Elvis at Cannes 2022: iconic looks and a rock’n’roll energy promised by the performer…

Interpreter of Priscilla Presley, Olivia DeJonge presents Baz Luhrmann’s long-awaited “Elvis”, a few days before its presentation, out of competition, at the Cannes Film Festival 2022.

When Baz Luhrmann presents a film at Cannes, it’s always an event. After Red Mill ! and Gatsby the magnificent, Elvis sure to confirm it. As usual, music will be a big part of the Australian director’s sixth feature. And even more than the previous times, since it will be a biopic dedicated to the King.

Interpreter of his wife Priscilla, Olivia DeJonge spoke with us about this highly anticipated project. From his role to his collaboration with Austin Butlerwho embodies Elvis Presley, through the filming and his view of these mythical personalities.

AlloCiné: Did you meet the real Priscilla Presley to study her way of speaking and listen to her recount the scenes that you were going to play?
Olivia DeJonge :
The Covid has complicated all of this so we haven’t crossed paths yet, but I can’t wait to be able to. But from what I understand, she saw the movie and loves it, and that’s all that matters to me. You are a very young actress.

What does casting look like when auditioning for someone like Priscilla Presley?
As far as I’m concerned, I made an audition tape that I sent. And they called me three months later to tell me that I had the part. It’s kind of crazy, in hindsight, that it happened thanks to this one tape. But amazing too (laughs)

What was your reaction the first time you were told about the project?
As with many projects, I received an e-mail telling me that this film was going to be shot, and I was invited to audition, while telling me that I only had a few days to do so. So I started reading books, listening to music, then I went to make this tape with a friend. And the rest is history.

What memories do you have of the very first day of filming?
For my first day, I attended one of the performances. But not in the skin of Priscilla. And that was after the pandemic. Seeing Austin deliver this performance felt like stepping into another world. There was all the hard work that everyone had put in exploding on stage, it was amazing. It was special and everyone seemed to pay a lot of attention to that exact moment, which I think is rare. There everyone was very very in tune with what was happening, and it was a beautiful day.

Watching Austin Butler do it was magic

Can you tell us about your style in the film?
Priscilla’s hair and makeup were amazing. There was no technology back then, so all of his choices about it were very intuitive and organic, which I find increasingly fascinating. Because it paved the way and launched like a trend from itself, quite simply. She wasn’t looking at Instagram to choose what she wanted to do.

She said what she wanted and why. And the film shows off some of her iconic looks. I spent a lot of time in the make-up and hairdressing chair, getting wigs and make-up adjusted. So I can’t wait to see the result. I don’t know what it’s going to look like on screen, but from what I’ve seen, I feel like we’re doing just fine.

What did you know of Elvis’ life?
Not much actually. I grew up listening to Elvis because my parents loved his music – like a lot of people my age I think. But I didn’t know much about his life and that’s what was the best part of my participation in this film: being able to learn more about him, his life, his contribution to the music industry, about Priscilla… It was really intriguing.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Priscilla?
It’s one of my favorite stories about her, and she tells it in her book: an obsessive fan was waiting outside their house, and she came out to confront her. She was ready to face him when she was in danger of being demolished. It really surprised me but I loved it, because it showed her bite, the sacred fire in her. But I remember reading it and thinking to myself: “But no !”

Can you tell us about your work with Austin, both in terms of your chemistry and seeing him play these incredible musical scenes?
We were all lucky to have him as captain on the film: he’s passionate and hardworking, which makes him an awesome scene partner. We had no trouble getting started as we were very excited to be there.

One of my first great memories of filming was the possibility of attending one of his performances, and seeing him disappear behind the character when he sings and dances. It was amazing to watch, and it got the whole set excited every time we were treated to one of those performances. He worked hard and for a very long time, for an incredible result. Watching him do it was magical.

Elvis at cannes 2022: iconic looks and a rock'n'roll energy promised by the performer...
Warner Bros. Pictures

Austin Butler and Olivia DeJonge in “Elvis”

It’s the first time you’ve played a real character. What kind of challenge did this represent for you?
It’s always a challenge to attack a real someone. Because you hope to bring out something that hasn’t been seen before. And we always have the impression that the person is behind our shoulder when we shoot the scenes. But I was in good hands and everyone was passionate about this project, both the team and the production company. They knew a lot of things. Baz created an environment of incredible play and curiosity, in which there was room for error. It made the experience beautiful despite the challenges.

Now that you’ve done both, which do you prefer: the characters that have existed or the ones that have to be built from scratch?
I asked myself this question. Because both represent a challenge. It’s exciting to build on something that’s there, to be part of a legacy, like we did with Elvis. We were that troupe trying to recreate the magic. But it’s equally exciting to build a character from scratch. I think I like both and don’t want to pick one over the other. But I will be open to both possibilities in the future.

Is there something about Priscilla’s personality that stood out to you? Who makes you want to be like her in certain situations?
From the start, the way she expresses her femininity fascinated me. She’s a hyper-feminine girl, and that’s something I hadn’t explored as a young woman yet. Immerse myself in this femininity, this attention to detail, it fascinated me. The way we present ourselves to the world, the psychology behind it. And that’s stuck with me since we finished filming.

What can you tell us about what the film shows about the relationship and marriage between Elvis and Priscilla?
I can’t say too much about the movie. But it covers Elvis’ life, so his relationship with Priscilla from start to finish. And I think of everything she gave up to be with him and support him. Because she knew what he meant to people. I hope their relationship will be realistic in the film, and that it will come across as a breath of fresh air in the midst of the madness that has been his career.

What was there of mythical in the couple formed by Elvis and Priscilla according to you?
If they have transcended eras, it is also because there were no social networks. So a lot of what we saw of them came from magazines, newspapers or photos here and there. People have always been hungry for being so far removed from a world that seems out of reach. And I think it touches on how fame has changed in the age of social media. Still, I think they were a great couple and people were cheering on their romance, no matter how complicated their relationship was.

Do you remember how you felt the first time you listened to Elvis’ music?
I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid, and I think my favorite song is “Blue Moon”. His music is truly timeless, and it brings you back to the present moment.

Baz Luhrmann encourages a lot, he is constantly inspired by what surrounds him

Watching a Baz Luhrmann movie is an energetic, very cinematic, and pretty crazy experience. But how is a shoot with him going?
Baz is unique in his way of working. He is constantly on the go, always curious. That’s really how I would describe it if I had to use one word for it. He is very curious and intuitive, he is not afraid of anything. He is very daring. And that was reflected in the game environment he created. He encourages a lot, he is constantly inspired by what surrounds him. To be surrounded by such energy is a real gift, and you miss it when it’s gone.

Was it intimidating to work on such a large project?
Sure ! In addition to telling the story of Elvis and his life, there before Tom Hanks. And Baz. So it was intimidating. But, again, everyone was nice: Tom, Baz, Austin. It made the experience better.

What does Baz Luhrmann mean to you? When did you see one of his films for the first time?
Baz is a legend, because he is Australian like me. We all gather around ours. I discovered his work for the first time when I was in ninth grade. I had taken a course on the media in which we analyzed Romeo + Juliet and Ballroom Dancing. I would like to find the dissertations I had written on it. I think you would find it funny. I may have seen these films before, but my first distinct memory of his cinema dates back to when we analyzed them.

What made you want to become an actress?
I have been doing this job for a long time. Since I was a child. My parents aren’t in the industry so they didn’t push me to do it. I just liked what I saw on screen and wanted to be part of it. I remember being obsessed with the movie Peter Pan of PJ Hogan with Jeremy Sumpter. In addition to being in love with him at the age of 12, it inspired me. It obviously developed over time, and I took a more mature approach, but that’s how it started.

Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on April 21, 2022

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