People keep comparing Jacob Elordi's performance in "Priscilla" to Austin Butler's in "Elvis."
The movies are told from different perspectives and the versions of Elvis have separate functions.
In "Elvis," he's the main character. In Sofia Coppola's film, the spotlight is on Priscilla Presley.
When an actor takes on an iconic or well-known role, such as Batman or the Joker, it's normal for fans to have strong opinions on the performance. The same scrutiny applies to stars who transform into real-life music legends, perhaps to a higher degree because there's an existing person to base the performance on. Did the actor nail the voice? How much do they look like the person they're playing?
Luhrmann's "Elvis," starring Butler, debuted in June 2022 to generally favorable reviews. Three months later, plans for Sofia Coppola's "Priscilla" were announced, with Cailee Spaeny tapped to play Priscilla Presley and Jacob Elordi starring as the King of Rock 'n' Roll.
The comparisons are inevitable, but they're unnecessary. And with "Priscilla" now in theaters nationwide, it's even clearer that these two Elvises aren't meant to compete with each other.
Luhrmann's 'Elvis' is about the titular character's superstardom and issues with his manipulative manager
"Elvis" is a glitzy retelling of his origin story, from his humble beginnings to his meteoric rise — from the perspective of his controlling manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).
It's largely focused on Elvis as the entertainer and showman that most people are familiar with. There are spectacular, dazzling musical numbers, where Butler dons the iconic, bedazzled costumes as he croons and hip-shakes in venues filled with adoring fans.
"Elvis" is far more about the musician's fraught business relationship with Parker than his romance with Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge). She's depicted as a supportive wife for most of her limited screen time, until his drug problem gets out of control and she leaves him. Even after their marriage ends, she's sympathetic to his struggles and encourages him to take time off for his health.
To play Elvis, Butler spent two years preparing, working with a dialect coach, a singing coach, a movement coach, and an acting coach. He immersed himself so deeply into the role that he couldn't shake off his Elvis accent, long after the movie hit theaters.
This rigorous, physically demanding process makes sense for an actor leading a movie as Elvis. But it doesn't need to be replicated by a star playing the legendary rocker as a side character in someone else's story.
Coppola's film focuses on Priscilla's experience
Girlhood is a common theme in Coppola's movies, and "Priscilla" is no exception.
Yes, the movie's about her relationship with Elvis, but their dynamic is explored explicitly through her perspective and feelings — her infatuation, heartbreak, isolation, and loss of identity as she adapts to Elvis' world.
Because she meets Elvis when he's already a star, "Priscilla" doesn't spend any time on his backstory. "Priscilla," and the viewers of the movie, are already fully aware of who he is.
There are no Elvis songs on the soundtrack, no appearances from the Colonel (though Elvis does mention him), and only a brief moment near the end of the movie in which Elvis is shown performing on a stage. Instead of following Elvis as he tours or tries to establish himself as a serious actor in Hollywood, the movie shows how this all affects Priscilla, as she stays behind at Graceland and reads about his alleged affairs in magazines.
The movie doesn't glamorize Elvis, nor does it completely vilify him. Instead, it portrays him as a charming, charismatic man who's also capable of being unfaithful to Priscilla and succumbing to his temper by being physically and emotionally abusive.
Elordi's performance didn't require extensive singing or dancing lessons, but he worked diligently to nail his character's Southern drawl and in turn, earned the real Priscilla's seal of approval.
Whereas Luhrmann's film ends with one of Elvis' final performances, weeks before his death in August 1977 at age 42 — and makes it clear that Parker faced consequences for his fraudulence — "Priscilla" concludes with the promise of a liberating, fresh start for its main character.
While watching the latter movie, we shouldn't be focusing on Elvis at all — let alone whether or not Elordi beat Butler in some imaginary competition. Doing so only discredits the very premise of Coppola's movie and sidelines Spaeney's powerful performance.
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