Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s biopic on Priscilla Presley, received a standing ovation at the 2023 Venice Film Festival on 4 September. Based on the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me, co-written by Priscilla Presley with Sandra Harmon, the film tells the true story of her life and times as the wife of the late King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
The seven-minute-and-thirty-second standing ovation got the 78-year-old Priscilla Presley visibly moved. Seated in the audience with Coppola and the main leads of the film, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, Presley was seen shedding tears.
Spaeny and Elordi, who play Priscilla and Elvis, respectively, were able to attend the festival after SAG-AFTRA granted them a waiver to promote the film while almost the whole of Hollywood has been on strike.
All about Priscilla: Its story, Presley’s thoughts on it and release details
What is the story of Priscilla?
Priscilla is the second film revolving around Elvis Presley in the last two years. In 2022, Baz Luhrmann directed the biopic Elvis, starring Austin Butler in the role of the music icon. The film received eight Academy Award nominations. Butler won the BAFTA and Golden Globe awards for best actor.
But Priscilla differs from Elvis. While the former is centred on Priscilla Presley, the latter is more about Elvis’ remarkable career than his private life.
The actual story of Priscilla, however, is unclear. But initial reviews suggest that it is all about the life of Presley and Elvis from the time they met through their marriage, tests of their relationship and eventual divorce.
Presley met the King of Rock and Roll when she was 14 and he was 24 in 1959 in Germany. After years of courtship, the couple got married on 1 May 1967 at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.
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Lisa Marie Presley, their only child, was born on 1 February 1968.
The couple separated on 24 February 1972 and divorced on 9 October 1973. Elvis died four years later on 16 August 1977.
Presley never remarried but had several relationships over the decades. She also had a son, Navarone Garibaldi, with longtime partner Marco Garibaldi.
On 12 January 2023, two days after appearing at the 80th Golden Globe Awards with her mother, Lisa Marie passed away, aged 54. She was the sole heir to her father’s estate, including his Graceland residence, since the deaths of her grandfather Vernon Presley and great-grandmother Minnie Mae Hood Presley in 1979 and 1980, respectively.
Priscilla Presley praises Coppola and remembers Elvis
At the film’s press conference on the day of its screening at the Venice Film Festival, Presley said that it was hard for her to watch the movie.
“It’s very difficult to watch a film about you and about your life and about your love,” she said, adding, “But Sofia did an amazing job. She did her homework, and I really put everything out for her that I could.”
Presley was seen wiping away her tears even during the press conference, where she shed more light on her relationship with Elvis.
“Elvis would pour his heart out to me. His hopes, his fears, his loss of his mother, and I was the person who really sat there to listen and to comfort him. That was really our connection. Even though I was 14, I was older in life than in years,” she said.
“And that was the attraction. People think, ‘Oh, it was sex, it was this.’ Not at all. I never had sex with him. He was very kind, very soft, very loving. But he also respected the fact I was only 14 years old. We were more in mind and thought, and that was our relationship,” added Presley.
Commenting on the age difference between Presley and Elvis when they first met, Coppola said, “I can go back to being that age and remember having a crush on an older guy and a rock star. I just imagined myself in her point of view.”
What critics say about Priscilla
Priscilla has received rave reviews from critics following its screening at the Venice Film Festival. It was rated at 95 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, based on the first 22 reviews by critics.
Most of the praise came for Sofia Coppola’s deft handling of the subject.
“People may fault Coppola for dipping her toe in familiar terrain, but it’s hard to argue with the result: a transportive, heartbreaking journey into the dark heart of celebrity, and her finest film since Lost in Translation,” wrote Marlow Stern of Rolling Stone in a review.
Sofia Coppola gives an emotional Priscilla Presley a hug following the world premiere of Priscilla in Venice. pic.twitter.com/xquqgNKm4Y
— Alex Ritman (@alexritman) September 4, 2023
Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair called the film “neither lurid nor sugar coated.”
“Perhaps this is a telling picture of how it was for too many women of that era (and other eras): passed from father to husband, forever negotiating her place in the realms of men,” wrote Lawson.
Writing for TIME magazine, Stephanie Zacharek said, “Coppola draws us into the immediacy of young Priscilla’s desires, the way her friendship-turned-romance with one extremely lonely man represented, for a time, everything she wanted out of life.”
Priscilla release date, cast and other details
Priscilla is set for release on 27 October 2023 across theatres. The film is rated R and has a runtime of 1 hour and 53 minutes.
The film is produced by Coppola, Lorenzo Mieli and Youree Henley. Fremantle Group financed the film. It will be distributed in the US by A24, the indie entertainment company behind the acclaimed Oscar-winning juggernaut Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Joining Spaeny and Elordi as cast members are Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Tim Post, Olivia Barrett, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Daniel Beirne, Dan Abramovici, R Austin Ball and Stephanie Moore, among others.
(Hero and Featured images: IMDb)