WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ELVIS MOVIE AHEAD. In one of the final scenes of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, Austin Butler’s King is on the cusp of turning 40 in late 1974. At an airport, he meets with his ex-wife Priscilla Presley as it’s her turn to look after their daughter Lisa Marie. Taking a moment with each other in Elvis’ limo, his former lover asks the star about rebooting his movie career with Barbra Streisand’s A Star Is Born.
Elvis Presley tells her that he’ll be 40 soon and fears he won’t be remembered. The King has a loss of heart on such an idea, but what really was the reason behind turning down his Hollywood comeback?
After all, A Star Is Born, which went on to star Kris Kristofferson opposite Streisand instead, was a huge box office hit and nominated for four Oscars. Elvis hadn’t made a film since 1969’s Change of Habit and had always wanted to be taken seriously as an actor after a string of mainly poor repetitive rom coms.
In real life, Streisand met with Elvis in 1974 to discuss him playing the hard-drinking musician who discovers and falls in love with her younger singer – a story most recently remade for a third time in 2018 with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
Both Elvis and Streisand performed at the Las Vegas International Hotel, so were well aware of each other’s talents and The King was really interested and excited by the role despite the depiction in the film.
Tragically, once again, his manager Colonel Tom Parker – played by Tom Hanks in the movie – was to blame.
Interestingly, the proposed contract is still in the Graceland archives to this day and the ruthless businessman was asking too much of his sole client, who hadn’t made a movie for five years.
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Among The Colonel’s excessive demands was $1000 a week in expenses for Elvis including First Class transportation. Not only that, but also a requirement that his name be first position credit, holding 100 per cent of the title above the title on the poster.
Elvis’ manager also didn’t want to have his star portrayed as having a showbiz career in decline, even though The King’s concert tours continued to pack out venues.
Additionally, Ernst Jorgensen in Elvis Day By Day said that Parker had demanded a $1 million salary for The King.
Negotiations with the uncompromising Colonel fell through and Elvis never did get to act once again in A Star is Born, even though he probably could have put up with being second billed to Barbra as a long term strategy for rebooting his move career.
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Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling later said: “There was no way the film’s budget could stand two superstar salaries and Elvis didn’t care about the money. He was smart enough to know that this kind of supporting role could be his way back into the movies.”
The King never did make another movie, but would continue touring until the last weeks of his life. Elvis tragically died aged just 42 of a heart attack on the toilet upstairs at Graceland on August 16, 1977.