To borrow a lyric from her famous husband’s hit song, Priscilla Presley was all shook up at the Venice Film Festival premiere of “Priscilla.” The subject of Sofia Coppola’s drama wiped away tears from her face on Monday night in Italy as the audience on the Lido exploded in a 7-minute standing ovation for the A24 indie film. Coppola and Presley attended the premiere alongside Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, who star as Priscilla and Elvis. The actors were granted a SAG-AFTRA waiver to promote the film amid the strike.
Presley was visibly moved by the film. As she dried her eyes, she hugged Spaeny. Coming off the heels of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” which opened in theaters in 2022, Coppola cast Elordi as the King of Rock and Roll in a portrait that isn’t always so flattering. This Elvis is addicted to sleeping pills, loses his temper and tries to control what his girlfriend wears as he cheats on her.
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The movie might be called “Priscilla,” but the crowds outside the Sala Grande Theatre were chanting one name — “Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!” — outside the red carpet. Elordi, the 26-year-old Australian actor best known for “Euphora,” exuded a ‘90s Brad Pitt movie star swagger as he signed autographs and took selfies. He even ran across the carpet, through the shrieking, to pick up a Polaroid that a fan had accidentally dropped over the barricade, handing it back to her. (It was a true gentleman move that Elvis would have certainly approved of.)
Presley also attended the film’s press conference earlier in the day, where she emotionally answered a question about what it was like falling for Elvis at the age of 14 years old.
“It’s very difficult to sit and watch a film about you, about your life, about your love,” Presley said. “Sofia did an amazing job. She did her homework, we spoke a couple of times, and I really put everything out for her that I could.”
“It was very difficult for my parents to understand that Elvis would be so interested in me and why,” she continued. “And I really do think because I was more of a listener. Elvis would pour his heart out to me in every way in Germany: his fears, his hopes, the loss of his mother — which he never, ever got over. And I was the person who really, really sat there to listen and to comfort him. That was really our connection. Even though I was 14, I was actually a little bit older in life — not in numbers. That was the attraction. People think, ‘Oh, it was sex.’ No, it wasn’t. I never had sex with him. He was very kind, very soft, very loving, but he also respected the fact I was only 14 years old. We were more in line in thought, and that was our relationship.”
Coppola’s film was met with rave reviews out of Venice. Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman hailed “Priscilla” as “piercingly authentic,” adding, “Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi bring the couple to vibrant life in a film that soft-pedals nothing.”
“Priscilla” is based on Priscilla Presley’s own autobiography, “Elvis and Me,” which Coppola adapted herself. The film centers on Priscilla’s life and her love affair with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, following her from her early years as a teenage army brat stationed in West Germany to her arrival at Graceland.
The movie debuted in competition at the Venice Film Festival and marks a reunion between Coppola and A24 after their work together on 2013’s “The Bling Ring.” Although Coppola is more of a fixture at Cannes (she won the best director prize there for 2017’s “The Beguiled”), she’s also no stranger to the Lido as her father-daughter drama “Somewhere” was one of the most acclaimed premieres at the 2010 festival. It ultimately won the festival’s best picture prize, the Golden Lion.
The release of “Priscilla” acts as a kind of counterbalance to last year’s “Elvis,” which told the story of Elvis Presley from the singer’s point of view. The Warner Bros. release was a box office hit, grossing $288 million worldwide and earning eight Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for Austin Butler.
“Priscilla” is set to open in movie theaters Oct. 27 from A24. It will also serve as the centerpiece screening of the New York Film Festival in October.
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