What Elvis Biopic Will Make It to the Big Screen First?

What Elvis Biopic Will Make It to the Big Screen First?

Nov 11, 2011

Drug addiction, the rise to stardom, abusive relationships … it's no wonder why everyone wants to make a movie about Elvis. THR reports, however, that there have been more than a few stumbling blocks preventing us from seeing a new film about the King. We're still looking at four unauthorized Presley movies in the making, despite the challenges that lie ahead.
Apparently CKX Inc. — the company that owns the rights to the name, image, and likeness of Elvis Presley and the operations of Graceland (including all of his music) — is just one hurdle. Elvis' daughter, Lisa Marie, sold the rights to her father's intellectual property to the "tightfisted" CKX for a whopping $100 million in 2005. Filmmakers looking to license even one song for their movie would have to pay anywhere up to $1 million dollars. And as THR points out, CKX has a "financial incentive" to protect his name — meaning we won't be seeing a biopic that shows the King of Rock and Roll face down in his peanut butter and banana sandwich. 
Producer Ricki Landers Friedlander — behind the upcoming Fame & Fortune, adapted from a memoir by a Presley bodyguard and being directed by The U.S. vs. John Lennon writer-director John Scheinfeld — plans to use Elvis' songs in his movie that are owned by others, or ones that exist in the public domain. The Beatles movie Backbeat circumvented the red tape in a similar way.
Of course, then there's the matter of fame. Producer Michael Benaroya is currently working on Elvis & Nixon, which finds Eric Bana in the role of Presley. The singer visited the White House in 1970 as Nixon wanted to make the star a "Federal Agent-at-Large" in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He explains, "You have a lot to overcome in terms of meeting or beating people's expectations." 
Using a less conventional approach to Elvis' life story would help to simplify things and not run the risk of overwhelming the project before it can gather steam. That's why movies like The Identical — which has a "faith-based bent" and centers on an Elvis impersonator, instead of trying to depict the iconic musician — may beat the other projects out of the gate. Benaroya feels the same about his movie: "We are not trying to tell the story of Elvis. We are trying to tell a very funny moment in his life." Still, it hasn't stopped producer Steve Bing — who is basing his film Last Train on the intimate biography Last Train to Memphis, being written by Young Guns scribe John Fusco — from approaching it traditionally.
So there you have it: four very different Elvis biopics. A few have big name talent attached — a great draw for an A-list actor — but there are dozens of roadblocks getting in the way. The others highlighting the King's story in an indirect way, but may be far less satisfying to die-hard fans. Like anything, it all depends on what you're looking for when it comes to a movie about one of the most important figures of the 20th century. What approach interests you most, and who do you see coming out on top?

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