A trailer for Baz Luhrmann‘s Elvis pops on Thursday — three months before its likely Cannes debut, a bit more than four months before it opens on 6.24. And I’m taking this moment to voice a concern.
Austin Butler is Luhrmann’s Elvis, and ever since this was announced I’ve been wondering why. Because Butler doesn’t look like Elvis. He doesn’t have those surly eyes and lips, I mean, or that vaguely bashful “aw shucks” Memphis rockabilly thing. And he sure as shit isn’t pretty enough.
You have to wonder why Luhrmann didn’t choose someone who could actually be the resuscitated, back-from-the-dead Elvis of the ’50s. There are dozens of spot-on Elvis imitators out there (and a few on YouTube), and a certain portion of these can probably act. Nobody wants to watch a guy who doesn’t quite look or sound like the Real McCoy — they want to watch something close to a dead ringer. So why didn’t Luhrmann find one?
I’ve been worried about Butler ever since he played his big scene as Charles “Tex” Watson in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (“I’m the devil, and I’m here to do the devil’s bizness!”). The instant he said that line, I muttered to myself, “Nope…not good enough.”
Repeating: The real authentic Elvis Presley reigned between ’54 and ’58, and sang “Blue Moon,” “All Shook Up,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Reddy Teddy,” “Teddy Bear,” etc. That’s the Elvis everyone wants to hang with.
Does this mean that Baz Luhrman‘s Elvis (Warner Bros., 6.4.22) is going to focus on downslide Elvis, glitter jumpsuit Elvis, fat Elvis, Memphis Mafia Elvis, Graceland Elvis, keeling-over-on-the-toilet Elvis? Does this mean that Austin Butler will do a Robert De Niro in Raging Bull and wear a 40-pounds-heavier fat suit and look all puffy-faced and shit?
Young Elvis is the glorious first half of Lawrence of Arabia. Corpulent, drug-addled, peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwiches Elvis is the dark side of that coin — a slow-motion downswirl.