One larger-than-life rock star portrayed evidently deserves another: Three years after Rami Malik won an Academy Award for playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Orange County native Austin Butler has been generating Academy Award buzz for channeling Elvis Presley in the Baz Luhrman-directed bio-spectacle “Elvis.” In the lavish production, Butler’s Elvis shakes, rattles and rolls in all the right places, but he’s hardly the first actor to walk a mile in the King’s jumpsuit. Here’s a look at six eye-popping on-screen portrayals of Elvis Presley, with at least another half-dozen out there.
Austin Butler in Elvis (2022)
Singing: Butler does most of his own singing on the pre-1960s material, recording his vocals in the same Nashville studio favored by Presley back in the day. For Las Vegas-era Elvis, Butler lip-syncs to Presley recordings.
Dancing: To master Elvis’ rubber-legged wiggles and wobbles, Butler worked with British movement coach Polly Bennett, who also trained Malik for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
All dressed up: Butler moves through more than 90 costume changes, from Young Elvis in pink blazer to the black leather outfit from Presley’s 1968 TV “Comeback Special,” culminating in the ’70s era Las Vegas jumpsuit from designer Bill Belew featuring ornate mega- belt and fit-for-a-king cowl reportedly inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte’s high collar.
Significant other: Manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) stunted Elvis’ artistic growth with a rapacious contract that contributed to the star’s tragic later years.
Credit where it’s due: Little Richard (Alton Mason), Big Mama Thornton (Shonka Dukureh), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Yola), BB King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Arthur Crudup (Gary Clark Jr.) demonstrate how Black artists inspired early Elvis covers like “That’s All Right” and “Hound Dog.”
Preparation: Butler studied with numerous vocal coaches and dialect experts for two years before production began.
Michael Shannon in “Elvis & Nixon” (2016)
Singing: Shannon’s Elvis does not sing.
Dancing: He does not dance. However, this Elvis does show off karate moves in the Oval Office.
All dressed up: Shannon wears a jet-black pompadour wig, black pants, gold belt, white shirt with spread collar and a cape-like black jacket in near-perfect emulation of the clothes worn by Presley in a photo op with Nixon that would become the National Archives’ most requested photograph.
Significant other: Sidekick Jerry Schilling wrote a memoir detailing this stranger-than-fiction 1970 incident in which Elvis, fed up with hippies and the antiwar movement, shows up unannounced at the White House so he can ask President Nixon for a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge authorizing him to go undercover and bust drug dealers. In the film, Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and Johnny Knoxville’s Sonny dramatize the essential role played by Presley’s “Memphis Mafia” entourage.
Gunplay: Elvis opens fire on a TV set at Graceland. Later, he shocks White House security guards by casually opening a briefcase loaded with pistols.
Preparation: Shannon visited Elvis’ tiny bedroom in Memphis’ Lauderdale Court public housing complex. Standing 6 feet 3, the actor focused less on physical verisimilitude and more on the star’s soft-spoken offstage demeanor.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in “Elvis” miniseries (2005)
Singing: Rhys Meyers lip-syncs to original Elvis Presley recordings.
Dancing: Rhys Meyers pulls off one of Young Elvis’ most audacious moves by skidding across the stage on his knees like he’s sliding into home base.
All dressed up: A shimmering 1958 gold-leaf suit highlights a 1958 performance of “Blue Suede Shoes” at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre.
Significant other: Elvis’ mother, Gladys, portrayed by Camryn Manheim. “I didn’t think of Elvis as the King of rock ‘n’ roll,” Rhys Meyers once said in an interview with Larry King. “I thought of him as a poor, talented boy from Tupelo, Miss., who wanted to buy his mother a house.”
Preparation: The Irish actor visited Graceland and met with members of Presley’s family. Rhys Meyers previously portrayed another charismatic musician, with his David Bowie-like role in 1998’s “Velvet Goldmine.”
Harvey Keitel in Finding Graceland (1998)
Singing: Keitel lip-syncs “Suspicious Minds” to a performance by an uncredited vocalist that bears little resemblance to Presley’s actual singing voice.
Dancing: Stocky 5-foot-7 Keitel puts everything he’s got into Elvis’ signature windmill gestures and hip thrusts.
All dressed up: Keitel’s “Elvis” wears a spangly blue jumpsuit for the movie’s climactic musical sequence.
Suspension of disbelief: Keitel’s drifter, claiming to be the not-really-dead Elvis Presley, hitches a ride to Memphis and dispenses home-spun wisdom along the way to his new friend (Johnathon Schaech).
Telling quote: Before Keitel’s nervous Elvis walks on stage, a friend advises: “If you forget any of the words just do some karate.”
Don Johnson in Elvis and the Beauty Queen (1981)
Singing: Three years before he found his alpha-male groove as Sonny Crockett in “Miami Vice,” Johnson lip-syncs in this TV movie to country singer Ronnie McDowell’s performance of the 1972 ballad “Separate Ways.”
All dressed up: White jumpsuit in public. Wide-collar shirts, half-buttoned, in private.
Significant other: Melodrama trumps music in this story about Elvis’ tumultuous relationship with Miss Memphis State University Linda Thompson (Stephanie Zimbalist) in the 1970s.
Snack time: On their first date, Elvis teaches Thompson how to make his favorite sandwich — white bread, butter, peanut butter and bananas.
Gunplay: “A hotel room is not an appropriate place for target practice,” Thompson scolds Elvis after shots are fired.
Kurt Russell in Elvis (1979)
Singing: Russell lip-syncs to his rockabilly-style “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and a raft of other Presley songs voiced by go-to sound-alike Ronnie McDowell.
Dancing: Well-placed hip shakes help Russell as Elvis sell “Blue Suede Shoes.”
All dressed up: Sequined jumpsuits in public. Silk shirts open at the neck in private.
Significant other: Priscilla Presley (Season Hubley) struggles to keep Elvis focused as he prepares for his first appearance at Las Vegas’ International Hotel after 10 years away from the stage.
Preparation: At age 10, child actor Russell, in character, kicked Presley in the shins on the set of “It Happened at the World’s Fair.” Between takes, Russell tossed a football around with the affable star.
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