Given the sheer volume of musical biopics currently grabbing headlines in Hollywood at the moment, some good (Rocketman), some not so good (Bohemian Rhapsody), it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that there’s a biopic on the way about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Helming the film about the life and career of one of history’s most iconic figures is none other than Baz Luhrmann, well known for his bombastic, grandiose visual style. Whilst personally I have some reservations about Luhrmann directing this film, the recently announced shortlist of actors in the running to play Elvis is both surprising and expected.
It is reported that Harry Styles, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Austin Butler are all closely competing to land the role, which given the recent success of biopic performances on the awards circuit, could very well lead to a shoe-in Oscar nomination, if not potential win for whoever goes on to play Elvis. Given Elvis’s popularity across a wide range of audiences, as well as the retelling of a turbulent career and personal life that tragically ended on the toilet in 1977 at the age of 42, it is key to cast the right actor to portray him in the right way.
Out of the five actors in the running, it would be difficult not to gravitate towards either one of Styles or Teller, but for differing reasons. Of them all, of course Styles has the best voice given his musical background and his ability to perform on stage certainly gives him an advantage over his counterparts. Though he has only acted in Dunkirk, his performance in the film was certainly one of the most memorable and it would seem he certainly has the acting chops combined with the musical ability to pull off playing Elvis. Teller on the other hand, whilst probably being the most gifted actor in the running, also bares a striking resemblance to Presley, most notably seen in his look in Nicolas Winding Refn’s recent series Too Old to Die Young, so if Luhrmann is aiming to cast someone who looks the part, he should look no further than Teller. Whilst Ansel Elgort is an accomplished singer, seen in his casting in Spielberg’s West Side Story re-make, as are Austin Butler and Taylor-Johnson, it feels as if Styles or Teller would be the more assured choice.
Despite all this furore about which star is going to be cast as Elvis, it feels rather like perhaps Luhrmann should be looking elsewhere for someone to play him. Given the film is supposedly focusing on his early years, why not look to cast an unknown actor in the role? Ridding the role of any preconceptions from previous performances of the other actors whilst potentially offering someone else stardom out of nothing would provide an interesting parallel to Elvis’s life and would perhaps refresh the biopic genre that seems to be growing rather tiresome of late.
The film is currently in pre-production, with the only casting news being that Tom Hanks, the nicest man in Hollywood, will be playing Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s conniving and manipulative manager, which is certainly an interesting choice and surely a performance where Hanks will be at his usual brilliant best. With regards to who is playing Presley however, it seems as if it won’t be long until there is an official announcement.
Words by Elliott Jones