Ever since he skyrocketed to fame, Elvis Presley has become an American legend. The late star had everything from a successful music career to a booming acting career before passing away too soon at the age of 42. He changed rock and roll and is widely believed to be one of the most influential people of the 20th century. People of all generations know and love Elvis Presley decades after his death -- listening to his music and visiting his estate, Graceland.
Because he's such an iconic star, it's no wonder that Hollywood has experimented with bringing his story to the big screen. From memorable TV shows to major film productions, here are some of the most noteworthy portrayals of Elvis Presley.
In what will potentially be the biggest Elvis Presley biopic to date, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood actor Austin Butler will be taking on the role of the King of Rock 'n' Roll with Tom Hanks co-starring as his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Director Baz Luhrmann, known for Oscar nominee Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby is behind the upcoming Elvis biopic that has secured a slew of talented people to play all of the important people surrounding Elvis during his life -- Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley, Richard Roxburgh as Vernon Presley, Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jimmie Rodgers, David Wenham as Hank Snow, Luke Bracey as Jerry Schilling, and more.
While we don't necessarily know yet how successful Butler was taking on Elvis since the pandemic pushed back the project, the official trailer looks pretty amazing. He looks and sounds just like the superstar so we're counting down the days until June 24 when the film is finally released.
Hollywood gem Kurt Russell has taken on a few iconic figures in his career. Recently, he's played Santa Claus in two Netflix films, but back in 1979, he played the King in the TV movie Elvis. He had some amazing stage presence and really nailed those classic moves that made Elvis a star, but he didn't actually sing. That was all thanks to country singer Ronnie McDowell.
He also appeared opposite the real Elvis in the 1963 film It Happened at the World's Fair. Just a 9-year-old Kurt making his movie debut opposite a young Elvis that made all the girls on set go wild. That probably gave him some inspiration years later when he took on the role.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
In 2005, Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers took on Elvis in a CBS miniseries that chronicled his high school years to his rise to fame. Randy Quaid memorably co-starred as Colonel Tom Parker with Rose McGowan playing his rumored affair Ann-Margret. Meyers was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Actor for the miniseries as well as earning an Emmy Award nomination and let's just say, it was well deserved. He fully transformed into the rock and roll legend. It was actually the first biopic that the Presley estate allowed use of the Elvis master recordings too. Meyers, who was widely praised for his portrayal, told the Washington Post that he tried to not go crazy with his research prior to filming.
"I tried to take the things that I was closest to in Elvis Presley and use those, make it as organic as possible to my own experiences," Rhys Meyers said. "He was a poor boy from Tupelo, Mississippi; I'm a poor boy from County Cork, Ireland. He bought his mama a house with the first big amount of money that he got, and so did I. He had a lot of insecurities, wasn't liked in school, felt uncomfortable, was a daydreamer -- and I had all these things."
David Keith's Heartbreak Hotel was definitely less of a serious biopic and more just a fun comedy that follows one of the many legends surrounding Elvis. The story follows a young boy who kidnaps Elvis as a present to his mother since the King is her favorite singer. During the kidnapping, they end up becoming friends and Elvis performs his hit song "Heartbreak Hotel" at the boy's talent show at the end of the film. It was written and directed by Home Alone director Chris Columbus but let's just say...it was one of his earlier films that didn't necessarily get great reviews. The film was set in 1972 but critics just couldn't get on board. The Presley estate did approve of Keith's performance which was clean-cut, drug-free, and fatherly, which may or may not have been an accurate depiction of the superstar in the early 70s.
Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon played Elvis in a 2016 film that focused on a 1970 meeting between Presley and President Richard Nixon. Kevin Spacey played Nixon as they bring to life the legendary meeting that occurred on Dec. 21, 1970, when Elvis showed up at the White House requesting an audience with the president. Shannon's performance was widely praised as he seemed to accurately portray the King's persona and brought humor to the meeting behind the legendary Elvis/Nixon photo.
This was a brief performance technically credited as 'Mentor,' but the legendary Kilmer appeared as the King in Quentin Tarantino's memorable film True Romance. The majority of the film is centered around a couple on the run from the mob after they steal their drugs, but Kilmer makes an appearance as an apparition of Elvis that was memorable due to the perfect way Kilmer nails Presley's speaking voice.
In the Oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, Tyler Hilton makes a brief appearance as a young Elvis opposite Joaquin Phoenix as Cash. Apparently, casting had wanted to audition musicians for the small role of Elvis which was definitely perfect for Hilton who considered himself more of a musician than an actor at the time. He has since also built up a steady acting career but it was intimidating for him at the time he landed the role. Hilton did a great job of playing a younger version of the star from his singing voice to his stage presence.
Definitely one of the less talked about portrayals, but let's not forget about Don Johnson taking on the role of Elvis in a 1981 TV movie for NBC. This film actually focused on the end of Presley's life and his relationship with beauty pageant contestant Linda Thompson, played by Stephanie Zimbalist. Johnson's portrayal was met with mixed reviews, mostly because critics weren't really sure Elvis hung out in his iconic leather pants behind closed doors as frequently as the movie made it seem. Just a couple of years after providing the vocals for Kurt Russell, country singer Ronnie McDowell also did the singing for this movie.
Die-hard Johnny Cash fans may or may not have enjoyed the biopic parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. But Grammy-winning White Stripes singer Jack White made a memorable appearance as Elvis in the movie. It was brief, but the cadence of his speaking voice was spot on.
READ MORE: Love The King? Visit Rock 'n' Roll History in Elvis Presley's Hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi
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