Baz Luhrmann talks ‘Elvis,’ how much the King owes Black music, why he still listens to his old albums, ‘Cinderella Man’ and what his favourite ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not!’ was.
So, what was it that made you want to make a film about Elvis?
It was to an extent a response to the movie, which I had read. Or rather, to the fact that I wasn’t just a fan of Elvis but a fan of music in general, with an eye for the big picture, the historical elements. So, the idea came in thinking, like, “What would I like to study?” And Elvis – in the very best sense – seemed like a good template.
In terms of the King, would you see Elvis as a very spiritual figure?
Yes and no. Elvis was a very spiritual person. But he was secular and he didn’t believe in miracles. So, what I thought about was the King as a character. And I’ve already done a film called “The King,” with Paul Newman and Denzel Washington, about the life of Abraham Lincoln. And what I thought about with “Elvis,” and the fact that I like the music itself, is that it’s really about love, at its most primal, at its most pure. And it’s beautiful, and it’s emotional, and it touches people. But it’s also about faith and belief and belief in things beyond anything you can imagine. And I thought all of those ideas would be important.
How important is faith and religiosity in the King?
To tell the truth, the King was a very religious person, and someone in that context who would have become a religious person anyway. But it hadn’t quite occurred to Elvis. So, that’s why there is a bit of Elvis the king, as opposed to Elvis the believer.
In terms of the faith the King has, were you surprised?
Yes and no. With King, I think, the word “faith” is really very important. I knew King well, and he often talked about it. He said that he believed in God and King believed in King. I was aware of that as a concept