Jacob Elordi says he wore Elvis Presley's real jewelry on the set of 'Priscilla'

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Suiting up as the King of Rock 'n' Roll is no small task. So it's understandable that Jacob Elordi was happy to carry a little bit of Elvis Presley onto the set of Priscilla — Sofia Coppola's impressionistic new biopic that shifts focus from Elvis to his widow, Priscilla Presley, played by Cailee Spaeny.

"We had all the jewelry from the [Elvis] estate," the Euphoria star revealed in the press conference that followed Priscilla's first New York Film Festival screening. "I would clasp the ID bracelet or put the horseshoe ring on and they provided the final touches." (The film was grated a waiver in accordance with SAG-AFTRA rules, which allowed the actors to promote Priscilla amid the strike.)

But Elordi says that he also wanted to dig beneath the jewelry and portray Elvis as a man — not a legend. "If you want to see an Elvis impersonator, you can go to Vegas," the Australian actor said. "The biggest thing for me was to identify where the human being was under all the glitz, the gold, the voice and the caricatures. It was a search to find the real-life Elvis."

And while Elordi adopts a credible Elvis voice onscreen, he checked it at the door once filming wrapped. That's a notable departure from the last person to play Presley, Austin Butler, whose immersive portrayal in Baz Luhrmann's Elvis scored him an Oscar nomination, but also proved difficult for him to shake. Throughout the press tour for that 2022 blockbuster, Butler frequently slipped into Elvis-speak — a tendency that earned him more than a little derision online.

 Director Sofia Coppola (l-r), actress Cailee Spaeny, actor Jacob Elordi and Priscilla Presley arrive at the premiere of the film

From left to right: Priscilla director Sofia Coppola, Priscilla Presley, Spaeny and Elordi attend the film's world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival. (Photo by Stefanie Rex/Picture alliance via Getty Images) (picture alliance via Getty Images)

For the record, Elordi did admit to adopting a slightly different voice for his own public appearances. "I have a different voice now when I speak in front of people — it's not how I speak at home," he remarked with a chuckle. And he brought that approach to his performance, trying to distinguish between the public and private man. "[His voice] wasn't always this deep thing," he said, briefly channeling the vintage Presley sound. "It was trying to figure out how to make him the normal person that he was."

Elordi, of course, couldn't consult the late singer on his portrayal before stepping onto set. But Spaeny was able to spend quite a bit of time in the company of the woman she'd be playing. "The first time we met, we ended up talking for four hours," she recalled of her initial sit-down with the now 78-year-old Priscilla Presley. "For her to take that much time and really go through the story and relieve everything with me was incredible."

"I didn't want to be like a reporter — I tried to sit back and see how much she felt comfortable telling me," continued Spaeny, who won the Best Actress award at the Venice International Film Festival where Priscilla had its world premiere in September. "She's a woman from a different time, a different generation. She's American royalty, really. Her mannerisms, the way she speaks and how she goes about her life is very important and you hope that all comes through when you start playing the role."

Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in a scene from Priscilla. (A24/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in a scene from Priscilla. (A24/Courtesy Everett Collection) (Courtesy Everett Collection)

Based on Presley's own 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, Priscilla follows the full arc of Elvis and Priscilla's relationship, beginning with their first meeting at a house party in Germany in 1959 when she was a 14-year-old high school student and he was a 24-year-old U.S. Army officer approaching the end of his two-year enlistment. Immediately smitten with each other, Presley found ways to keep bringing Priscilla into his orbit over the initial objections of her parents. At 17, she moved to Graceland full time and they tied the knot in 1967.

Priscilla doesn't shy away from the age gap that separated the Presleys when they met, or the way that others either enabled their romance or conspicuously looked the other way. In fact, the film's costume designer, Stacey Battat, noted that, as a teenager, Spaeny's Priscilla deliberately looks like a child playing dress-up.

Neither does Coppola depict the Presley marriage as being a "happily ever after" romance. Priscilla is well-aware of her husband's numerous infidelities with stars like Ann-Margret and Nancy Sinatra, and Presley is shown as being emotionally withholding and sometimes violent around her. The film ends with Priscilla leaving Elvis in 1972, driving through the gates of Graceland — where she essentially grew up — one last time. They divorced in 1973. Presley died in August 1977.

In contrast to Luhrmann's lavish musical, which filmed in Australia over multiple months on a nearly $100 million budget, Priscilla was shot in Toronto on a tight 30-day schedule and limited funds. That led to Spaeny and Elordi to experience more than a little whiplash as they jumped around between decades, often on the same day. "In the morning, I'd be pregnant and after lunch I'd be 14 years old," Spaeny said with a laugh. "The costumes, hair and makeup were huge in terms of grounding me and finding Priscilla's arc."

"On set, I would say 'What year is this?'" Elordi added. "And Cailee would pull out a script that had every single thing catalogued to the year. We were pretty dorky about the whole thing. I built Elvis's world and Cailee built Priscilla's and then we met in the middle where we had our own language of the entire timeline of their relationship."

Coppola wasn't present at the press conference, providing a statement that apologized for her absence. "I'm with my mother, to whom the film is dedicated," her statement read, referring to her mother, filmmaker Eleanor Coppola. Presley similarly wasn't in attendance, although she appeared on the Venice red carpet and has voiced her support of the film.

"When we finally showed the film to [Priscilla], she looked at Sofia and she was visibly emotional," said Priscilla producer Youree Henley. "She told Sofia that she had really done her homework, and that she got it right. That was everything."

Priscilla premieres Nov. 3 in theaters

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