Rolling Stone magazine called Priscilla "a transportive, heartbreaking journey into the dark heart of celebrity." The Guardian said the movie was "an absorbing, intimate portrait of Elvis’ wife." And Variety claimed Priscilla is a "piercingly authentic" drama "that soft-pedals nothing." Yet for all the acclaim — and there was plenty more where that came from — the Elvis estate had a serious problem with Sofia Coppola's film about Priscilla Presley. Perhaps this was because the Elvis in Priscilla is not exactly shown in the best light.
Not your average, clean-cut Elvis
You could argue that "The King" that Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) wants the public to see on the big screen is the one portrayed by Austin Butler in 2022's mega-hit Elvis. The estate was on board with that movie from the very beginning.
In fact, when producer Gail Berman first began shopping the idea of an Elvis biopic to Hollywood movie studios, she already had the backing of EPE. But then one critic did call Elvis "the priciest fan letter ever." And that makes it a very different movie to Priscilla.
The estate made a lot of money from Elvis
To be clear, the "Elvis estate" is different from the various surviving members of the Presley family. There have been a lot of twists and turns in the management of Elvis' assets, but we'll give you the short version here.
Basically, there is a company called EPE that looks after anything Elvis-related — such as his name, his music, Graceland, and his likeness. But 85 percent of EPE is owned by the Authentic Brands Group and only 15 percent of that organization belongs to the Presley family itself.
Raising a new generation of Elvis fans
Usually the main aim of any company is, of course, to make as much money as possible: that's probably no different for EPE and the Authentic Brands Group. So it perhaps makes sense when newspaper the Los Angeles Times argued that 2022's Elvis was "an audacious attempt to reframe" The King of Rock 'n' Roll.
By presenting Elvis as the ultimate rebel, the L.A. Times argued, Elvis helped to make The King cool to a younger generation. And it seemed to work. Joel Weinshanker, the managing partner of EPE, told the paper, "The largest revenue year in Elvis Presley Enterprises' history is 2022."
The Elvis estate was over the moon
It seems that EPE gave Luhrmann and the team on Elvis everything they needed to make their movie. That included access to Elvis' music, visits to Graceland, and all the research material they could possibly need. Weinshanker seemed particularly pleased with the result, too.
"This is a frenetic, thousand-miles-an-hour, by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of storytelling that I think resonates and connects most with teens," he told the L.A. Times. He added, "You also have to remember that the new internet generation can care less about appropriation." This hints at how, arguably, Elvis the movie skirted around some of Elvis the man's controversies.