We’ll Need to Wait a Little Longer to Learn Baz Luhrmann’s Take on “Priscilla”

When filmmakers reckoning with the Presleys converge

Cailee Spaeny
Cailee Spaeny attends the "Priscilla" Special Presentation premiere during the 67th BFI London Film Festival at The Royal Festival Hall on October 09, 2023.
Jack Hall/WireImage

In the last year or so, two very talented filmmakers have offered audiences decidedly different takes on the mythos surrounding Elvis Presley. Both of the films in question — Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla — opened to positive reviews, and both featured starmaking performances from their respective leads (Austin Butler and Cailee Spaeny, respectively).

Inevitably, some reviews of Coppola’s film have invoked Luhrmann’s. Writing about Priscilla in Polygon, Siddhant Adlakha argued that the film “plays like a rebuff of Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar-nominated 2022 biopic Elvis, in which the duo’s marriage is framed solely around Elvis’ experience, and the isolating effects of his growing fame.” If you’re curious about what the filmmakers’ thoughts on matter are, though, you might have to wait a while; Luhrmann recently admitted he hasn’t seen Coppola’s film yet.

That said, that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of it. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Luhrmann said, “I haven’t seen the film, I’ve just been so busy. But I’m dying to see it.” (He also clarified that he considers Coppola a “really good friend.”)

Luhrmann also made a resonant point about why talented filmmakers have been drawn to world around both Elvis and Priscilla Presley. “I’m sure there’ll be many more films about Elvis and Priscilla told with other characters and told from very different points of view,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Because it just proves the validity of the story in terms of culture in America.”

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He isn’t wrong! And there’s something fascinating about two filmmakers with very different stylistic and thematic approaches each reckoning with overlapping stories in their own way. (And it seems inevitable that a repertory theater will have a really easy job programming a double bill of the two films before too long.) In its own way, it feels not far removed from some of the conversation surrounding the Barbenheimer phenomenon a few months ago — and, hopefully, it’ll serve as a reminder for what the medium of film can do in the right hands.

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