‘Priscilla’ is an alternative look at rock-and-roll from the perspective of Elvis’s ‘Queen’

Elvis Presley being fed a mouthful of wedding cake by his bride Priscilla Beaulieu. File image.

Elvis Presley being fed a mouthful of wedding cake by his bride Priscilla Beaulieu. File image.

Published Nov 8, 2023


Elvis Presley might have passed on almost five decades ago but, to this day, he is renowned as the “King of Rock and Roll”.

It has been 46 years since he died and yet Elvis remains the role model to modern day musicians and is still regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century.

But while much is known about the iconic singer who revolutionised the music industry, “Priscilla”, Sofia Coppola's biopic which is currently in cinemas worldwide, has placed a new figure in the spotlight.

The highly-rated movie centres around the “King's queen”, Priscilla Presley, who met Elvis at just 14-years-old at one of his parties and then went on to become his bride at 21.

The film is based on the 1985 memoir ‘’Elvis and Me’’ by Priscilla Presley herself as well as acclaimed writer and producer Sandra Harmon.

The role of the movie’s leading lady is played by Cailee Spaeny of HBO's "Mare of Easttown” fame.

And while she landed the biggest role of her career to date, the young actress is still relatively unknown, that is until the role of “Priscilla” catapulted her into the spotlight.

Priscilla Presley stands in the '60 years of Elvis' exhibit inside an annex at Graceland on February 21, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. File image.

This too is the case of her co-star Jacob Elordi, who takes up the role of Elvis. The 26-year-old Australian actor starred in HBO's "Euphoria" and garnered scores of tabloid interest for his romances with the likes Zendaya, Kaia Gerber and Olivia Jade Giannulli.

But, just like his relatively unknown co-star, their roles in “Priscilla” were the first time both of them have seen themselves in such a big-screen production.

“It's a whole different world. I love it," Elordi recently told The Washington Post who recently declared him as GQ’s ”Gen Z's leading man“, while the publication is also set to honour him as one of their 2023 Men of the Year.

But like Elvis himself, Elordi takes a back seat to Spaeny in “Priscilla”. As the star of the film, the US actress offers a glimpse into what it would be like to be chosen by the most famous man in the world.

Coppola's movie is firmly rooted in the perspective of the title character. Its other central question focuses on her: what it would be like to to be scooped up and transplanted into his adults' playhouse of Graceland - Elvis’s home in Memphis, Tennessee which features amenities such as museums, restaurants, gift shops.

The movie also attempts to show what the reality of being the spouse to the “King of Rock and Roll,” would have been like - with his legions of fans, and to be in his shadow and under his control - all at such a young age.

This is reflected in “Priscilla” as Spaeny appears in nearly every frame of the film, often alone, neglected and abandoned in her opulent prison as Elordi's Elvis is relegated to a side character who's on tour, shooting a movie, and even fighting tabloid reports.

And this female-led narrative is in-vogue for the current direction that many films have taken this year.

Some high-profile examples are the “Barbie” movie and “Scream VI”, which feature the likes of Jenna Ortega, Melissa Barrera, Jasmine Savoy Brown and Courtney Cox in leading roles.

This movie trend proves that female-led movies are not just limited to the usual rom-com or drama film but rather, they have spread over a variety of genres.

And gone are the days when women acted as side accessories for the leading male characters as they have now stepped up and are portraying complex characters that have interesting back stories.

Meanwhile, it appeared that taking up the lead in “Priscilla”, which offers an alternative look at rock-and-roll royalty, was something the young actress was destined to do.

Spaeny explained in the same Washington Post article that she had been a fan of Coppola's ever since watching the director's feature debut, "The Virgin Suicides“, as a teenager in Missouri.

It also turned out that her father was an Elvis fan and had taken her to Graceland.

“I found her films when I was 14-years-old and they really sort of opened things up for me personally, seeing the way that she looked at young women and didn't underestimate them, and really gave them the space to have a dark side and longings, wants and needs," she was quoted as saying.

”I felt that side of myself that I was too shy to show. I got to express that more through watching her films and it was the first time I ever thought about who’s behind the camera.“