‘Elvis’ Movie Leaves Las Vegas All Shook Up

Find out what the cast says about Elvis’ Las Vegas legacy

The long awaited movie “Elvis” hits theaters this weekend. One might say that the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is most tied to Graceland. But no one can deny that Las Vegas played a primary part for Presley. 

Since the upcoming Hollywood movie has us all shook up, we wanted to take a look at his Las Vegas legacy, how the movie portrays our own playground and what the stars had to say about Vegas.

A King-sized Residency

Las Vegas played a colossal role in the legacy of both the entertainer and the city. Not that you would, but if you did need proof, look no further than the numerous Elvis wedding themed chapels, the slew of impersonators and current tribute shows on and off the Strip.

In Vegas, before residencies touted the names Lady Gaga, Celine Dion or Donny and Marie Osmond, there was the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll – Elvis Presley.  Although he was not the first big musical star to have a Vegas residency (Liberace is credited as the pioneer), our little city in the desert sure did shake, rattle and roll the King.

Courtesy of Vintage Las Vegas

Officially, Presley played Las Vegas from 1969 to 1976. Though he did play the New Frontier Hotel for a few weeks early in ‘56, he is most connected to The International (now the Westgate). His four-week engagement drew over 100,000 fans and reportedly earned $100,000 a week. During his seven years in Vegas, he performed 57 shows, usually two a day for the newly opened hotel.

It is worth noting that while Elvis’ reach expanded to all corners of the globe, the legendary entertainer never performed live outside the United States (feel free to insert gasps here).

Courtesy of The Las Vegas News Bureau

But the King showed great affection for Vegas prior to his residence at The International. In fact, he and his new bride Priscilla Presley wed in Las Vegas in May of 1967 at the former Aladdin Hotel, which is now Planet Hollywood.

‘Elvis’ The Movie

The movie may be called “Elvis”, but the film also belongs to Col. Tom Parker. “Elvis” is the product of director Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge” and “Gatsby”). It stars Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and Tom Hanks as Col. Tom Parker.

Tom Hanks and Austin Butler at the Sydney Premiere

The film begins in Las Vegas near the end of Col. Tom Parker’s life. And it also depicts the juxtaposition between the “Heartbreak Hotel’ singer’s worldwide fame and his isolation while living on the 30th level of the Hilton hotel. 

“As I like to say, Colonel Tom Parker was never a colonel, never a Tom, never a Parker, but a fascinating character all the same. He was a carnival barker dedicated to finding that one great act,” says Luhrmann, while promoting the film.  That one great act, of course, was Elvis Aaron Presley.

Director Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler at Cinemacon

Both Luhrmann and Butler hit Las Vegas to promote “Elvis” in April. “I was over the moon,” Butler recalls his reaction to landing the role. That excitement was followed by a king-sized responsibility.

“The main thing is that I set out to find his humanity. He is one of those individuals who has been lifted up to such an iconic status that he seems superhuman,” says Butler. 

Elvis’ voice was one of the many characteristics Butler had to master. “His voice changed from the 50s to the 70s. His movements changed in that time. His singing style changed. It was finding the time periods,” says Butler from the stage at Caesars Palace.

Watch The Film in Theaters Or Wait?

This film is meant for the big screen. There is no question on this one—catch it in theaters. We could rave about the performances by both Butler and Hanks—which are phenomenal in their own right. Or, we could focus on the undeniably painstaking perfection displayed in the recreations of the film.

“Elvis” starts playing in theaters on June 24. The film is rated PG-13 and runs 2 hours and 39 minutes.


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