By Javier Romualdo
Los Angeles, Jun 22 (EFE).- A new biopic about legendary recording artist Elvis Presley also provides viewers an inside look at his ambitious and controversial manager Col. Tom Parker, a key figure in the life of the “King of Rock and Roll” who is portrayed by an unrecognizable Tom Hanks.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby”), the film’s focus is on the complicated and misunderstood relationship between Presley (Austin Butler) and Parker, a Dutch-born traveling carnival employee-turned music promoter who discovered Elvis’ talent and managed – sometimes successfully, other times less so – his astronomical rise to super-stardom.
Rather than starting with Presley’s early years in Mississippi and Tennessee, the film kicks off with Hanks in his role as Parker, who found in that young artist with a velvety voice and provocative performance style a ticket to wealth and success.
Parker was the key driving force in the recording artist’s career and pushed him to the limit, arranging for a never-ending stream of concerts and movie appearances between 1955 and 1977 that Presley never rejected.
In his remarks to Efe, Hanks says he experienced a similar frenetic lifestyle as a young actor until finally realizing it was unsustainable.
“I had a manager for a while that would both fill me with great confidence (but) at the same time would tell me that I didn’t really know anything so I’d better just shut up and do as I’m told,” the 65-year-old actor recalled in an interview with Efe ahead of the US release of “Elvis” on Friday.
“And for a while that’s important. But what I was not able to do, probably for too long, is to follow my own individual instinct and say ‘no.’ I worked a lot. Anytime anybody offered me anything, I said ‘yes’ because, isn’t that what you do? They’re asking you to do a job.”
“But by the time I became older, was in my mid-30s, I realized I was doing a disservice to myself as far as my artistic desire to explore greater themes than I had … I eventually figured out how to say ‘no,’ and that’s one of the hardest lessons to learn.”
Being more selective about the projects he took on paid off for Hanks when landed some of the iconic roles – in “Philadelphia” (1993) “Forrest Gump” (1994) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) – that made him one of the biggest film stars of his generation.
“Not to mean you succeed every time. I made a bunch of dog movies, but nonetheless … if you get one decent one out of every three or four, I think you’re ahead of the game.”
In “Elvis,” Hanks plays a man who was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk in the Netherlands, emigrated illegally to the United States, began working in traveling carnivals in the 1930s and then became a music promoter.
A person of many hats, Parker served as director of the Tampa Humane Society and did promotional work that helped the Louisiana gubernatorial ambitions of Jimmie Davis, who after becoming governor gave him the honorary title of colonel in the Louisiana State Militia.
A shrewd and no-nonsense businessman, he negotiated a deal that landed him 50 percent of Presley’s professional earnings – not only those from his albums and concerts but also from his career in Hollywood, where the artist starred in 31 feature films.
With Presley losing steam as a recording artist and actor in the mid-1960s, Parker breathed new life into his career by taking him to Las Vegas, where he played to mostly packed crowds between 1969 and late 1976.
But it was also in Sin City that Presley’s problems with opioid addiction worsened, leading to his death from cardiac arrest in 1977 at the age of 42.
Hanks told Efe that he assumed Presley’s family would blame Parker, who passed away in 1997 at age 87, for Elvis’s untimely demise.
“I was anticipating hearing horror stories, even from Priscilla Presley (Elvis’ ex-wife) herself about the colonel. I was expecting (to hear) he was a cheap crook and he was diabolical and he was manipulative, that he never let Elvis do what he wanted to do,” Hanks said.
“And I found it was just the opposite. He was a delightful man every time he walked into the room. People loved him. He took care of everybody. And he never said no to his client, to his boy, to Mr. Presley.”
Hanks said Parker is the type of complex role he enjoys tackling.