Is Elvis Based on a True Story?

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, ‘Elvia’ is a musical drama movie follows the rise to fame and larger-than-life career of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), a celebrity icon. The multi-decade story is told from the perspective of his enigmatic and scheming manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), and explores the relationship between the two. Moreover, the narrative further delves into Elvis’ relationship with Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge) and how their romance evolves as he shoots up to fame.

Given the movie’s authentic depiction of the time spanning the 50s and 70s, as well as the nuanced performances of the cast members, the audience cannot help but wonder if ‘Elvis’ is inspired by an actual person or events. Well, here’s what we discovered about the same!

Is Elvis a True Story?

Yes, ‘Elvis’ is based on a true story. Loosely based on James L. Dickerson’s 2001 book ‘Colonel Tom Parker: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley’s Eccentric Manager,’ the film dramatizes the life of Elvis Presley AKA the King of Rock and Roll and details many of the most notable moments of his career. The story also charts the perspectives of his then-wife Priscilla Presley and manager Colonel Tom Parker with relative accuracy, especially concerning Elvis.

The only one still alive among the three people that influence the film’s central characters is Priscilla. After viewing an advance screening of the Baz Luhrmann directorial, she said that people would leave the halls understanding a little more about Elvis’ journey. Priscilla’s glowing review of the film is perhaps as close to a stamp of accuracy as any the film can get. However, it is important to note that while the film presents an accurate broader narrative, smaller details and individual events have been embellished for dramatic purposes.

Luhrmann stated that this film is more grounded than his previous period piece, ‘Moulin Rouge!‘ and that he relied on historical accuracy for the story, making it more accessible to audiences. Although, the director also pointed out that ‘Elvis’ aims to depict the broader American landscape of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, which is why he doesn’t consider it a biopic. Be that as it may, the movie still encompasses over two decades of Elvis’ life, from his childhood to his meteoric rise and eventual decline.

Since the story is primarily told from Tom’s perspective, Elvis’ career as a musician and later as a movie star form the core of the movie’s narrative. Many details about his early days are accurate, like the time spent in a higher-income black neighborhood in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he got inspired by gospel music while attending Evangelical church.

Most notably, the film tries to untangle the complicated relationship between the icon and his manager. It features a slightly fictionalized first meeting between Elvis and Tom in which the former nervously performs on stage at a carnival. Seeing the reaction of a young fan, the latter becomes convinced of the young musician’s showmanship. In real life, Tom was already an established manager in the music industry when he met Elvis backstage after a show in October 1954.

A tumultuous but highly successful relationship between the manager and the rising star ensued, though later it was revealed that Tom had allegedly enriched himself by charging Elvis ludicrously high fees for years. In totality, the movie serves as an introduction to Elvis, outlining his life and the most significant moments therein. Perhaps to attract younger audiences who do not know the cultural icon’s story, the film occasionally takes some pretty vibrant artistic license.

Dramatic scenes that tweak history include the part where Bobby Kennedy is assassinated during the taping of one of Elvis’ shows. In reality, both incidents were completely unrelated. Ultimately, ‘Elvis’ is a sort of “greatest hits” story about the iconic musician, and serves as a wildly entertaining introduction to Elvis Presley’s journey, told from the perspective of his enigmatic manager, Tom, who makes for an intriguing character as well.

The dramatic embellishments and departures from historical timelines are fittingly used to make the onscreen depiction all the more entertaining while presenting the general idea of what happened. The narrative of ‘Elvis’ remains true to its namesake star’s journey, provided you don’t go looking for too many facts.

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