‘Elvis’ stuns Cannes with a 12-minute standing ovation
Cannes Film Festival audiences were shaking for Austin Butler as the King in the world premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.”
The film received a 12-minute standing ovation, the longest at this year’s festival so far.
As the cheers continued, a teary-eyed butler hugged an equally emotional Priscilla Presley, who flew to the south of France to give her blessing for the film about her late husband.
The musical drama from Warner Bros. spontaneously erupted into Cannes applause as Butler recreated some of Presley’s greatest hits, including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Suspicious Minds.”
‘Elvis’ is one of the biggest titles to screen at Cannes, with a star-studded carpet that included Sharon Stone, Shakira, Kylie Minogue, Diplo, Jeremy O. Harris and Italian rock band Måneskin.
It wasn’t just celebrity power lighting up the red carpet, either: the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav ditched his Sun Valley uniform of chinos and tech vests and cleaned up in black tie – smoothing his hair behind his ear, perhaps as a tribute to the King. The mogul walked up the stairs with super producer Gail Berman, who directed Luhrmann’s latest, and sat in the auditorium next to Butler’s girlfriend, model Kaia Gerber. The boss of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Toby Emmerich, was also part of the field management group.
At the film’s lush after-party, Zaslav was surprised by the reception the film received. He said Variety that the night before Butler screened the film for the first time, with his girlfriend Gerber, and both were in tears.
The audience at the Palace was particularly seduced by actor Alton Mason, who plays Little Richard. In an earlier scene where Presley partied with fellow legend BB King, newcomer Mason dazzled with a performance of “Tutti Frutti,” complete with acrobatic dance moves. Mason, who started out as a model and dancer, got a round of applause.
With the audience still on their feet, Luhrmann hugged his cast members and was clearly moved by the audience’s warm reception to “Elvis.” Picking up the mic while wiping tears from his eyes, he recalls his first Cannes experience for “Strictly Ballroom.”
“I had a little revelation because 30 years ago my wife and I did a little movie called ‘Strictly Ballroom’, but on our movie we had an exhibitor who gave us a screen, and he saw the movie and he left before it was finished and said, “It’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen and you ruined the career of [Pat Thomson]’, who played the mother.
Luhrmann continued, “Anyway, we drove up the hill and I had really long hair and we were in a trailer park and I was like, ‘This movie thing will never work,’ so I started to shave my hair. And I got a call on the phone and it was a Frenchman, and I was holding a tin bucket over my head because the night before someone had been killed by a coconut fell from a tree. And on the phone, a voice said: ‘Hello, my name is [former festival director] Pierre Rissient, I’m from the Cannes Film Festival, we’ve seen your film and we’re offering you a screening at 12 noon at the Palais’… And at the end of the [screening in Cannes]I remember a security guard came…and he grabbed me and said, ‘Sir, from this moment on, your life will never be the same.’ »
As he hugged current festival director Thierry Fremaux, Luhrmann said that when COVID hit and “Elvis” was shut down, he felt like it was “never going to happen.”
“But for the bravery of [Tom Hanks] to come back, and the bravery of this cast and this crew to get through COVID and finish this movie, and we’re back in Cannes, and to see these streets so full of movie-loving people, of all life forms and every background and every type of movie, there’s so much more about what this place means and what it means to be back in the movies. And for that, we are eternally grateful, Cannes. All I can say is: Thank you very much, thank you very much, thank you very much.
Luhrmann’s films are often over the top and extravagant, which is exactly the vibe that Warner Bros. brought to the world premiere of the director “Elvis” at the Cannes Film Festival. The studio surprised premiere-goers with a concert on the beach after the film premiered.
Luhrmann introduced guest DJ Diplo, who debuted an original song from the “Elvis” soundtrack featuring Swae Lee and Butler. Italian glam rock band and Eurovision winner Måneskin also performed their single from the soundtrack at the Majestic beach club bash, where Butler and Gerber danced the night away.
Also present at the party was Walt Disney Company Ambassador Peter Rice, Chairman of Disney General Entertainment Content. He tipped his hat to Warner Bros. and compared the film to “an aria”.
The performance was preceded by an electrifying drone show with lights depicting the figure, name and motto of Elvis TCB, accompanied by music.
“Elvis” marks Luhrmann’s first feature film since 2013’s “The Great Gatsby,” which also had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Butler plays the title role opposite Tom Hanks as Elvis’ infamous manager, Colonel Tom Parker; Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla; Kodi Smit-McPhee, recently nominated for an Oscar for “The Power of the Dog,” as country legend Jimmie Rodgers; Yola Quartey as Sister Rosetta Tharpe; and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as BB King.
Ahead of the world premiere of “Elvis” in Cannes, the film received rave reviews from three members of the music icon’s family: Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley and her granddaughter Riley Keough. Lisa Marie called the film “nothing short of spectacular”, adding, “Austin channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully. In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and ultimately performed with accuracy and respect. If he doesn’t get an Oscar for that, I’ll eat my foot.
Keough said Variety at Cannes that she started crying within the first five minutes of watching ‘Elvis’, adding, “I could feel all the work Baz and Austin put in trying to get it right. It immediately moved me … I felt honored that they worked so hard to really get his essence, to feel his essence. Austin captured that so well.
Warner Bros. opens “Elvis” in US theaters on June 24. The film joined “Top Gun: Maverick” as two Hollywood tentpoles world premiering at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.