Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic casts Maggie Gyllenhaal as the legendary singer’s mom Gladys Presley. After tackling Shakespeare with Romeo + Juliet, decadent Paris with Moulin Rouge and the Roaring Twenties with The Great Gatbsy, Luhrmann will next set his sights on an American musical icon with his biopic on Elvis.
According to reports, both Harry Styles and Ansel Elgort were at one time up for the role of Presley, before Luhrmann and company finally settled on Austin Butler to handle the lead. Tom Hanks has also joined the cast of Elvis as “Colonel” Tom Parker, Presley’s famous manager. Olivia DeJonge has also reportedly signed on to the film in the role of Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ wife (whom he met when she was just 14 years old).
Now Variety reports that Elvis has filled another important role, casting Gyllenhaal as the singer’s mother Gladys Presley, who passed away in 1958 when her son was in the middle of his meteoric rise to fame. Mother and son enjoyed a close bond starting in their early days living in poverty in rural Mississippi, but Gladys later dealt with depression as Elvis moved away from home to pursue his singing career.
Gyllenhaal of course is just coming off an acclaimed turn as prostitute-turned-porn-director Eileen Merrell on HBO’s The Deuce, which recently wrapped up its three season run. Gyllenhaal’s film career was kick-started in 2002 when she starred opposite James Spader in the well-regarded independent film Secretary, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination, then received a further boost when she took over for Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. The actress received her first career Oscar nomination in 2009 for her performance opposite Jeff Bridges in the film Crazy Heart. Gyllenhaal received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for her performance in the limited series The Honourable Woman.
What exactly Luhrmann has in mind for Gyllenhaal and the rest of the performers who’ve signed on for Elvis is anyone’s guess, but given the director’s flamboyant cinematic style, it’s a fair bet that his take on Presley’s life will be anything but conventional. Musical biopics are of course big business these days after Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman both cleaned up at the box office, and Warner Bros. is definitely hoping that Elvis will find its way to similar success with audiences. Presley is undoubtedly a charismatic and fascinating figure much like Freddie Mercury and Elton John, and the singer still maintains a strong following decades after his death, so the chance is there for another big hit in the musical biopic genre assuming Luhrmann is able to deliver something that captivates audiences.