Elvis Presley is a pop culture icon, and is about to get a biopic worthy of his legend status.
The singer, who has been dubbed the King of Rock & Roll, will have his life portrayed in Baz Luhrmann's upcoming movie "Elvis," set to hit theaters on June 24.
The biopic will document Presley's rise to fame and his marriage to his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, who will be played by Olivia DeJonge in the film. Tom Hanks also signed on to be a part of the all-star cast along with Austin Butler, who'll play the lead role of the late rockstar.
Director Luhrmann didn't take the casting process very lightly.
"When I went through the process on 'Elvis,' I had no prejudice," he told Cinemablend in a January interview. "There’s a difference between an impersonation, a big difference between an impersonation, and illuminating the soul and the inner life of a character who’s unimaginably famous. What are they like in a private moment?"
Luhrmann's process led him to book Hanks as Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker; Helen Thomson as Presley’s mother, Gladys Presley; and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the popular blues musician B.B. King.
Ahead of the movie's release, TODAY has taken a look at how the cast compares to their on-screen counterparts — and judging by the official trailer that Warner Bros. released in February, the actors embodying the real life figures.
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Austin Butler’s commitment to the part of Elvis Presley is already making headlines. The 30-year-old actor immersed himself so much into the role that he physically became ill when production wrapped.
“The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to hospital,” he told GQ in May. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis.”
“You can lose touch with who you actually are,” he added. “And I definitely had that when I finished Elvis — not knowing who I was.”
However, the whole experience of playing the role made Butler admire the singer even more.
“It’s comforting to me now, when I get in the car. I’ll just go, ‘What do I want to listen to?’ Usually I just end up popping on Elvis,” he said. “I’ve never loved somebody I’ve never met more than Elvis.”
Butler sees connections between him and the singer. Although he’s focused most of his career on acting — starting with NIckelodeon shows like "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" and "iCarly," before moving into movies like "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — Butler has actually dabbled in music, like Presley.
In an October 2019 interview with “Interview” magazine he said that he would love to be a rockstar one day, drawing on his guitar and piano skills. “Who wouldn’t,” he said.
Butler also connected to Elvis through their shared loss: Both lost their mothers when they were 23. “His mother passed away when he was 23, and my mom passed away when I was 23, so when I learned that, it was one of those things where I got chills, and I just thought, Okay, I can connect to that,'" Butler told GQ.
Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley
Priscilla Presley and Elvis Presley were married from 1967 to 1973. During that time, they welcomed their only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, who was born one year after they got married.
At 21, DeJonge is the same age Priscilla was when she got married, though she had been living at Elvis' estate since 1963 (and they met in Germany when she was 14). Elvis was 10 years her senior.
DeJonge, recently seen in the HBO drama "The Staircase," said becoming Priscilla had its challenges.
“Priscilla has this effortless vulnerability and this effortless softness about her,” DeJonge told WWD when "Elvis" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last week. “Prior to the job, I was quite — not brash, brash isn’t the right word, but maybe a little flighty and a little skittish. I’m somebody who was sort of bouncing around.”
With a little bit of help from her movement coach, Polly Bennett, DeJonge was able to bring a “slower, more sensual and more self aware” version of herself on camera for the role.
"I know it sounds a bit cliché, but it was a life-changing experience," she said. "I came out more in touch with myself.”
After watching the film with Priscilla at the Cannes premiere, DeJonge got her stamp of approval. DeJonge said it was an "insanely special" moment for her.
"By the end of it, we were holding hands and crying,” she said. “It’s a beautiful, full-circle moment and to have her support the film, it just means the world.”
Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker
Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks said he is very different from the character he plays in "Elvis."
During the "Elvis" panel at the Cannes Film Festival, per People, Hanks described the money-grubbing manager as a “mercurial and brilliant man who at the same time made sure he lined his own pockets.”
“The amount of ways Tom Parker cheated people out of nickels and dimes is extraordinary," he said. He “was a man who brought joy into everything he did with just a little bit of larceny.”
Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King
In real life, B.B. King and Elvis were good friends. In an old interview that's been archived on PBS, the late jazz musician recalled what it was like to meet Presley for the first time.
King said that he "didn't think too much" of Presley until he heard him perform some blues by Arthur Big Boy Crudup, and he said "that's when (he) started to turn (his) head a little bit."
"That ain’t the same Elvis Presley that I been hearing. And he went on from there doing some other things that sound Black to me. That’s when I started having respect, respect, respect," he said. "And he sorta earned it, earned that respect from me at that time."
By the time that King met Presley, he was blown away. "I found out that he really was something else. He started to be more and more and more," he said.
King also talked about racism in America and how Presley was accused of stealing Black music and turning it into his own sound. However, he said that he didn't think that was true of Presley.
“I don’t think he [Elvis] ripped ’em off,” King said in an old video. “I think once something has been exposed, anyone can add or take from it if they like. He was just so great, so popular, and so hot — and so anything that he played became a hit. To me, they didn’t make a mistake when they called him The King.”
Harrison Jr. and Butler have been tasked with the challenge of bringing Presley and King's friendship to life.
Like Butler, Harrison Jr. has a lot of acting experience. He's known for starring in 2018's "Monsters and Men," and 2019's "Luce" and "Waves."
"It was really fun to just get in the ring with Austin Butler and play this icon B.B. King, at this early age, and navigate what that looked like and what that friendship looked like," he told Collider in February. "It was fun. Every day was a new and exciting experience on that set."
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jimmie Rodgers
Like Harrison Jr., Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee will play one of Elvis's famous musician friends in the film. Specifically, he'll be portraying the late country singer Jimmie Rodgers.
A music producer and rapper in addition to being an actor, per Interview Magazine, Smit-McPhee enjoyed showing of his musical side for the film. Smit-McPhee is known for starring in 2021's "The Power of the Dog," 2016's "X-Men: Apocalypse" and 2015's "Slow West."
Helen Thomson as Gladys Presley
Helen Thomson will be playing Presley's mom, Gladys Presley, in the film.
In 1935, Gladys welcomed Presley with her husband, Vernon Presley, in a two-room house in Tupelo, Miss. that Vernon and her brother-in-law built, according to the Graceland website. When Presley was growing up, she would take him to the Assembly of God Church with his family, which is where Gladys and Vernon met, per the Mississippi Historical Society. Presley was inspired by church music, as well as local Black blues singers and the country radio programs.
Although Gladys and Vernon tried their best to provide for their son, they struggled with money as they were both living in poverty.
Thomson is known for playing the TV announcer in 2003's "Kangaroo Jack" and Carol Van Dyke in the TV1 series "Stupid Stupid Man."