The audience at the Cannes Film Festival was trembling for Austin Butler as the King in Baz Luhrmann’s world premiere of “Elvis.”
The film received an uproarious 12-minute standing ovation, the longest of this year’s festival so far.
As the the cheers went on and on, a teary-eyed Butler hugged an equally-emotional Priscilla Presley, who flew to the South of France to give her blessing for the movie about her late husband.
The Warner Bros. musical drama had Cannes spontaneously erupting into applause as Butler recreated some of Presley’s greatest hits including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Suspicious Minds.”
“Elvis” is one of the biggest titles to screen at Cannes, with a star-studded carpet that included Sharon Stone, Shakira, Kylie Minogue, Diplo and Jeremy O. Harris. It wasn’t only celebrity power lighting up the red carpet. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav ditched his Sun Valley uniform of chinos and tech vests and cleaned up in black tie — slicking his hair behind the ear, perhaps as an homage to the King. The mogul walked the stairs with super producer Gail Berman, who shepherded Luhrmann’s latest.
The audience at the Palais was particularly enamored with actor Alton Mason, who plays Little Richard. In an earlier scene where Presley parties with fellow legend BB King, newcomer Mason dazzled with a performance of “Tutti Frutti,” complete with acrobatic dance moves. Mason, who began as a model and dancer, earned mid-screening applause.
“Elvis” marks Luhrmann’s first feature directorial effort since 2013’s “The Great Gatsby,” which also world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Butler stars in the title role opposite Tom Hanks as Elvis’ infamous manager Colonel Tom Parker, Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla, recent “The Power of the Dog” Oscar nominee Kodi Smit-McPhee as country legend Jimmie Rodgers, Yola Quartey as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B. King.
Prior to the “Elvis” world premiere at Cannes, the movie earned rave reviews from three of the music icon’s family members: Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, and granddaughter Riley Keough. Lisa Marie called the film “nothing short of spectacular,” adding, “Austin channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully. In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and finally done accurately and respectfully. If he doesn’t get an Oscar for this, I will eat my own foot.”
Keough told Variety at Cannes that she started crying within the first five minutes of watching “Elvis,” adding, “I could feel how much work Baz and Austin put into trying to get it right. That made me emotional immediately…I felt honored they worked so hard to really get his essence, to feel his essence. Austin captured that so beautifully.”
Warner Bros. is opening “Elvis” in U.S. theaters on June 24. The film joined “Top Gun: Maverick” in being two Hollywood tentpoles to world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
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