Two weeks ago, the website The Wrap reported that Australian director Baz Luhrmann is negotiating to do an Elvis movie biography for Warner Brothers. If you are not familiar with his name, Luhrmann’s credits include The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge. Supposedly, the script has already been written by Kelly Marcel, the screenwriter of Saving Mr. Banks.
Two days later, the website DNA reported that Leonardo DiCaprio was the director’s first choice to portray Elvis. Oh, boy. I hope this never happens. DiCaprio is a great actor, but I just can’t see him as Elvis. Please, find somebody else.
A few years ago, Eric Bana was touted as the next actor to play Elvis in the movies. As stated in a November 5, 2011 ElvisBlog article, I was much more positive about this choice.
The topic of actors portraying Elvis has been covered by Wikipedia, and believe it or not, they have a list of 37. Here are some of the most significant.
Kurt Russell – Elvis, The Movie (TV movie) – 1979:
My vote goes to Kurt Russell for the best portrayal of Elvis. Shelly Winters does a great job as Gladys. Susan Hubley played Priscilla. I guess the role didn’t do much for her career.
If you ever get a chance to see Elvis, the Movie, be sure to watch it.
Don Johnson – Elvis and the Beauty Queen (TV Movie) – 1981:
Kurt Russell had the most successful acting career of anyone who played Elvis, but Don Johnson didn’t do too bad either, later starring in the hit TV show Miami Vice.
I’m not too crazy about the image they chose for the DVD cover. Stephanie Zimbalist did well after playing Linda Thompson, starring in the TV series Remington Steele for six seasons.
While Don Johnson didn’t look just like Elvis, he had the facial features that made him believable as The King.
Johnny Harra – This Is Elvis – 1981:
In this movie, four different actors played Elvis at various stages in his life, but Johnny Harra got the role of the older, fatter Elvis.
Johnny Harra seems to be the only actor who portrayed Elvis in a significant movie that also made a living as an Elvis Tribute Artist.
Dale Midkiff – Elvis and Me (Four-Hour TV Miniseries) – 1988:
Dale Midkiff had a few other acting rolls during his career, but Elvis and Me seems to be the highlight of his career.
This movie was based on Priscilla’s 1985 book of the same title. Susan Walters portrayed Priscilla in her first major roll. It didn’t seem to do much for her career.
The love scene in this movie (where they don’t actually make love) is rather interesting. Check it out.
David Keith – Heartbreak Hotel – 1988:
All movies mentioned so far are biographies. However, Heartbreak Hotel is a fictional story about Elvis being kidnapped by a teenager for a present to his mom.
I love this movie. David Keith does a great job as Elvis, and Tuesday Weld is superb as the mom with a crush on Elvis.
If you haven’t seen Heartbreak Hotel, you’re missing a good one. I highly recommend it.
Michael St. Gerard – Elvis (Ten-Episode TV Mini-series) – 1990:
Michael St Girard actually had experience portraying Elvis prior to getting this role. He appeared in the Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic Great Balls of Fire the year before.
Thirteen half-hour episodes were filmed, but the series was cancelled after just ten due to declining ratings. I stayed with it until the end, and thought it was pretty good. It covered just 1954 and 1955, so there was no Col. Parker or Priscilla, but a lot of Scotty, Bill and DJ. It deserved a better fate.
Michael St. Girard had a few more acting rolls, then gave it up and became a preacher.
Rick Peters – Elvis Meets Nixon (Made-for-Cable Movie) – 1997:
This movie played for laughs, and it certainly succeeded. Rick Peters’ twist on Elvis was such a gas. This is another movie about Elvis I would recommend.
The whole story about Elvis’ trip to see President Nixon is so bizarre anyway, it didn’t take much exaggerating in parts for comedic effect.
I don’t think any other movie showed Elvis smoozing the ladies like this one does, and Rick Peters nailed it. Too bad his acting career didn’t take off after this role.
Bruce Greenwood – Bubba Ho-Tep – 2002:
Bruce Campbell is a delight as a cranky old-geezer Elvis in Bubba Ho-Tep.
This is another fictional movie about Elvis, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. Yes, it is kind of strange, and there is a bit of horror in it, but Elvis is portrayed as a hero. When you finish the movie, you will be very proud of Elvis.
This is how Bruce Campbell looks in a flashback about Elvis in his younger days.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers — Elvis – The Mini-Series (CBS) – 2005:
I guess two two-hour segments are enough to call it a mini-series, but this was more like a two-part movie. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is an English actor, which seems a strange choice to portray Elvis, but he pulled it off fairly well. He has had an active career since.
I’ve had the opportunity to watch this a second and third time, but I limited it to part 1 only. I know conflict is essential to great movies, but I just don’t care to dwell of Elvis and Priscilla’s troubles, or his decent into prescription drug problems.
No other Elvis movie delves into Elvis’ relationship with Ann-Margret like this film does. A highlight of the film.
Robert Patrick – Lonely Street – 2009:
This is another fictional movie about Elvis as a senior citizen. Thanks to hours in the make-up chair, Robert Patrick looks very believable as 75 year-old Elvis.
Lonely Street was a minor movie at the time, but it’s another one I recommend. It has comedy, mystery, and Elvis is a hero again.
Robert Patrick has had a substantial acting career, but none of his rolls are more memorable that playing T-1000 in Terminator 2.
One of my favorite scenes in Lonely Street is when Elvis totally charms a hottie one-third his age.
So, that’s the Elvisblog Top Ten list of actors playing Elvis. I never thought about it before, but I seem to prefer the fictional movies about Elvis more than the bio-pics. Maybe that’s because Elvis’ history is a familiar story that has been told many times. And it looks like it will be done again soon. Hopefully, without Leonardo DiCaprio as Elvis.
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