Elvis, Baz Luhrmann: "Music is a superpower"

Video interview with Baz Luhrmann, director of Elvis, biopic about Elvis Presley, played by an Oscar-winning Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, in the most disturbing role of his career. In the dining room from 22 June.

Elvis: Austin Butler in a photo

Nine years after The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann is finally back on the big screen with Elvis: premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2022, is in Italian cinemas from 22 June. Once again the Australian director did what he does best: a great show. Indeed: a “spectacular show”. To be enjoyed on the largest screen possible.

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Elvis: Austin Butler in a musical number

To play Elvis Presley Baz Luhrmann chose Austin Butler. The Oscar winner Tom Hanks instead is Colonel Tom Parker, manager of Elvis and villain of this film. The Australian director has in fact succeeded in the impossible: to make Hollywood’s most reassuring face disturbing.

In two and a half hours, Luhrmann condenses 42 years of intense life: he transforms Elvis into a superhero, making him the embodiment of the American dream. With lights and shadows. Although on paper the “villain” of this story is Parker, in reality time is the real enemy: that the director has been fighting since his first film, Ballroom. We talked about it with him.

Elvis: video interview with Baz Luhrmann

Elvis, the review: the King in a cage

Baz Luhrmann: “A life lived in fear is a life lived in half”

Ever since Ballroom, your motto has always been “a life lived in fear is a life lived in half”. But it is not easy. How can we fight fear?

Elvis Photo Credits Hugh Stewart

Elvis: Austin Butler in one scene

You know there is, I don’t have a magic formula. I’m afraid too. I wake up every day on set, or when I’m writing a script, or working on a project, or when I thought I couldn’t find Elvis, and I’m filled with fear. But part of my job is to create an environment where fear is kept out. I have to fight fear for everyone else. What we do for work is called “playing”. Playing a part, a script is like a game. And children cannot play when they are afraid. So, when I get up in the morning at 5, and, perhaps thanks to the quasi-military teachings of my father who threw me into the frozen water, at the bottom of the river, forcing me to go up towards the bank, I press a button that says: “Don’t worry. “. I’m not saying I’m fearless, because I’m full of it, but I have to keep it away, so that the actors can act.

Elvis, Baz Luhrmann presents the trailer for the film with Austin Butler in the role of the King of Rock

Elvis as a superhero

I love the scene where the music is almost like a superpower entering Elvis’ body. You have used comics in this film and also in The Get Down. Do you really think music is a superpower?

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Elvis: Austin Butler during a scene with Elvis fans

Yes, absolutely. Words can do certain things, actions others, but music touches us and excites us in a way that is almost inexplicable. It’s really difficult. From a scientific point of view, I think it was Pythagoras who understood that music and mathematics have things in common. The body reacts to a mathematical rhythm. But who can explain why, when Andrea Bocelli, or Pavarotti, sings that high note in Nessun dorma, our soul is so exalted? It is a feeling that cannot be explained. The spirit of the audience rises at the same time. It’s interesting to me that sometimes, for better or for worse, singing prompts people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Baz Luhrmann and the fight against time

I feel that in all your films the real antagonist is time. Why are you so obsessed with time?

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Elvis: Austin Butler and Tom Hanks in a scene from the film

Because it is limited! Elvis lived a 42 year life and I had to tell it in two hours. In two and a half hours. If time were money, if you are really lucky you would have a hundred dollars for life. By the time you really figure things out, you’ve already spent 10. The last 20, and I’m not saying 80 is few, but who really gets to 100 ?! If you consider time in dollars you understand that it is very precious. So: how do you use it? I try to make sure my time is adventurous, to feel alive. Sometimes I have lost my way. Sometimes I didn’t feel present and alive. And when it happens you realize that you have to do everything to use your time well, to live in the moment. For the first time since the pandemic occurred, there was a fantastic ovation in Cannes, which was not fake. The palpable excitement on the street of people happy to see movies, meet again and live with others, feel human, was true. People are hungry to feel alive again. And it all depends on how you use your time.

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