Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks has been cast as Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker in Baz Luhrmann and Warner Bros’ as yet untitled biopic about the iconic rock and roll star. Way back in 2014, it was reported that an Elvis biopic was in the works with Luhrmann in talks to direct. Since then there’s been little in the way of news, but it now seems that the project is finally moving forward somewhat.
Luhrmann’s biopic is by no means the first time Elvis Presley’s life has been adapted for the screen. In 2005 Jonathan Rhys Myers portrayed the rock legend in a CBS mini-series titled Elvis and more recently he was played by Michael Shannon in the 2016 comedy-drama Elvis & Nixon, which were both received well by critics. Luhrmann’s film, however, will be the first definitive biopic about Presley.
With Variety reporting that Hanks is now in negotiations to play Presley’s manager, Luhrmann’s biopic is starting to look very promising. Colonel Tom Parker was the man responsible for discovering Elvis when he was a fledgling star and was instrumental in some of Presley’s biggest career milestones, including his record deal with RCA and his transition into acting in films like Love Me Tender and Jailhouse Rock. In previous productions about Presley’s life, Parker has been portrayed by actors including Beau Bridges, Randy Quaid and Gene Jones. While the part of Elvis has yet to be cast, Luhrmann has always had a big star in mind to play Parker and he’s definitely got one in Hanks.
Though it’s been slow on the development front for the biopic, it’s been confirmed that Australian screenwriter Craig Pearce – who previously worked with Luhrmann on The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet and Strictly Ballroom – is co-penning the script with the director. Hanks' casting is certainly a step in the right direction. Though the budget for the movie is still being discussed, it’s thought now that a big name like Hanks is attached, Warner Bros. will want to start moving forward with the project with Luhrmann hoping to start production at some point this year.
It’s a good time to be making music biopics too. In 2015, F. Gary Gray’s NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton was showered with praise and this year the Rami Malek fronted Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody earned a handful of Academy Awards. At the end of May, we’ll also see the release of Rocketman – an Elton John biopic fronted by Kingsman star Taron Egerton.
Playing Parker won’t be the first time Hanks has taken on a real-life character either. Just in the last few years of his four-decade career Hanks has played a plethora of real people including Captain Richard Phillips in Captain Phillips, Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in The Post. Later this year, Hanks will also star as kids’ TV presenter Mister Rogers in forthcoming biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. With Hanks’ talents as an actor and Luhrmann’s skills in making epic, music-focused films there’s every reason to start getting excited about their Elvis biopic.