Portraying an iconic woman on film is a pressure in itself. But to play the legendary Priscilla Presleywhich is still alive and breathing, was next level.
Australian actress Olivia DeJonge received the honor in the Baz Lurhmann-directed biopic, Elvisplaying the musical icon’s wife — and, she says, it was a role she was afraid to take on because Priscilla is still alive and respected.
“I think that was probably the most terrifying aspect, knowing that,” the 24-year-old Melbourne-born star tells 9Honey.
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“In those months after editing, I was told that film was forever. And so I knew that what I was doing was what she was going to see and there was nothing I could do to change it, even if I wanted to. ,” she says.
“I was very nervous, very excited and a little scared. I knew I was about to do a lot of work, but I was excited to jump in. It was a lot of emotions.”
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To put her at ease, DeJonge didn’t meet Priscilla until after filming was over, but she says the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s wife was “very supportive.”
The actress met Priscilla shortly after filming, but it wasn’t until the Cannes Film Festival in May — where the film received a 12-minute standing ovation — that they really got to know each other while at the festival together.
“It was incredible to have her around to get her support for the film,” says DeJonge. “I think she went further than we expected from someone so close to Elvis. It was a huge squeeze.”
Priscilla — who was married to Elvis from 1967 to 1973 at the height of his career — was also one of the first to publicly praise DeJonge for her portrayal.
The couple’s only child, daughter Lisa Marie Presleyhas also expressed her approval of the film, and DeJonge is grateful for the support.
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“So much love has gone into this project, so much care, so much respect for his legacy,” says DeJonge. “To love his loved ones, and also to talk about it in public. It was so incredibly moving.”
The film also starred Hollywood veteran Tom Hanks and Austin Butler, who stepped on Elvis’ blue suede shoes. And DeJonge was humbled to work with both actors.
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“To get in the ring with someone like Austin, who is so committed to the role, is really special. It’s such a masterclass,” she says.
“And just knowing how successful Tom is and how respected he is, and the fact that he’s still so grounded and so present and so giving and patient, I think that was such a lesson in itself.”
The cast and crew were on location in the Gold Coast in 2020 to film the biopic just before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world. Shortly after, Hanks contracted the virus during filming and production was halted.
However, DeJonge still has fond memories of her time on set when filming resumed.
“That experience of shooting something when the world around you seems to be on fire feels very lonely,” she tells 9Honey.
“Sometimes it felt like we were shooting an indie movie. I know that sounds crazy, but we were on the Gold Coast, everything had shut down. It felt like it was a big but small intimate family. It was a crazy, crazy experience .”
Elvis is now in theaters.
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