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See also Elvis Presley and Elvis

Elvis is a 2005 CBS mini-series. It was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan and directed by James Steven Sadwith, it chronicles the rise of Americanmarker music icon Elvis Presley from his humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippimarker to his international superstardom.

The cast includes Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Presley, Rose McGowan as Ann-Margret, Randy Quaid as "Colonel" Tom Parker, Camryn Manheim as Gladys Presley, Robert Patrick as Vernon Presley, Tim Guinee as Sam Phillips, Jack Noseworthy as Steve Binder, Antonia Bernath as Priscilla Presley, Clay Steakley as Bill Black, Mark Adam as Scotty Moore, John Boyd West as Red West and Randy McDowell as Gene Smith.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers won a Golden Globe for his performance as Elvis Presley.

The mini-series is available on a region-free DVD. The DVD was made available August 14, 2007.

Plot

Part 1

Dressed in a black leather suit, a nervous 33-year-old Elvis Presley (Meyers) is backstage preparing to sing in front of a live audience for the taping of the 'The 68 Comeback' television special.

Flashback - 18-year-old Presley lives in a small apartment in Memphis, Tenn., with his mother Gladys (Manheim), and his father, Vernon (Patrick). Although he is currently working as a truck driver, Presley promises that someday, when he makes it big in the music business, he will buy his parents a Cadillac and a house.

As a teenager, Presley spends a great deal of time hanging out on Beale Street in Memphis, listening to R&B music. He shares his dreams of becoming a famous recording artist with his girlfriend, Dixie Locke (Jennifer Rae Westley). He confides to her that he wants to record a song for his mother on Sun Records in the hopes that someone will hear his singing and sign him to a recording contract.

Presley walks into Sun Studiomarker with the beat-up guitar his mother gave him when he was a child and tells the receptionist, Marion Keisker (Jill Jane Clements), that he would like to record a song for his mother. He asks her to let him know if they ever need a singer, then goes into a booth and sings 'My Happiness'. Record producer Sam Phillips (Guinee) is not impressed by what he hears and doesn't even come out of the booth after Presley finishes singing. Always supportive of her son, Presley's mother is moved to tears when she hears the song.

Presley does get a call from Sun Records that they have a song that could be right for him. But after hearing him sing it, Phillips thinks Presley sounds like other singers of the day. Frustrated, Presley begins to sing 'That's All Right, Mama' with a different sound. Phillips records the song, which turns into a smash hit.

October 16, 1954, Louisiana Hayride Auditorium - Presley belts out 'Good Rockin' Tonight' while perfecting his gyrations and soon the crowd is so out of control that the promoter must announce at the end of Presley's performance that he has left the building to avoid pandemonium. It is during one of his performances at the Hayride that Presley first meets 'Colonel' Tom Parker (Quaid), who manages some of the biggest singing acts in town.

Parker tries to persuade Presley to make him his manager, promising that he will get him a record deal with RCA and roles in feature films. Although Parker doesn't like Presley's kind of music, he believes he can make him a worldwide star because he is a good salesman. Presley eventually signs with Parker, who makes good on his word.

Presley's first RCA song, 'Heartbreak Hotel', goes to Number One on Billboard magazine's pop, R&B and country charts. The song goes on to sell one million records and becomes Presley's first Gold Record.

Presley and Parker argue about playing small venues. Presley wants to play big houses, but Parker wants lines outside of theaters because selling out shows makes Presley look appealing. When Presley questions Parker's tactics as a manager, he quickly tells Presley that a famous movie producer wants him to come to Hollywood for a screen test and that he has booked Presley to perform on 'The Milton Berle Show'.

Presley tests for his first film, 'The Rainmaker', and is beside himself with excitement at the prospect of working opposite Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. He is disappointed when Parker tells him they are turning the role down because Presley will not be the star of the film.

While in Hollywood, Presley performs 'Hound Dog' on 'The Milton Berle Show'. Critics pan the performance, saying that Presley's stage presence is suggestive and vulgar. Presley worries about the bad publicity but listens to Parker, who advises him to keep doing the gyrations because they help sell records.

Presley is told by a judge that he will be arrested if he makes lewd movements while in Jacksonvillemarker, Fla. During a performance of 'Don't Be Cruel', he is observed by police officers. Although he is not allowed to move his hips, Presley wiggles his pinky, still managing to make girls in the audience go wild. Soon Southern politicians, religious leaders and radio disc jockeys are condemning Presley's music.

Presley is brought to court after a gas station manager hits him because he drew a large crowd of fans who wanted his autograph. The judge finds Presley to be innocent but the incident is enough to make his mother beg him to quit singing. Presley tells his mother that the music is stronger than he is and he could never walk away from it. He asks her to find a home in Memphis that will give them more privacy. She finds a home that Elvis names Graceland.

While shooting 'Love Me Tender', his first movie, Presley is disappointed to learn that he will have to sing in the film. Once again, he questions Parker's managerial decisions and tells him that he does not want to sing in films. Parker tells Presley to leave the managing to him and informs him that he has booked Presley on 'The Ed Sullivan Show', a show on which he has longed to appear.

Parker encourages Presley to go into the Army after he is classified 1-A because he thinks it will help clean up his image and would be good publicity. He tells Presley that he will be a bigger star than before when he returns from the Army.

Part 2

In the Army, Presley is homesick and frequently calls his mother, telling her that he fears his fans will have forgotten about him when he is discharged in two yearstime.

When his mother is hospitalized with liver failure, he is granted a leave so that he can visit her in Memphis. The night Presley goes to the hospital, Gladys Presley dies in her sleep. At his mother's funeral, he is inconsolable and feels guilty about his mother's death, believing that he contributed to it because he caused her to worry about him. Afterwards, Presley tells Parker that he wants to quit the music business because he thinks that's what his mother would want him to do. He quickly changes his mind once Parker reminds him that he will have to pay Parker for all commitments and obligations that he will be unable to fulfill by quitting early.

While stationed in Germany, Presley begins taking pills to help him fall asleep and to help him wake up. He is also introduced to opera and records 'It's Now or Never', which becomes a Number One Billboard hit.

In Germany, Presley is introduced to 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu (Bernath), whose father is an officer in the Army. Presley and Beaulieu begin dating, and he is warned by his father to be careful because he could go to prison for having a sexual relationship with someone who is underage. Presley meets Beaulieu's parents and promises to respect their daughter. When he is released from the Army, he asks Beaulieu to remain faithful to him when he returns home, and he promises to stay in touch with her.

Upon his return to Memphis, Presley holds a press conference in the lobby of the airport, where he denies that he and Beaulieu are involved. He also announces that Frank Sinatra, who condemned his music years earlier, is now embracing Presley by hosting a television special for him.

Presley tells Parker that he wants to star in the feature film 'West Side Story', but Parker turns the role down because he believes that Presley needs to confine himself to shooting films like 'GI Blues', which make a lot of money. When Presley questions Parker's managerial style, he is again reminded that Parker has created his success and Presley should stick with him.

Presley persuades Beaulieu to stay with him permanently in the United States by enrolling her in Catholic school instead of having her live with him at Graceland. Presley is now taking large quantities of drugs, and people close to him begin to wonder if he is becoming dependent on them.

Presley goes to Hollywood to shoot 'Viva Las Vegas' with Ann-Margret (McGowan) and they begin an affair. When Beaulieu questions Presley about rumors of his infidelity, he denies them. Parker doesn't like Presley's relationship with the actress and tries to put a stop to it by telling Presley that it would look bad for him to toss Beaulieu aside after he moved her to the United States with the promise of marriage. Presley ends the affair only after a magazine quotes Ann-Margret as saying that she and Presley are engaged, which is untrue. When Presley confronts Ann-Margret about the item, she accuses Parker of planting the story.

April 1964 -The Beatles begin to outsell Presley's records, but he is still earning a good living and is very generous to those around him. Parker and Presley's father warn Presley that he is spending too much money and ask him to stop giving gifts to his friends. Presley's father also tells him that he thinks he is taking too many pills and asks him to stop. Presley tells his father to mind his own business.

Presley becomes interested in religion and metaphysics, though he continues to use drugs. Parker warns him to get his life together and finally marry Beaulieu, who is now of legal age.

Presley and Beaulieu are married in a hotel in Las Vegas. Parker makes the arrangements for the ceremony and holds a press conference after the wedding. Nine months after Presley and Beaulieu are married, Presley's only child, Lisa Marie, is born.

February 1968 - In an effort to revitalize Presley's career, Parker makes a deal with NBC for a Christmas special and introduces him to producer Steve Binder (Noseworthy). The plan is to tape the special over three days in front of a live audience. Backstage in his dressing room, Presley has a case of stage fright and tells Binder that he cannot go on stage and sing. Binder convinces him to go out in front of the audience, where he sings 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy' and feels the passion he once had for singing return. The audience roars, there's a fire in his eyes - the King is back!

Backstage, Presley and Parker argue over the songs that will be performed in the special. For once, Presley stands up to Parker and says that he won't sing another song he doesn't believe in or appear in a movie he doesn't care about. After a heated exchange, Presley fires Parker, but Parker won't go away that easily. He tells Presley that he will have to pay back the money Parker has advanced him, as well as future earnings from movie profits and residuals from his records. Presley realizes that there's no way out and must keep Parker as his manager. Parker tells Presley that he has signed him to do another film and wants him to do concerts in Las Vegas. A disheartened Presley returns to the set to sing the heartfelt 'If I Can Dream'.

Presley never went on tour overseas. He played Las Vegas and one-night stands for the rest of his career. Elvis and Priscilla Presley divorced in October, 1973. Presley died at Graceland on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. Colonel Parker died in 1997, having gambled away most of the fortune he earned from managing Presley. Posthumously, Presley is more popular than ever and is consistently recognized as one of the most significant icons of pop culture.

Awards and nominations

  • Emmy Award
    • Outstanding Miniseries (nominee)
    • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, nominee)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Randy Quaid, nominee)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
    • Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (nominee)
    • Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (nominee)
  • Golden Globe Award
    • Best Actor - Miniseries or TV Film (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, winner)
    • Best Supporting Actor - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Randy Quaid, nominee)
    • Best Supporting Actress - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
  • Directors Guild of Americamarker Award
    • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television (nominee)
  • Satellite Award
    • Outstanding Miniseries (winner)
    • Outstanding Actor - Mini-series or TV Film (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, winner)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Randy Quaid, winner)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
  • Costume Designers Guild
    • Excellence in Costume Design - Miniseries or TV Film (Eduardo Castro, winner)


How Rhys Meyers approached the challenge of becoming Elvis

During the filming of the Mini-Series, Meyers had studied Elvis, his films and his music, all the nuances that fans know and love. He also worked with a dialect coach and a dance instructor so that his sound and moves were authentic.

Both Rhys-Meyers and dialect coach David Dahlgren had reservations about the accent: the actor didn't want to sound like a nightclub impersonator and the dialect coach was concerned about getting an Irishman to sound like an American southerner. "Elvis had more than just a regional southern accent," said Dahlgren. "He had very distinctive speaking mannerisms, pronunciations and inflections that are well-known to his audience." Actor and coach worked on inflection and intonation and individual word pronunciation. Rhys-Meyers also found it helpful to have his dialogue written out phonetically. "For example, if he had to say 'I can't sing right now,' it became 'Ah cain't sang rat now," Dahlgren explained. "We also worked on speaking sincerely and naturally and, once this process became second nature, Jonathan was free to concentrate on just his acting [in the scenes]."

Marcus L. Brown was cast as Wynonie Harris, a blues singer from the '50s who influenced how Elvis Presley performed. Rhys-Meyers asked the producers to hire Brown to help him perfect his own dance moves. Brown and Rhys-Meyers watched a number of Elvis performances together and then went to work. "We saw how his body moved and acknowledged the sexual essence of his performance," Brown said. "Jonathan was a very quick study and very passionate about what we were doing. We would work on a couple of things [movements] for a shot and then he [Jonathan] would master another on his own. He was able to hit a signature move at almost any point in the performance." Brown also noted that in the process of breaking down Elvis' movements, his and Rhys-Meyers' appreciation of Elvis Presley's talent deepened.

And if clothes make the ordinary man, Elvis Presley's wardrobe stands out all on its own. Eduardo Castro served as the costume designer on the mini-series and noted that there are volumes of books and archival footage on Elvis' clothes. "We were lucky that there are so many books available that illustrate Elvis' style," said Castro. "One book, Elvis Fashion, was published recently and it was invaluable. We had close-ups of the gold suit as well as the black leather suit that Elvis wore [on his comeback television special]. It also has a lot of archival photos from Graceland."

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