As a baby of the South, actor Cailee Spaeny grew up steeped in Graceland mythology, memorabilia and Elvis Presley tunes.
Her mom liked Elvis and it wasn’t uncommon for a visit to that well-known home in Memphis, Tennessee, to rely as a household trip. Priscilla Presley was after all a part of that. However Spaeny would discover there was rather more than she’d ever recognized when she bought the chance to play her in Sofia Coppola ’s new movie, “Priscilla,” now in theaters nationwide.
“I had no idea about her side of the story and what her experience was growing up in Graceland,” Spaeny stated in a current interview.
The movie relies on Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me,” a diary-like account of her years with the King. She recounts assembly him at 14 in Wiesbaden, Germany, and shifting to Graceland not too lengthy after, the place she completed highschool. She talks about her unconventional hours, staying up all evening with Elvis and making an attempt to remain awake at school the subsequent day.
She particulars how he dictated her look together with her hair (black and large!), eye make-up (extra!) and clothes selections (no prints!), their ardour for each other, his volatility and her isolation. And maybe most significantly how she, and everybody round him, simply needed to make him completely happy— even after she selected to go away.
Spaeny bought to spend a while with Presley earlier than filming started, although she wasn’t solely ready to be as star-struck as she was.
“I remember when I first met her, I had all these questions ready to go. I was so prepared. And then I just see her sort of walking my way and they all just leave you because she has such a presence about her,” Spaeny stated. “The way she carries herself is really like no one else. I mean, she really is American royalty.”
She was equally grateful that Presley didn’t cling round set through the shoot the place she and Jacob Elordi, the rising Australian actor forged as Elvis, had solely 30 days to inform this expansive however intimate story with tons of of costume adjustments and fairly a number of wigs too.
“You just don’t know what you’re getting into when someone is cast as your co-star,” Spaeny stated. “And when you have that little time, you’re shooting massive scenes every single day. You don’t get a light day. So to be able to go into this project with someone who took it as seriously as he did and really took the time to find those nuances and to do the prep beforehand was such a relief.”
Elordi stated they shortly developed an “unspoken language” that helped carry them via. As an actor, he liked going deep into why Elvis behaved the best way he did.
“You have to establish a base where you can just fall into this immediate love,” he stated. “We would sort of look each other in the eyes and it would just say, ‘You’re going to do this? I’m going to do this.’”
The beehive hairdo, Spaeny laughed, took extra getting used to. She discovered herself having to stroll “like a doll” and generally she’d neglect its top when getting right into a automotive. However the wigs can be a grounding consider a shoot that always had her enjoying very totally different ages in the identical day.
“You just got to do what you got to do,” Spaeny stated. “It was just one of the many fun little challenges along the way. The hair, makeup and costumes were really essential in knowing what age she is and where she is emotionally. That was the thing that I held on to.”
And it wasn’t only a costume up extravaganza for Spaeny both. Elordi bought to put on customized seems all through.
“It was kind of as cool as it sounds,” he stated. “You know, for me personally, it was like, ‘Do you want to be Elvis Presley for 30 days and wear Valentino clothes that are tailored to your body?’ Yes. That’s awesome.”
Though Spaeny might have less dialogue than Elordi, her performance has been making waves since its debut — a breakout that has already been recognized by the Venice Film Festival and is sure to garner more nominations as awards season picks up.
“She can convey so much emotion with just her face,” Coppola said. “It’s mysterious but the camera can pick up on it. She’s so photogenic and some people just jump off the screen, but you can connect to them in an emotional way.”
In one scene, where Elvis tells a very pregnant Priscilla that he wants her to move out and she calls his bluff, Coppola debated using narration. She’d loved what Presley had written about that moment and wanted to capture that, but she also wanted to have the film stay in the present. And Spaeny was up to the challenge.
“I talked to Cailee and we did another take and she did some little shift,” Coppola said. “You see halfway down the hall, her face changes with resolution. It was so subtle. I don’t know how she did it. It’s a talent that some actresses can really just convey so much without saying anything.”
And though things went quickly and sometimes it felt like Spaeny couldn’t feel her feet on the ground, she was grateful that her director kept a calm, focused set. It was, she said, the opposite of chaos.
“I’ve never really worked with someone quite like her, and the way she handles herself on the set,” Spaeny said. “She knows when to take things seriously and when to have fun. Everyone just brings their A-game because of her. She just leads with kindness. She wants to be collaborative and she has a clear vision.”
Although each Spaeny and Elordi have hassle watching themselves on display, they’re happy with “Priscilla.” Elordi stated he felt honored to be “part of the way that she wants her story to be told.”
And both walked away with something tangible from whirlwind too. Elordi said he has a few “secret things.” Spaeny bought one thing too, nevertheless it may be a bit a lot even for somebody who grew up surrounded by Elvis stuff.
“I have this really strange mural of myself as Priscilla. It was a beautiful painting, but it’s me as Priscilla that was hanging on the walls of Graceland. I just am like, what do I do with this? I can’t put it anywhere,” she laughed. “I think I’ve got to, like, ship it to my grandma. I think she’d love it.”