Elvis movie: Priscilla Presley defended controversial Colonel Tom Parker to Tom Hanks

ELVIS: Official second trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s movie

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The stars of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic in Austin Butler and Tom Hanks took to the red carpet of the film’s premiere at Cannes this week. Even The King’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley joined them and the director along with Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling. The new film focuses on the relationship between Elvis Presley and his Machiavellian manager Colonel Tom Parker, who has always been a subject of debate. 

On the one hand, some fans and historians believe that without The Colonel’s ruthless business strategy, Elvis never would have been as big as he was. 

On the other, some believe he used The King and held him back in his later years from touring outside of North America or starring in movies like True Grit and A Star Is Born that could have won him an Oscar.

Some have argued the illegal Dutch immigrant, real name Andreas van Kuijk, who started out as a carnival worker, pushed the star to the limit and took too big a cut of his pay.

Nevertheless, when Hanks (who plays The Colonel in the new Elvis movie) first met with Priscilla, she defended him.

Speaking with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show in December 2020, Hanks took the middle ground saying The Colonel was “both a genius and a scoundrel.”

The Hollywood star added: “He was a very disciplined man, but also a guy who you might want to check your wallet to make sure you still have all those fives and tens.”

Yet when his wife Rita Wilson organised a dinner with Priscilla, he was amazed at what she had to say about him.

The actor said: “I was expecting to hear stories about the distrust she had for Colonel Tom Parker over these many years.”

However, Priscilla told Hanks: “No. He was a wonderful man, and I wish he was alive today. He took really great care of us.” But did add: “He was a scoundrel in his way.’”

Nevertheless, the last surviving original Memphis Mafia member Billy Smith, Elvis’ cousin, felt that The Colonel held the star back.

He shared on the Memphis Mafia Kid YouTube channel a few years ago: “As far as I’m concerned, to get everything set straight, The Colonel didn’t make Elvis, he helped make Elvis, but he didn’t make Elvis. Elvis was on his way.”

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Billy added: “I think Elvis was destined to be as big as he was. But the Colonel, with his intelligence n’all…he knew the right people and did it the right way to make big money and so I can’t take that from him…I think in the later years, things had changed so much in the music world and how bookings went that I think The Colonel kinda dropped behind. I liked The Colonel a lot and I thought he was a great person. But still, facts are facts and I think in the later years that The Colonel held Elvis back.”

Elvis hits cinemas on June 24, 2022.

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