SEATTLE — His nickname may be “America’s Dad,” but Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays the villain in “ELVIS.”
He portrays Colonel Tom Parker, who managed/promoted Elvis’s career and defrauded him out of millions of dollars.
The role required hours in the makeup chair to apply a prosthetics and transform Hanks into Parker’s likeness.
Entertainment reporter Kim Holcomb interviewed Hanks in Memphis about the experience, the value of fear in acting, and what makes him say “yes” to roles.
HOLCOMB: "I know you were cast in this role because of your uncanny likeness - the acting was secondary.”
HANKS: (laughing) “(Director) Baz (Luhrmann) says, 'I want this to be about the colonel.' I had never seen a photograph of the colonel, I do not know what the colonel looks like. Who is the colonel? Then he showed me. 'Uh, you sure you want me?' I think I'm going to spend some time in the makeup chair."
HOLCOMB: "Well it worked, and you did.”
HANKS: “And we did. It's like putting on a suit of armor. 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. And then you go to work and you have half of the work done for you."
HOLCOMB: "Elvis obviously has a hard time saying no to the colonel. At this stage in your life and career, what makes you say yes?”
HANKS: “Wow, that's a very interesting question and I will have to say the only thing that makes me say yes is I am fascinated by the question that is asked by the movie. Sometimes the hardest thing to say is no because the money is great, the people are good, you're going to shoot on a beach somewhere - I made those movies. But you're going to have such a good time making this movie that you just say, 'I don't want to turn down this offer.’ But you have to because otherwise, you might be repeating yourself. I'm going to tell you right now, I did that. I said yes way too much than I should have. But you realize that the amount of your wherewithal is kind of precious and that you can't go into it unless you are like a hungry dog - turn me loose, I can't wait to get to work and do this - you have to say no. And I'm lucky that I've got enough people coming to me and waving a can of kibble at me - like I did here."
HOLCOMB: "One thing that's almost a theme in the movie that I found interesting is fear - Elvis has stage fright at the beginning, the Colonel is afraid of losing his star.”
HANKS: “He was petrified of the 1968 comeback special.”
HOLCOMB: “So do you think fear helps with creation?”
HANKS: “Oh dear lord yes. If you're not petrified the night before you start shooting the movie, something is really wrong. No one's making the same movie until day three of shooting. Everybody is just worried about getting fired, whether this fake nose on me looks real or not, am I sounding like him, am I walking like him? Fear is a wonderful motivator, but it is matched with faith that you can figure it out. What you learn is, fear never goes away, but you do develop a faith that you will get there. And if you're not there on day four, you know what? You're another f-word that I can't say.”
HOLCOMB: “We can bleep it.”
HANKS: (laughs) “No, no, let's not go there. On the fourth day, you don't want to be f'ed.”
HOLCOMB: "After making this movie, do you feel like it was good to be Elvis? Or was his life a bit of a Shakespearean tragedy?”
HANKS: “I think Shakespearean is a type of word you'd use. What he did not experience was a fall of grace because of hubris. The dreams that he had were not matched by the man that should have been his ally, which was Colonel Tom Parker. Tom Parker was a genius. He made Elvis who he was. What he didn't do was have the artistic vision in his head to come to this single client and say, 'What statement do you want to make?' That's how Colonel Tom Parker did a disservice to his one client by not imagining how truly grand he could have been."
“ELVIS” is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters on June 24.