THE KING OF ROCK’N ROLL “ELVIS” FROM BAZ LUHRMANN
Cinema Writer/Film Critic Efe TEKSOY; wrote the biography, drama and music film “ELVIS” for America’s Los Angeles based Internet Newspaper @alaturkanews.
AN EPIC CINEMATIC DRAMA
Warner Bros. Pictures movie Elvis, released on HBO Max. The production with a budget of 85 million dollars is signed by Oscar-nominated visionary filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. The production, in which the life and music of Elvis Presley, a music legend, is handled, stars American actor Austin Butler and Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. Elvis’ story is told through the lens of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Director Luhrmann uses America’s thriving cultural landscape and lost innocence as a backdrop, while dramatizing the complex dynamic between the two over the 20 years between Presley’s rise to incredible fame and his transformation into an unprecedented star. At the heart of this fascinating journey is Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge), one of the most important and influential people in Elvis’ life. While the director especially includes the audience in Elvis Presley’s inner world, he does not neglect to add to the ups and downs of the artist, as well as the tensions he experiences while overcoming difficulties. In addition, while presenting all the enthusiasm of the fashion of the period with a sparkling visual, it provides an incredible musical experience.
Writer-director-producer Baz Luhrmann, through his detailed and extensive research on music legend Elvis, discovered the strange relationship behind the artist’s public success and his personal woes. “While the story is called ‘Elvis’, this is also the story of Colonel Tom Parker, at least in terms of narrative. He is our narrator and in that sense, he is unreliable,” he says. “As I like to say, Colonel Tom Parker was never a colonel, not a Tom, not a Parker; nevertheless, he was a fascinating character. He was a festival goer dedicated to finding that great talent.” The filmmaker continues: “Nineteen-year-old Elvis Presley lived for a time in one of several white-segregated homes in the African-American section of Tupelo, Mississippi. Here with a group of neighborhood friends, he absorbed the music performed both in local music venues and in Pentecost (a type of church music) tents. As he grew older, he combined this with his love of country music. Parker had no musical ear by any means, but was definitely struck by Elvis’ influence on younger audiences as a whole. As the colonel says in the movie, ‘It was the greatest festival show I’ve ever seen.'” Tom Hanks says of the real-life Parker: “He was both a genius and a cunnning. He was a very disciplined man, a terribly smart businessman, and a stingy trying to lube the fly. But he was also the forerunner of big-time shows that didn’t exist until Elvis Presley came along. He instantly knew that Elvis was a unique artist, saw his great potential, and knew that if he hadn’t made a ton of money off of him, someone else would have.”
THE STAR OF ELVIS
After extensive research to find the person who would bring to life this musical legend, whose exciting art and image has permeated the world for over six decades, the production team stumbled upon Austin Butler. Luhrmann relates: “I knew I wouldn’t have been able to make this movie if the casting hadn’t been completely right. We looked for an actor with the talent to portray the vulnerable side in this unique star, along with her unique natural movements and vocals. I had heard that Austin Butler gave a stunning performance on Broadway in his role opposite Denzel Washington in ‘The Iceman Cometh. Then I got a call from Denzel, even though we haven’t met in person. He told me that this young actor had a work ethic he had never seen before. Through an extensive journey of screen testing, music and performance workshops, I am confident that we have found someone who can bring the spirit of one of the world’s most legendary musical figures to life.” Actor Austin Butler, who wore more than 90 costumes to portray the legend throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in “Elvis,” spent five months developing the character and even periodically he worked as a workshop with director Baz Luhrmann.
The 4 most-award-winning Academy Award winners in Oscar history Costume designer Catherine Martin took up the challenge for an artist whose costumes have become iconic, building a bridge spanning three decades between the radically developed 1950s, 60s and 70s. and designed more than 90 costumes for the lead role. She also worked closely with icon fashion designers Prada and Miu Miu to create the costumes that Olivia DeJonge wore while portraying the real-life style icon Priscilla Presley. Martin and her team were privileged to collaborate with Kim and Butch Polston of B&K Enterprises in Charlestown, Indiana, who faithfully recreated the iconic stage outfits Elvis wore in the 1970s with the express permission of Elvis’ longtime costume designer Bill Belew. Through the Polstons, Martin was made for the movie in the exact same way as the originals, with access to the gorgeous chainstitch embroideries by Jean Doucette, who personally embroidered Elvis’s overalls. Also, renowned costume designer Martin, who pays a lot of attention to detail, states, “We had a very talented team that made a number of our costumes, from Elvis’ suits to servants’ aprons, and their costumes were just as important as any costume Elvis wore.” says.
SPECIAL MAKEUP EFFECT
He notes that Tom Hanks required long hours each day in the makeup chair under the creative gaze of prosthetics supervisor Jason Baird and his team of artists. They spent three to five hours a day transforming the actor into Colonel Tom Parker, depending on how old the character had to be for that day’s shoot. Baird explains the process: “The starting point for any major prosthetic make-up is to mold the actor’s head and digitally scan the actor’s body. Thanks to these, body costumes are created and different variations of each look are prepared”. There were three versions for Parker: Parker in his mid-to-late 40s, the age at which he discovered Elvis; Parker, who goes back to his 60s; and Parker, 87. Baird says, “In the late ’60s version, the chin was slightly fatter to show the leap of age; his wig was different and also added age spots to his look. When he was an 87-year-old man, he was very pale and sickly. In this version of Parker, Tom’s head is completely covered with prosthetics; whiter, sparse hair, a set of dentures, and even more age and sunspots”. Baird continues: “The total application for the appearance of the first two age periods took three and a half hours each day, while the aged, ghostly version took about five hours to apply. Tom was great throughout the implementation process. He slept from time to time and took a break every two hours to spread his legs.” “We were working with the best of the best: Jason, Sean [Genders] and Brittany [Jones] were my support team, and I spent up to five hours with them every morning before sunrise, so we needed to know each other’s rhythms,” Hanks says.
VISIUAL MANAGEMENT AND COLOR PALLET
As the story spans a long period of time, all of which are periodic, Luhrmann and Walker worked closely with Dan Sasaki, Optical Engineering at Panavision, from the very beginning of pre-production. Sasaki created two original and completely different sets of lenses for the recording of the footage of the film. “The first was the 65mm lens that took us all the way to Elvis’ trip to Las Vegas, with a softer color palette and less contrast feel. And these lenses helped create that historical element or reference to an earlier time with a softer feel.” At times during production, the shots required what Luhrmann calls “train watching.” Walker explains: “Trainwatching, Elvis 68 Special is a complete remake of existing footage, such as Elvis’ performances in Vegas as well as his performances at the Steve Allen and Milton Berle shows. Walker also explains that he uses a lot of new LED technologies: “We hooked everything up to a dimmer switch. So if we turned the camera, we could change the lighting at the same time. So I could change the color of the lights very quickly, from just an iPad.” We’ve also made some LED lights that are two and a half meters long; they both gave a nice soft light and could be hidden in the ceiling”. The color palette was also very period-like of the movie. Colored light appears later in Elvis’ life. The first part of his life, set in Memphis, was, as Luhrmann puts it, “in black and white.” This was the early period of photography, a reference to color photography by Gordon Parks, the famous 20th century American photographer. “The black and white color is a pastel-like version of the color, but still has strong black and white,” says Walker. This is something I was inspired by when recreating the Beale Street scenes.
Elvis” film the production team saw Graceland as a symbol and expression of Elvis’ achievement, and to reflect this, they built interior sets on the massive Village Roadshow plateaus on the Gold Coast in Australia. Graceland’s exterior was built on a Gold Coast rural property with a topography remarkably similar to the original site in Memphis, including the slope of the grassy slope leading to the house. When constructing the interior sets, they aimed to show Graceland as it was when Elvis first bought the house. They also swapped out various items to show the renovations the family has made over time. For example, the floorboards seen when Elvis and his family moved in were covered with a red plush carpet that Elvis made a bold design choice for later scenes. It is well documented that Elvis had a large collection of both cars and motorcycles. That’s why for the movie “Elvis” the vehicle department of the production team acquired over 300 cars and motorcycles. Part of it takes place on Memphis, Tennessee‘s legendary Beale Street. The set took the production team 12 weeks to build, and to be authentic, it was built on a hillside, in keeping with the space at that time.
A MUSIC LEGEND “ELVIS”
Noting that Elvis has recorded more than 700 songs, director Luhrmann says his team had to make tough decisions about which ones to include in the film, not based on popularity, but simply on how to tell the story in the most effective way. Warner Bros. Pictures movie Elvis, in the genres of biography, drama and music, offers a unique viewing pleasure where you will feel all the enthusiasm of music and fashion with its non-stop tempo and unique visual atmosphere.