Editors note: Deadline’s Read the Screenplay series debuts and celebrates the scripts of films that will factor in this year’s movie awards races.
With his latest feature Elvis, Baz Luhrmann aims to restore the humanity of Elvis Presley, an artist with depths to equal his talents who in the more than 45 years since his passing has commonly been reduced to a pop-culture caricature.
In order to do so, Luhrmann takes as his focus for the Warner Bros movie the complicated relationship between the King of Rock and Roll (Austin Butler) and his Dutch-born manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). While Parker helped launched Elvis’ career into the stratosphere after signing him in 1956, undoubtedly playing a role in his becoming the bestselling solo musical artist of all time, he’s remembered as a Svengali rather than a visionary given his financial exploitation of Presley over the span of 20-plus years.
Luhrmann has told Deadline over the course of the 2022-23 awards season that he sees Elvis’ story as one of “the selling of the soul” — of a sensitive “artist” brought to both his highest and lowest points by a domineering “ringmaster.” His film at the same time acknowledges that Presley was no saint, having battled demons of his own. It ultimately suggests that it’s through Elvis’ struggles, both with Parker and with himself, that we can truly understand the man behind the myth — who inside was just “this beautiful kid who … wanted to love and be loved in return.”
Luhrmann teamed with Jeremy Doner to write the story for Elvis, partnering on the script with Doner, Sam Bromell and Craig Pearce. The film also starring Olivia DeJonge, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Kodi Smit-McPhee and more was released in June after world premiering at Cannes and has gone on to become Luhrmann’s most successful at the domestic box office to date, grossing more than $151 million in North America and $286 million worldwide.
Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin produced the pic with Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss.
Read the Elvis script below.