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It’s Now or Never – The Young Actors Vying for the Role of Elvis

Nancy Bilyeau

Five young actors or singers have tested for the part of the King of Rock and Roll in the upcoming Elvis Presley biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge!, Romeo + Juliet, and  The Great Gatsby fame. Competing for the role are Austin Butler, Ansel Elgort, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Harry Styles,  Miles Teller, and recently a sixth has been added for consideration, the rapper G-Eazy.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Tom Hanks is already on board the planned film as Colonel Tom Parker, the manager who had an iron grip over every aspect of Elvis Presley’s life.  “The movie is described as focusing on the late entertainer’s rise and zenith, with a major aspect being his relationship with Parker.”

Tom Hanks and Colonel Tom Parker

Tom Hanks and Colonel Tom Parker. Hanks photo by Dick Thomas Johnson CC BY 2.5

Leading the pack of actors to play Elvis is Ansel Elgort, the star of The Fault of Our Stars and Baby Driver who is now playing Tony in Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story. Other contenders are Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who appeared in Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age of Ultron;  Miles Teller, the Whiplash actor who will be in the Top Gun sequel; Austin Butler, who appeared on TV’s The Shannara Chronicles and has a role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; and Harry Styles, formerly of One Direction who appeared in the 2017 war epic Dunkirk.

The top 5 contenders:

Austin Butler

Austin Butler in 2008. Photo by Mikul Photography CC by 2.0

Ansel Elgort

Ansel Elgort. Photo by Eva Rinaldi CC by 2.0

Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Photo by Gage Skidmore CC by SA-2.0

Harry Styles

Harry Styles. Photo by Eva Rinaldi CC by 2.0

Miles Teller

Miles Teller in 2014. Photo by Georges Biard CC by SA-3.0

Along with those 5 actors in consideration to play Elvis, word broke in early July 2019 that a sixth contender to play Presley is G-Eazy, an Oakland rapper who is in talks with director Luhrmann. “The two reportedly spent time together in New York last month, where G-Eazy is supposed to have signaled his interest personally,” reported Highsnobiety.

G-Eazy

G-Eazy. Photo by Austin Ermes CC by 2.0

Many people are debating on social media who would be the best Elvis. “Preliminary Twitter surveying shows quite a bit of support for Harry Styles and Miles Teller for the role of Elvis, while some have suggested heading back to the drawing board for an actor who’s totally unknown,” according to Complex.

A decision is expected by the end of July as to who will play Elvis. The movie should begin shooting in the autumn.

Fueling the intense interest in making a new Elvis biopic is the boom in rocker films. USA Today said, “Hollywood has classic-rock fever, with Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody storming the box office and Oscars last winter, and two new films–Taron Egerton’s surreal Elton John biopic Rocketman and romantic comedy Yesterday, which imagines a world without the Beatles–in theaters now.”

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Luhrmann is an Australian writer, director, and producer with projects spanning film, television, opera, theatre, music, and recording industries. He is has a distinctly recognizable style and involves himself in the writing, directing, design, and musical components of all his work. He’s known as a pioneer of pop culture, fusing high and low culture with a unique sonic and cinematic language.  Luhrmann wrote the Presley script with Craig Pearce, who he worked with on Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby, and Romeo and Juliet.

Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann. Photo by Eva Rinaldi CC by 2.0

Luhrmann said in one interview,  “If you make a film full of risk, studios don’t run towards you to give you $50 million in order to reinvent the post-modern musical, I can tell you. If you do manage to cajole them into doing it and you want to maintain the flag of creative freedom, you better make sure that it pays its bill.”

Related Article: The Starstruck Awkward Meeting Between the Beatles and Elvis Presley

According to Deadline, the script “covers the relationship between the veteran manager and the young singer, who came from dirt-poor origins to become an iconic star who changed the course of music. Parker was reputed to have taken half of Presley’s earnings for himself, in exchange for building him.”


Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. Her new book, The Blue, is a spy story set in the 18th-century porcelain world. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com