Baz Luhrmann’s biographical film about Elvis continues the famous director’s style of bright, brilliant images of famous stories such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Great Gatsby”. The life and career of legendary musician Elvis Presley is Luhrmann’s latest work, which has received its own creative development.
Fighting the mythology of one of the most famous artists who has ever lived in less than 3 hours requires directors to use a creative license to tell the story the way they want. This also applies to Luhrmann’s new film, since there are certain events that unfolded on the screen that did not happen in real life or were slightly altered to fit his narrative.
Elvis never fired Colonel Tom Parker on Stage
In the film, after years of deception, control and financial problems, Elvis fires his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Worse, he lets him go while performing on stage in Las Vegas, where he resided with Parker’s support.
According to the film, one of the factors that drove Elvis to the extreme is Parker’s lie that he is a US citizen. However, music journalist and Elvis expert Alanna Nash disputes this fact, claiming that Parker’s Dutch citizenship was not disclosed before Presley’s death (via USA Today). However, Elvis fired Parker after the singer got into a dispute with Hilton hotel owner Barron Hilton, who terminated a contract with an employee that forbade them to talk to Elvis. This, however, was short-lived and took place behind the scenes, not on stage.
Colonel Tom Parker didn’t talk like Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks’ performance as Colonel Tom Parker was met ambiguously by critics and moviegoers, many called the performance excessive, in particular, noting the unusual Dutch accent that Hanks uses (via Variety).
It’s true that Colonel Parker was born in the Netherlands, but the footage and audio recording of the real Parker show a much larger American accent. Parker’s voice was probably chosen by Hanks behind the scenes of Elvis to match his interpretation. Hanks’ portrayal is of a prominent character known for his many quirks and, ultimately, for his deception, especially lying about his American citizenship. The exaggerated accent is probably more in line with Parker’s idea than reality.
Elvis didn’t wear a zipper necklace as a child
In flashbacks to his childhood, Elvis portrays a young Presley reading Captain Marvel Jr. (later named Shazam!). Fascinated by images from comics, he sculpts himself a necklace with a lightning symbol, similar to a superhero. Elvis expert Billy Stallings, however, disputes that this ever happened, as there is no evidence of the necklace (via Express).
However, there is a lot in common with the hero in future Elvis branded costumes, with his love of bright colors, capes and details in the form of zippers on his jewelry. Stallings argued that this fiction was probably created by Baz Luhrmann to illustrate how he became a kind of hero to his fans, while others believe that familiarity with comics in his humble beginnings helped shape his aspirations.
The riot did not break out after Elvis disobeyed Colonel Parker
Elvis follows in the footsteps of several Oscar-winning musical biographies, drawing inspiration from real events and using creative license. While Presley’s performances did cause riots (most famously in Jacksonville, Florida, when he was harassed by fans — as reported floridahistorynetwork.com ), no particular disturbances occurred after the singer ignored Parker’s command not to do any of his suggestive dance moves (via Variety).
Since Elvis’ dynamic dance moves were unlike anything seen in the mainstream media at that point in history, the singer’s stage presence was considered quite scandalous for that time. Presley, “disobeying” orders and causing riots, symbolizes what made Elvis a legendary part of pop culture.
Robert F. Kennedy Didn’t Die during Elvis’ Performance
Elvis’ idea of a real musician does not have the same linear structure as the story. The film shows the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy on June 6, 1968, which occurred at the same time as the famous return of Elvis in 1968. However, the special edition was recorded on June 27.
The events probably overlap in the film because the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 were a turbulent time in American culture. The events emotionally affected Presley, and this influenced his performance, prompting the singer to write “If I Can Dream” in their memory (via Vanity Fair).
Elvis didn’t face jail for his dance moves
Elvis reports that his rather sexy dance style was considered immoral by many. The film shows Presley wiggling his finger to mock the judge who told him to refrain from his actions, as well as being watched by the police.