To even attempt to capture the spirit of a cultural figure as enormous as Elvis Presley is a herculean task on its own; being the one to decide which parts of that story will capture said figure is even less enviable. Nevertheless, it was an honorable labor for Elvis director Baz Luhrmann, who revealed in an interview with RadioTimes that over an hour and a half of footage had to be cut from the film’s theatrical release.
Luhrmann, who has access to the uncut version of the film, had to make some extremely difficult decisions when it came to chopping the film down to two and half hours.
I would have liked to lean into some of the other things more – there’s so much more. I mean, there’s lots of stuff that I shot like the relationship with the band, I had to pare [that] down – and it’s so interesting how the Colonel [Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks] gets rid of them. The relationship with his first girlfriend, Dixie, you know. And later on how… once he’s caught in a trap, and he’s discombobulated and doesn’t understand… someone who’s got such a hole in his heart like Elvis constantly looking and searching for love and finding it on stage but nowhere else.
The director would go on to highlight perhaps the most historic moment that was cut from the film: the rock star’s meeting with President Nixon.
You know, the addiction to barbiturates and all of that, like what happens is he starts doing wackadoo things – like going down to see Nixon. I had it in there for a while but there just comes a point where you can’t have everything in, so I just tried to track the spirit of the character.
It seems Luhrmann was successful. Austin Butler’s performance as the titular singer was one of the most widely acclaimed aspects of the film, with particular praise from Riley Keough, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, saying that Butler captured the essence of Presley “beautifully.”
Elvis releases in theaters in the United States on June 24.