Baz Luhrmann on the ‘tragic American opera’ of Elvis’ life


Hello! It’s Mark Olsen, film writer for The Times and “The Envelope” podcast co-host. We’re back and kicking off this season with noted filmmaker Baz Luhrmann, the director and co-writer of “Elvis.”


Few icons are as globally memorialized as Elvis Presley, but for Luhrmann, the biopic felt like “a blank sheet to explore” American history, commercialization, and the true origin of rock ‘n’ roll: Black music. In this episode of “The Envelope,” Luhrmann shares his unique take on Presley’s tragic story, how Austin Butler was able to “meld his soul with Elvis’ soul,” and how a pair of socks connected a young Baz to the King.

He also mused on the complicated dynamic between Presley and his longtime manager, the self-styled Colonel Tom Parker.

Think of the heights that Colonel and Elvis fly to. There was no precedent for that level of fame, global and monetization at the same time. No precedent. They flew so close to the sun and yet both of them, for different reasons ... fell tragically to Earth.

— Baz Luhrmann

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