The “Moulin Rouge!” auteur told the Radio Times that the longer version of the film, whose theatrical cut is 159 minutes and opening June 24, includes the more “wackadoo” aspects of real-life Elvis Presley’s career.
“I would have liked to lean into some of the other things more. There’s so much more. I mean, there’s lots of stuff that I shot like the relationship with the band, I had to pare [that] down, and it’s so interesting how the Colonel [Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks] gets rid of them,” Luhrmann said of the four-hour version, with Austin Butler starring as Presley.
The four-hour cut dove into Presley’s “addiction to barbiturates and all of that,” according to Luhrmann. “What happens is he starts doing wackadoo things, like going down to see [President] Nixon. I had it in there for a while but there just comes a point where you can’t have everything in, so I just tried to track the spirit of the character.”
Luhrmann added that the longer version also further explored Presley’s relationship with his “first girlfriend Dixie” and how that heartbreak shaped his career. “Once he’s caught in a trap, and he’s discombobulated and doesn’t understand…someone who’s got such a hole in his heart like Elvis constantly looking and searching for love and finding it onstage but nowhere else,” Luhrmann detailed.
“Elvis” ended up with a 159-minute running time, with Luhrmann calling the finished film a “three-act pop-cultural opera” culminating in the “epic” 1970s iteration of Presley.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich criticized the film for being “an Elvis Presley movie about Baz Luhrmann” rather than the other way around.
“There’s nary a single moment in the movie of Elvis actually creating anything; he’s just a sexy oracle, receiving music from the collective unconscious and shivering it out through his body,” Ehrlich penned in the review. “[Butler’s] Elvis never becomes his own man. Instead, he evolves from an avatar for post-war America into a helpless addict trapped in a golden cage. He doesn’t have a whit of agency in either mode; pin-balling through the years and bouncing from one superimposed newspaper headline to the next, Elvis doesn’t come off like someone who reshaped the 20th century so much as he does someone who watched it faint around him and then force him out.”
Read IndieWire’s own interview with Luhrmann here.