SEATTLE — The word "icon" exists for Elvis Presley.
Under the direction of Baz Luhrmann, his life becomes a dazzling, dizzying spectacle with actor Austin Butler rising to the occasion — despite some self-doubt.
"I'd been working for a year and a half and living this and suddenly you go, 'This is the moment of truth,' where you've got to get out there. All of that's for nothing if it's not alive in front of the camera," he said.
"ELVIS" is told through the eyes of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis's controversial promoter who defrauded him out of millions of dollars. He’s played by a prosthetically-enhanced Tom Hanks.
“Everyone's like, 'How did you deal with it?' I said, 'You sit in a chair and you wait.’ That's all you do, you wait,” Hanks said. “And then you go to work and you have half of the work done for you."
Luhrmann helped write the script and said there were a few things he knew he wanted the film to NOT be.
“A trope. But also, not just a biopic,” he said. “You can't tell the story of Elvis without talking about America in the '50s, '60s, and 70's because he's at the center of that one way or the other. I think it's the most American of stories."
Despite that, the movie was filmed in Australia. Locations like Graceland were re-created in painstaking detail.
Australian actress Olivia DeJonge played Priscilla and said finally visiting the real Memphis was surreal.
"It's strange to feel so familiar with a place that you've never been to, and I felt that the second that I landed here," she said.
Another “character” in the film is Beale Street, where Elvis was influenced by rock and roll and rhythm and blues created by black artists.
Alton Mason played a young Little Richard.
"He paved the way for guys like Prince, Michael, Childish Gambino, Andre 3000 — he opened that door for us to all use him as a blueprint,” Mason said. "I felt like my only responsibility was to serve and honor the situation.”
British musician Yola played Sister Rosetta Tharpe, considered the Godmother of Rock and Roll.
"To be the first person to use heavy distortion, to crank that amp and get it to distort, to take blues bending and turn it into the shred that we know — all of that is the aesthetic,” she said. "It's the most important thing, certainly for black America but for the diaspora broadly, to see us inventing things that reverberate for generations."
Elvis was also shaped by his relationship with BB King, played by Kelvin Harrison Junior.
"It's a testament to BB's maturity and wisdom, I think he saw it and was like, 'Wow, artists inspire other artists, and he was inspired by us, and what an honor to be recognized through his music,'” Harrison said.
From that music to the complicated relationships, the film showcases "The King" through a kaleidoscope lens as big and bold as Elvis himself. What it lacks in script cohesion, it makes up for in performances — particularly Butler’s, which is well worth the price of admission.
“ELVIS” is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters June 24.
Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.