Sofia Coppola’s upcoming film, Priscilla, based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis and Me”, comes out in October and the first trailer dropped yesterday. This of course is just a year after Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was released – the film would go on to receive eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Austin Butler.
A friend of mine said yesterday that the best thing that ever happened to Sofia’s movie – and Jacob Elordi, who is playing Elvis – is Austin losing the Oscar, lol. She’s not wrong but at the same time, this is a very different story.
I’ve been into Elvis since I was 10/11, so pretty much my whole life, and it was “Elvis and Me” that was the gateway. I read the book before getting into the music of Elvis, the legend of Elvis. It was Priscilla who fascinated me first. And Sofia’s film is about Priscilla. Sofia’s film is also VERY Sofia.
Sofia Coppola has just as strong of an aesthetic as Wes Anderson. As Sarah texted me yesterday, Sofia’s work is the Cinema of Girlhood – and this is where we now find her next subject: Priscilla Ann Wagner who was Priscilla Beaulieu when she met Elvis and then went on to become Priscilla Presley.
Priscilla is as pink as Marie Antoinette and has the potential to be as subversive as The Virgin Suicides. Like Wes Anderson, Sofia’s stories are all about mood. Which is why, unlike Baz’s Elvis, this won’t necessarily be a biopic. In Baz’s biopic, Priscilla was barely a factor because in that story, the most significant relationship in Elvis’s life was with Colonel Tom Parker. So in making Priscilla the main character in her film, Sofia Coppola is giving Elvis the Boyfriend Treatment.
We are fresh off a popular film that cast Elvis as a son, an artist, a renegade, a victim, and icon. In Priscilla, he’s an idol, the object of an adolescent crush, who becomes at once her lover and father figure… because, of course he was ten years older than Priscilla when they met in Germany, when she was just 14. The Elvis we’ll be getting then in Sofia’s movie is entirely shaped by her perspective. It will require a different kind of performance, and a different kind of nuance.
Will Sofia be interrogating that age difference? Will her film wrestle with that discomfort and place it in the larger conversation that informs so many of her other films about young girls and the complicated path to womanhood?
Seems like this might already be a concern for some. TMZ reported yesterday that “some members of the Elvis Estate” are “enraged” and see the film as a “travesty”. According to them, the estate did not sign off on the film (unlike Baz’s which was produced with complete consent and cooperation) and one official said that the writing and directing of Sofia’s film is “horrible”. They’re also suggesting that Priscilla’s doing this as a “money grab”.
Needless to say, even before Lisa Marie Presley’s death, the relationship between Priscilla, Lisa, and the estate was strained. Just last month, Priscilla and Riley agreed to a settlement over their dispute over Lisa Marie’s estate and there have been rumours and speculation for months over what Priscilla’s motivation has been where her daughter’s finances – and her shares of Elvis Enterprises – are concerned.
Priscilla is in full support of Sofia’s film and she gave a statement to TMZ that read:
"I am very excited to see the interpretation of my book by the masterful Sofia Coppola. She has such an extraordinary perspective and I have always been such an admirer of her work. I'm certain this movie will take everyone on an emotional journey."
It’s the “interpretation of my book” that is the big question here. I can’t see Sofia Coppola making "Elvis and Me" into a standard romance, a generic celebrity love story that’s only going to make the audience swoon and cry. I can’t see her making a movie that’s intended to add to an already well-established Elvis legacy. Not when Priscilla is the focus. And not when A24 is the distributor.