Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, the biopic Elvis, has been earning rave reviews from critics since it premiered at Cannes (where it received a 12-minute standing ovation). Austin Butler, who edged out Harry Styles for the role, has also received a lot of praise for how much he sounded like the King in the film. At the same time, there’s also been a lot of attention towards Olivia DeJonge who plays Elvis’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley in the movie.
And while DeJonge has done a number of other films prior to Elvis, she’s always known that this one is extra special. So much so that the Melbourne native was quite overwhelmed when she herself watched the movie for the first time.
Olivia DeJonge Was Surprised To Have Earned A Part In Elvis
Thinking that getting cast would be a long shot, DeJonge wasn’t optimistic about hearing back from Luhrmann or his team. “I was desperate to throw my name in there, but I knew that everybody was going for it,” the actress explained. “I felt like I was never going to get it.”
DeJonge’s audition for the movie didn’t even go smoothly. She felt like her first audition was terrible and asked for a retake. And after sending that in, DeJonge figured it was a long shot. She never really thought about it until four months later when she was dining out with her agents.
“We’re talking about the film, and I was like, Who ended up doing Elvis? Because I’m dying to know, and I want to know what’s up with that project,” the actress recalled. “And as we were talking about it, my agent got a text message saying that I was the choice. It was crazy synchronicity.”
After that, DeJonge got to work, poring over every possible material she could find.
“Given the nature of the story and the way that it’s been told, I really just wanted to make her grounded and real. Obviously, I watched a lot of interviews, but they were from when she was older, in her early 30s, whereas the film covers the years when she was 14 through to just after her divorce, when she was about 27 or 28,” the actress said.
“And Baz really encouraged a lot of freedom to experiment. For me, it was just about playing a girl that really loved a boy.”
That said, DeJonge also wanted to make sure that she could portray Priscilla properly, and to do that, she watched her video tour of Graceland in 1984. “It helped me with getting used to the way that she speaks, or even just the softness in which she navigates the world,” she explained. “I wasn’t as accustomed to that way of moving, maybe because I’m Australian, so it was important for me to watch that …” The actress also worked with movement coach Polly Bennett.
Watching Elvis For the First Time Gave Olivia DeJonge A Panic Attack
As it turns out, DeJonge didn’t get to see the finished cut of the film up until it was premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. And when she finally watched it, the actress couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.
“The first time I watched it, and it finished, I had a panic attack out of excitement because of how much I loved it,” DeJonge confessed. “The honor that I felt to be even a small part in this huge film was overwhelming. It’s one of my favorite films that I’ve seen in a very long time.”
The actress could also understand why the film received such an emotionally strong response when it was screened. “The narrative of this project and its ability to move an audience is so strong,” DeJonge explained. “I haven’t watched a film with a group of people where everybody by the end of it is so moved together as a collective.”
And while DeJonge didn’t get to consult with Priscilla while shooting the film, she did get to share a special moment with her at the screening. “It’s sort of a strange thing watching somebody play you in a film, but by the end of the screening, we were holding hands and crying and that is, in and of itself, all that I could hope for,” the actress recalled. “She said some beautiful, beautiful things and I feel very, very relieved.”
For now, it seems that DeJonge is rushing to work on another project just yet after Elvis. The actress is keen on living in the moment. That said, DeJonge knows what she wants to do in the future after being inspired by Oscar nominee Toni Collette when they worked together in the HBO Max miniseries The Staircase. DeJonge remarked, “It encouraged me to take a lot more risks in my projects moving forward, in terms of making bolder character choices that feel maybe a little foreign to me right now.”
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