We’re All Shook Up: All Cast and Characters in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Biopic
Viva Baz Luhrmann!
2022 might be looking just as bleak as the past two years so far, but it is bringing us a brand new Baz Luhrmann movie musical, Elvis! So, that’s something! The recently released trailer has everything we love about Luhrmann, spectacle, chaos, eye-popping song and dance numbers, and a lot of Australians doing American accents! Plus, Tom Hanks giving us cartoon villain voice as Presley’s manager “Colonel” Tom Parker. I, for one, am for it! We have some opulence to look forward to!
The epic movie musical has an enormous cast, covering events in Presley’s life from childhood till his early death at age 42. But fear not! If you want to dig deep into some of the characters that impacted American music history, we have the complete list of cast and characters for Elvis right here.
Austin Butler is Elvis Presley
Austin Butler will play the iconic pop star starting from when he was discovered as a teenager until his death. (Actor Chaydon Jay will play child-aged Elvis). Butler is perhaps most well known to Gen Z audiences as a regular on Hannah Montana and Zooey 101, while older film buffs might recognize him as Tex Watson, one of the Manson cult members who comes into contact with Rick Dalton and Clint Booth in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Tom Hanks is “Colonel” Tom Parker
Tom Hanks will play Elvis Presley’s notorious manager “Colonel” Tom Parker. A Dutch con-man and carnival barker, Parker came to the United States as a young man before becoming interested in the music industry. He was given the honorary “Colonel” after serving in an informal Louisiana militia (and going AWOL after an actual stint in the military). He is considered the driving force behind Presley’s career (including its missteps). He arranged the highly unethical contract that gave him 50% of Presley’s earnings and refused to let Presley do international tours due to his lack of passport. (He never became a United States citizen.)
He is credited as being one of the first to recognize the importance of “branding” for celebrities. He was the one that encouraged Presley to enlist in the army when he received his draft notice, foreseeing that it would be a huge publicity boost. He was also a severe gambling addict and ended up losing most of the fortune he made off of Presley to gambling debts.
David Wenham is Hank Snow
Hank Snow was one of the leading country music artists of the 1950s and gave a young Elvis Presley one of his first big breaks when he invited Presley to open for him at the Grand Ol’ Opry. He also became Presley’s manager, alongside Tom Parker, for a short time. The partnership did not end amicably, and forty years later, Snow said, “I have worked with several mangers over the years and have had respect for them all except one. Tom Parker (Snow refused to recognize the honorary title “Colonel”) was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had dealings with.”
Richard Roxburgh and Helen Thomson are Vernon and Gladys Presley
Frequent Baz Luhrmann collaborator Richard Roxburgh (the weasely and villainous Duke in Moulin Rouge) and Helen Thomson will play Vernon and Gladys Presley, the parents of Elvis. Elvis had a famously close bond with his mother and was forever altered by her death (when she was only 46 years old). Meanwhile, Vernon reportedly worked closely with Colonel Tom Parker to keep a tight leash on Elvis, (especially his finances) in order to keep his meal ticket secure.
Olivia DeJonge is Priscilla Presley
Olivia DeJonge will play Elvis Presley’s wife Priscilla. Priscilla and Elvis met and began their relationship when he was stationed in Berlin and she was only 14 years old. (Very yikes!) With her family’s reluctant permission, she moved onto the Graceland estate and lived with Elvis for several years. They did not become public with their relationship for eight years (until after she was 18), and they got married in Las Vegas. The strain of Elvis’s career and both parties’ many infidelities led them to divorce in 1973. However, they maintained shared custody of Lisa Marie and, according to Priscilla, stayed close friends.
Natasha Bassett is Dixie Locke
Bassett will play Dixie Locke, Elvis Prestley’s first girlfriend. They dated from 1953 to 1955, when he first began recording music, but before he became a popular music phenomenon.
The Blue Moon Boys:
Xavier Samuel is Scotty Moore
Scotty Moore was a guitarist and recording engineer who formed the backing band The Blue Moon Boys for Elvis’ early career. Some critics credit Moore with inventing power chords on the Elvis hit “Jailhouse Rock.” Even after The Blue Moon Boys disbanded in 1957 (over rising pay disputes—Presley was a millionaire and the rest of the band was only receiving $100-200 a week), Moore stayed as one of Elvis Presley’s lead guitarists until 1968.
Adam Dunn is Bill Black
Adam will play Bill Black, the bassist that rounded out the trio of The Blue Moon Boys. He later formed his own group, “Bill Black’s Combo.”
Elvis Presley’s Influences:
Growing up in Mississippi, Presley was heavily influenced by country, gospel, and most importantly, rhythm and blues.
Gary Clark Jr. is Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
Actor and accomplished blues musician Gary Clark Jr. will play the legendary blues artist Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Crudup was a huge influence on Presley, and it was Presley’s cover of his songs “That’s All Right,” “My Baby Left Me,” and “So Glad You’re Mine” that launched Presley’s career.
Yola is Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Another important influence for young Elvis Presley, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel singer credited with being “the Godmother of Rock and Roll” because of her combination of spiritual lyrics with electric guitar. She was also an influence on other early rock and roll legends like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis
Kelvin Harrison is B.B. King
B.B. King was an American blues singer-songwriter, guitarist and record producer. He has been described as “the single most important electric guitarist in the last half of the 20th century.” He was both an influence on and friend to young Elvis Presley. They both began their careers recording at Sam Phillip’s recording service in Sun Studios. (King in 1951 and Presley in 1954.)
Alton Mason is Little Richard
The “Architect of Rock and Roll” Little Richard was another influence on and contemporary of Elvis Presley. Little Richard was inspired to take up the piano after hearing Ike Turner’s piano intro on “Rocket 88.” Richard’s innovative vocalizations, uptempo rhythmic music and showmanship played a key role in the formation of several popular music genres like soul and funk. He once hired The Beatles as an opening act and even taught Paul McCartney his distinctive vocalizations.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is Jimmie Rodgers
Oscar-nominated actor Kodi Smit-McPhee will play the “Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers. Rodgers is best known for his distinctive yodeling and for garnering success and acclaim from his many recordings rather than touring and concert performances. He was one of Elvis Presley’s country influences, though they never met because Rodgers died in 1933 of tuberculosis, two years before Elvis was born.
The “Memphis Mafia”
Presley ended up with a notorious entourage of friends, employees, and hangers-on known as the “Memphis Mafia” who lived with him at Graceland. While some were friends with Presley since childhood, most were considered to be parasitic lackeys and were blamed, indirectly, for his drug addiction and eventual death.
David Gannon is Charlie Hodge
Charlie Hodge was a singer, vocal coach, and confidant and best friend to Elvis Presley. They met in the service, where they became close friends. Hodge was Presley’s most trusted musical advisor, teaching him the near-falsetto style that became one of Presley’s signatures in the early 1960s. He also played an important role in Presley’s show business comeback TV special. Music Companies referred to him and bodyguard Red West as “The Imperial Council” because Presley would look to them for advice on all songs presented to him for possible recording. Hodge lived at Graceland for 17 years and also had rooms in all of Presley’s other homes. Hodge was often regarded as the most genuine member of the Memphis Mafia, with Presley’s best interests at heart.
Alex Radu is George Klein
George Klein was a DJ and radio host, and a childhood close friend of Elvis Presley. They met when they were both 13 years old at Humes High School. He was a member of the “Memphis Mafia” and had cameos in eight of Presley’s films.
Luke Bracey is Jerry Schilling
Jerry Schilling is a talent manager and was a part of Presley’s “Memphis Mafia.” He had been friends with Presley since 1954. Some of his most famous clients have included The Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.
An important subset of the “Memphis Mafia” was Presley’s trio of bodyguards. After being fired, they released a tell-all memoir Elvis: What Happened? describing their time with Elvis Presley and detailing his drug abuse. The memoir was released only two weeks before Presley’s death.
Christian McCarty is Red West
Red West was one of Presley’s closest friends and trusted advisors. However, West, his cousin Sonny, and David Hebler were growing more concerned and outspoken about Presley’s dependence on drugs and were reportedly fired for it. He was extremely disliked by Vernon Presley, who claimed he was fired for being too “heavy-handed” in some concerning incidents with fans in Las Vegas and to “cut costs.”
Mike Bingaman is Sonny West
Sonny West, cousin to Red, was another close friend and bodyguard of Elvis Presley. He was also fired at the same time as Red and David Hebler for supposedly being too outspoken about Presley’s addiction issues.
The Iconic Moments
Some of the cast will be portraying figures important to Elvis Presley lore and history—the people who helped form iconic moments in the singer’s career.
Dacre Montgomery is Steve Binder
Binder was director and producer. He was also influential in creating music programs with racially and ethnically diverse casts, featuring a variety of musical styles. He is responsible for directing Elvis Presley’s ‘68 Comeback Special that relaunched Presley’s fading career. This is the televised concert where Elvis is in an all-black, tight, leather ensemble that has produced some of the most recognizable pictures of the performer.
Kate Mulvany is Marion Keisker
Keisker was the first person to record Elvis Presley. Her exchange with Presley on that occasion has since become part of Elvis lore: “I said, ‘What kind of singer are you?’ He said, ‘I sing all kinds.’ I said, ‘Who do you sound like?’ He said, ‘I don’t sound like nobody.'”
Patrick Shearer is DJ Dewey Phillips
Dewey Phillips was a radio DJ and the first to broadcast Elvis Presley’s debut record. He also got Presley to reveal his race in an interview by asking which high school the singer attended, knowing that because of segregation, his listeners would readily know who was allowed to attend which schools.
Christopher Sommers is Horace Logan
Horace Logan was the founder of the Lousiana Hayride, a showcase for country music stars in the 1950s. He originated the catchphrase “Elvis has left the building.”
(images: Warner Bros.)
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