Priscilla Presley has spoken to NME about her upcoming In Conversation UK tour, vowing: “I’m not going to hold anything back. People are going to understand Elvis even better.”
In a series of intimate conversations with presenter Edith Bowman, the 2023 ‘Evening with Priscilla Presley’ tour will see the 77-year-old actor and former wife of Elvis sharing untold personal stories of her career, life and marriage to The King, as well as showing unseen home-footage of the couple.
“It’s taken me a while to get to this point in my life where I’m comfortable to fully share with the audience,” Presley told NME. “I’m so protective of Elvis and Graceland and our life. This will be more about Elvis the man, not the entertainer. We all know he was a great entertainer, but this is what was going on behind the scenes, and what his fears and loves were.”
Presley, who was married to the late singer from 1967 to 1973, first met Elvis in Germany where he was stationed with the US Army, when she was 14-years-old and he was 24. The couple wed seven years later, and welcomed daughter Lisa Marie nine months after in 1968. Presley, who never saw Elvis live until his legendary 1968 Comeback Special, wanted to offer fans a deeper insight into who Elvis was behind closed doors.
“I think it might shock people to know how much he loved America,” she said. “He went to see Nixon in the White House and he had a narcotic [police] badge which meant he could stop and arrest people who were doing drugs. I’ll be telling stories for people who didn’t really know who Elvis was inside that will make you realise this bigger-than-life man’s concerns were deeper than people would ever think.”
She elaborated: “It’s hard when people ask: ‘What was it really like living with Elvis?’ It was a very different, surreal life. I lived with five guys. Elvis had his mafia entourage, so I was the only girl in it and I learned so much about men and what their conversations are like!”
“We were together for nearly 10 years before we got married and I was still protective of him after, and I’ll share all that. I’m not going to hold anything back. People are going to understand Elvis even better.”
Baz Luhrmann’s recent blockbuster biopic Elvis introduced the icon to a new generation. Starring Austin Butler and featuring modern artists such as Doja Cat and Måneskin putting their own spin on his music for the soundtrack, Presley said she was “captivated” by the movie.
Presley told us: “When I first started watching the movie, with the entrance and the music, I thought: ‘where is Baz going with this?’ Baz does his own thing and no one tells him what to do, so I didn’t know what was really in his head.”
She had invited Luhrmann to her house while he was researching the film. They had a four-hour lunch, but when he asked her to accompany him to Elvis’ Cannes premiere and the Met Gala in New York, she declined – so he arranged a special 11th hour private screening for her and music associate Jerry Schilling to assuage her fears.
“I worried about how he was going to portray Elvis,” Presley admitted. “But I watched the movie and leant over and went: ‘Well, it looks like we’re going to Cannes, Jerry!’ Because the film was beyond wonderful. Austin Butler…I don’t know where that kid came from, but I can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off the way he did. Unreal.”
In 2019, it was reported that Lana Del Rey was “pushing hard” to star as Priscilla Presley in Elvis, before the role eventually went to Olivia DeJonge. Asked how she feels about Del Rey citing her as an influence, Presley said she was flattered. “I haven’t met her yet, but I’d love to. I have a friend who’s crazy about her, and I would love to meet her one day and bring her along. It’s cute.”
Now, Presley is set to take centre-stage her own biopic Priscilla, based on her revelatory 1985 memoir Elvis And Me, which is written and directed by Sofia Coppola for indie studio A24.
“When I heard she wanted to do a movie about me, I was concerned about that too,” she revealed. “But I like her [Coppola] and her work very much. When you have someone in charge of your life, telling it from their perspective, it’s a little nerve-wracking. You never know how it’s going to come out. I hope she gets who I am. I think she does and I hope it’s good!”
Presley met the film’s lead Cailee Spaeny, who previously starred in Mare Of Easttown, offering tips on how to play her. “She’s very sweet and oh my gosh, very nervous about playing me, and I can understand that,” said Presley. “I can’t imagine playing somebody else when they’re still alive, and you want to do the right thing. I think she has me down pretty well.”
Of Jacob Elordi, the Euphoria actor who has been cast as Elvis in Priscilla, Presley said: “I’m sure he’s very nervous because he’s got big shoes to fill of two people – both Elvis and Austin, who did an amazing job. But I’ve heard that he’s a good actor and he’s got his own fanbase, so it’s not that he’s new to this and I’m counting on him to pull it off!”
Presley has had her own acting career, most memorably appearing in The Naked Gun trilogy of comedy police-spoofs as Jane Spencer-Drebin, the wife of the late Leslie Nielsen’s hapless cop Frank Drebin. Telling NME she had no interest in reprising her role for the recently-announced reboot of the franchise starring Liam Neeson, she said: “It was such a great success and I’m going to leave it as that. It’s hard to believe anyone else could be Frank Drabin and play that role.”
She continued: “I think that Liam Neeson – I don’t know if he has a sense of humour, I heard he did – but I can’t put the two together. I don’t want to be judgemental and I wish them luck with it.”
Earlier this year, it emerged that Harry Styles auditioned for Butler’s role in Elvis – but Luhrmann reportedly felt he was too iconic in his own right for audiences to accept him in the part. Does Presley ever look at any modern artists such as Styles and think ‘He’s the new Elvis’?
“No!” she replied. “I’m sorry! Listen, oh boy, I’ve never seen a performer like Elvis. He was unique. Once he got on that stage and performed, it was for the audience and he wanted to please them so much and give them the show that they expected. I asked him once: ‘How do you know if the audience is enjoying it or if they’re not having a good time?’ He replied: ‘When they start scratching their heads or yawning, I know I’m not doing a good job!’ He was very in-tune with crowds.
“Somebody yawned in the audience one night and he stopped the show and said: ‘Is it me you’re yawning at? Do you want to go to bed? Am I boring you?’ It was a funny moment. He was the real deal. He was a special person and I miss him.”
Full dates for the ‘An Evening with Priscilla Presley’ UK Tour are below, with tickets available here.
1 – Glasgow City Halls Grand Hall
2 Manchester Opera House
3 London Palladium
5 Birmingham Town Hall
6 Newcastle Tyne Theatre