydon Jay), he is enamoured with gospel church music and carries the spirit of a pastor who preaches, “When things are too dangerous to say, sing!”

As he observes America’s savage racial differences and continues to openly support artists like BB King and Little Richard, Presley internalises this lesson.

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He is seduced by wife Priscilla Presley, constructs a home at Graceland for his parents Vernon and Gladys, and gradually falls prey to Colonel Parker’s manipulations.

(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
(Photo: Keystone/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Parker is a repulsive, opportunistic parasite who seduces the Presley family with the prospect of wealth before using his stellar talent against the people he ought to be able to rely on.

Elvis’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, shared her thoughts on the film in a Facebook post, saying: “ Tom Hanks was Col Parker in this film. What a character he was. There were two sides to Colonel Jerry, and I witnessed both.

“The story, as we all know, does not have a happy ending. But I think you will understand a little bit more of Elvis’s journey, penned by a director who put his heart and soul and many hours into this film."

Is it a true story?

Yes, Elvis is a true story.

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It delves into the African-American roots of the musical genre Elvis popularised, the complicated relationship between him and his manager, the impact his fame had on his family, and offers a heartbreakingly visceral depiction of his final years.

Of course, all of this is presented in Luhrmann’s signature exuberant cinematic style to parallel the rollercoaster ride that was Elvis Presley’s life.

30-year-old Austin Butler, who has previously appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and starred on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon in his teens, portrays Elvis.

Butler says he spent every day listening to Presley’s music, live concerts, and interviews. in order to master his voice, mannerisms, and body language and to genuinely comprehend Elvis Aaron Presley, the man behind the glitz and glamour.

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Austin Butler as Elvis PresleyAustin Butler as Elvis Presley
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley | Warner Bros

“First and foremost, it was a huge honour for me. Just the privilege of my lifetime,” Butler said of being cast to play the King.

“There are so many misconceptions about Elvis, so many ideas of him: the icon, the god-like figure, the Messianic Elvis, but then there’s also the Halloween costume, and the guy who marries you in Las Vegas.

“I knew his work, especially the songs of the 50s, and I’d seen some of his films and some live performances, but not nearly had I scratched the surface of all the information and recordings that are out there,” he says.

How accurate is it?

The film’s narrative is delivered from the viewpoint of Colonel Tom Parker, an illegal-immigrant Dutch carnival worker turned music businessman who, as the movie demonstrates, tightly controlled Elvis Presley for more than two decades.

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Luhrmann says he decided to tell the tale of Elvis from the Colonel’s point of view because “any storytelling, even a documentary, is just somebody telling somebody’s truth”.

“He’s a pretty unreliable storyteller,” he says of the character. “But then again, who isn’t? If you told me the story of something that happened last night, and I told you the story, we’d tell it differently.

Prior to its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’s daughter, praised the film in an Instagram post after seeing it twice, calling it "nothing short of spectacular".

Butler’s portrayal of her late father, which she continued to admire, had "channelled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully... his performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully".

Priscilla Presley has said: “It is a true story told brilliantly and creatively that only Baz, in his unique artistic way, could have delivered.”

When can I watch it?

Elvis is out now in UK cinemas.

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