14 actors who have played Elvis Presley

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

From Kurt Russell to Jacob Elordi, here's a look back at the most memorable portrayals of the King.

Elvis Presley is one of the most beloved entertainers in music history, thanks to his signature sultry voice and swaggering style. Countless impersonators have made a living off mimicking the King of Rock and Roll, and Hollywood is no different, with numerous films and TV shows cashing in on the continued fascination with the singer.

<p>Everett; Hugh Stewart /Warner Bros. /Courtesy Everett; Ken Woroner/A24</p>

Everett; Hugh Stewart /Warner Bros. /Courtesy Everett; Ken Woroner/A24

It all began with the 1979 made-for-TV movie Elvis, starring Kurt Russell, released two years after Presley died. The depictions haven't stopped since, with such high-profile films as Elvis (2022) and Priscilla (2023), starring Austin Butler and Jacob Elordi, respectively.

Here is our list of the most notable Elvis portrayals through the years.

Kurt Russell, Elvis (1979)

Everett Collection Kurt Russell in 'Elvis'
Everett Collection Kurt Russell in 'Elvis'

This TV movie marks the first time director John Carpenter ever worked with Kurt Russell, who most critics fawned over in his Emmy-nominated performance as Elvis. It's a fair portrayal of Elvis' life, seeing as his father was consulted, Russell got to pick out a jumpsuit from Graceland, and Priscilla Presley was paid $50,000 to ensure the script was accurate. Russell is generally excellent in everything, but he brings a certain gravitas to Elvis that gives us a glimpse into his relationships with those he loved most.

Don Johnson, Elvis and the Beauty Queen (1981)

Everett Collection Don Johnson in 'Elvis and the Beauty Queen'
Everett Collection Don Johnson in 'Elvis and the Beauty Queen'

This 1981 made-for-TV movie portrays Elvis in 1972 amid his divorce from Priscilla, whom we never see on screen. Elvis soon meets Linda Thompson (Stephanie Zimbalist), a youthful beauty queen who becomes his live-in girlfriend for most of the last years of his life. Don Johnson as Elvis is a take on the divorced dad trope, albeit one with all the funds to keep himself from being sad or lonely.

Johnson gained 40 pounds for the role, and there's even a whole scene explaining the King's infamous love of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. The film is mostly for Elvis completists, though it's a version of the King by the guy who would soon become Miami Vice's Sonny Crockett. He brings some of that energy to this performance, but not enough to merit a rewatch.

David Keith, Heartbreak Hotel (1988)

Everett Collection Charlie Schlatter and David Keith in 'Heartbreak Hotel'
Everett Collection Charlie Schlatter and David Keith in 'Heartbreak Hotel'

Chris Columbus' 1988 take on the King's legacy suffers from everything about the '80s via 1950s aesthetic of reimagining. To be frank, it's a goofy movie that would probably never be made today. However, there is a certain charm to the harebrained things that got greenlit in the age of Aqua Net and leg warmers. This is one of those films that you may have caught on cable and have fond memories of, or maybe you even saw it in the theater.

David Keith will forever be etched in the minds of moviegoers as Drew Barrymore's dad in the original Firestarter, but he chews up a gold lamé suit as Elvis in this strange little film.

Dale Midkiff, Elvis and Me (1988)

Everett Collection Dale Midkiff and Susan Walters in 'Elvis and Me'
Everett Collection Dale Midkiff and Susan Walters in 'Elvis and Me'

This made-for-TV movie loosely based on Priscilla Presley's autobiography is basically Elvis exploitation. Because of the source material, it's easy to expect salacious details, but at this point we know this story: Man pursues girl, they fall in love, he becomes rock star, and she suffers having made him her whole life. It's a melodramatic love story that captivated audiences when it was released in 1988. For what it's worth, Dale Midkiff is a pretty good Elvis, even if he does play up the kitsch.

Michael St. Gerard, Elvis (1990)

Everett Collection Michael St. Gerard in 'Elvis'
Everett Collection Michael St. Gerard in 'Elvis'

Michael St. Gerard isn't the only person on this list to play Elvis more than once, but for many, his portrayal in this 1990 miniseries was a definitive take. We follow a young Elvis in 1950s Memphis as he's lighting the wick to his eventual rocket to stardom. It's a grounded performance by an actor who truly looks the part, with a strong jaw, pouty lips, and perfect pompadour.

That he so resembles his subject could be the reason why Michael St. Gerard also played Elvis in Great Balls of Fire (1989), Heart of Dixie (1989), and an episode of Quantum Leap. Despite his recurring role, most remember him as Link Larkin from the original Hairspray (1988), John Waters' ode to race relations and the musical magic of the 1960s.

Val Kilmer, True Romance (1993)

Everett Collection Christian Slater and Val Kilmer in 'True Romance'
Everett Collection Christian Slater and Val Kilmer in 'True Romance'

Elvis was such a huge persona that just the essentials, the whiff of Elvis-isms, is enough to give us plenty of context clues. Perhaps that's why people have sworn to see Elvis out in the wild for years after his death. As an Elvis-themed mentor, Val Kilmer is Christian Slater's conscience in True Romance, which was penned by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott.

We see Kilmer briefly and never fully in mirrors as he advises Slater's Clarence Worley to proceed on his cross-country adventure, complete with drugs, prostitutes, and, of course, murder. Clearly, he needs Elvis' advice to get out alive. Kilmer gives an amazing performance as an imaginary, Elvis-like guide, advising on the side of street justice and ensuring a happily ever after.

Peter Dobson, Forrest Gump (1994)

Paramount From left, Michael Conner Humphreys and Peter Dobson in 'Forrest Gump'
Paramount From left, Michael Conner Humphreys and Peter Dobson in 'Forrest Gump'

The short but sweet portrayal of Elvis as a fascinated bystander to a young Forrest Gump's leg-braced dancing — which, of course, informs the star's stage persona — is prophetic of Peter Dobson's career. He has played Elvis, Elvis impersonators, and even people with a striking resemblance to Elvis in Elvis-like situations. Dobson's few seconds on screen as a pre-fame Presley in the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump made an impact, even without us seeing his full body or face.

Bruce Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Everett Collection Bruce Campbell (center) in 'Bubba Ho-Tep'
Everett Collection Bruce Campbell (center) in 'Bubba Ho-Tep'

This Don Coscarelli-helmed yarn is about an aging and forgotten Elvis impersonator — who is actually Elvis — living out his final days in a retirement home that's being stalked by a soul-stealing cowboy mummy. He's aided in thwarting the evil by his neighbor John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis), a.k.a. Jack. That's a lot to unpack, and the movie is a study in suspension of disbelief, but like Coscarelli's other cinematic ventures (the Phantasm series, John Dies at the End, The Beastmaster), that disbelief is essential and comes with the price of the ticket.

Bruce Campbell does his best Elvis as a depressed man on his way out who finds a reason to live in the extermination of evil. It's a fun, irreverent portrayal in a style that only Campbell can pull off. Watching Elvis with a walker and white Adonis jumpsuit battle the cowboy mummy is almost too much, yet it's certainly enough.

Tyler Hilton, Walk the Line (2005)

Everett Collection Tyler Hilton (left) in 'Walk the Line'
Everett Collection Tyler Hilton (left) in 'Walk the Line'

Obviously, Walk the Line is a Johnny Cash film; thus, Elvis is not the central character. That said, Tyler Hilton knocked his performance out of the park as an unsure Elvis in a sea of talent. Unlike most of the other actors on this list, his understated performance is an anomaly for a performer that many see as a one-dimensional caricature. While no one on this list looks exactly like Elvis, Hilton's swagger and convincing acting carry him into our minds as a prince to the quintessential King.

Jack White, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Gemma La Mana/Columbia Jack White (left) and John C. Reilly (right) in 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story'
Gemma La Mana/Columbia Jack White (left) and John C. Reilly (right) in 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story'

There isn't a moment where musician Jack White (an Elvis superfan himself) makes any sense in his bonkers portrayal of the singer in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. It's a mashup of every era of Elvis' real and perceived behavior, concentrated into a performance that is supposed to be a young Elvis on his rise to stardom. However, he's clearly on copious substances, surrounded by girls, karate chopping the air, and calling himself "the King" (which Elvis reportedly never did). Like many of the other performances on this list, when the legend is better than the truth, ham it up.

Jimmy Ellis, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015)

Everett Collection Jimmy Ellis in 'Orion: The Man Who Would Be King'
Everett Collection Jimmy Ellis in 'Orion: The Man Who Would Be King'

This one is a true story, given that the movie is a documentary. In the days after Elvis's passing, Jimmy Ellis, an unknown singer with a baritone that matched the King's, was plucked from obscurity and passed off as a masked Presley, back from the dead. The ruse was so convincing for some that the Nashville News wrote, "There are many that believe that Elvis is still alive — if he is alive, he wears a mask and goes by the name Orion."

Any fan of Elvis Presley can appreciate the performance of a man trying to assume the role of his idol and spinning a lie so wild, it could be true. Orion: The Man Who Would Be King is certainly worth your time if you find yourself starved for Elvis content.

Michael Shannon, Elvis & Nixon (2016)

Everett Collection Colin Hanks and Michael Shannon in 'Elvis & Nixon'
Everett Collection Colin Hanks and Michael Shannon in 'Elvis & Nixon'

Michael Shannon is an imposing figure and plays his Elvis with a sly, mischievous streak while vying for top-dog status in a room with Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Shannon doesn't look at all like Elvis, but no one on this list really has the cut of the King in their repertoire — it's all attitude and body language. This strange and humorous film sees Elvis trying to align his waning star in an era of Vietnam War protestors and drug use to President Nixon, who is also suffering from lagging approval ratings from the same people. Each needs something from the other, and the whole movie is a wink at both American historical figures.

Austin Butler, Elvis (2022)

Warner Bros. Pictures Austin Butler in 'Elvis'
Warner Bros. Pictures Austin Butler in 'Elvis'

Much like Kurt Russell's portrayal, this new take on Elvis' life and rise to stardom gets the thumbs up from the King's family. Lisa Marie Presley had this much to say about Austin Butler's Oscar-nominated portrayal of her iconic father: "It's almost like he channeled him...He put everything he had, his heart, his soul, everything he had into researching, reading, watching, learning. He honored him in every way possible." Elvis' granddaughter, Riley Keough, reportedly wept when seeing this version. If there is a higher form of praise for embodying a person on film, we are not aware of it.

Jacob Elordi, Priscilla (2023)

A24/Youtube Jacob Elordi in 'Priscilla'
A24/Youtube Jacob Elordi in 'Priscilla'

Priscilla Presley got another chance to tell her story with Priscilla. Unlike 1988's made-for-TV movie Elvis and Me, which was released only three years after her book hit shelves, Priscilla benefits from some added time, reflection, and Hollywood star power. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, and starring Jacob Elordi in the role of Priscilla's (Cailee Spaeny) husband, Priscilla is a fascinating depiction of a tumultuous relationship. Framed from Priscilla's perspective, the film portrays Elvis as a charming yet tortured artist, and Elordi taps into the inner demons the icon struggled with as his fame grew.

Related content:

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.