How the Presley Family Feels About the New ‘Priscilla’ Movie

elvis presley sitting in a chair and kissing a smiling priscilla presley in a scene from the film priscilla
‘Priscilla’ Reportedly Divided the Presley FamilySabrina Lantos
  • 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.

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

Even before its wide theatrical release on Friday, director Sofia Coppola’s new biopic Priscilla has drawn broad acclaim from festival attendees, critics, and even the titular subject, Priscilla Presley. However, not everyone in the Presley family has held the movie in such high regard—specifically Elvis Presley and Priscilla’s only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley.

In fact, a new report explains that Lisa Marie, who died in January, was so concerned about the script—and its portrayal of her father—that she personally reached out to Coppola and threatened to publicly condemn the movie. Actors Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi are the latest duo to portray the one-time celebrity couple who first met when Priscilla was 14 and Elvis was 24.

Mass audiences can now make their own judgements about Priscilla, but here’s what members of the Presley family have said about the movie.

Lisa Marie Presley thought the script was “vengeful”

Priscilla is based primarily on the actor and businesswoman’s 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me, and highlights some of the more turbulent aspects of their courtship and marriage. Coppola consulted with the real Priscilla during the creation of the movie, and Priscilla is an executive producer on the project.

According to Variety, Lisa Marie found the screenplay for the movie so shocking she accused Coppola of “coming for my Dad and my family.” In two emails sent to Coppola in September 2022, before production had begun, Lisa Marie called Priscilla’s portrayal of Elvis “vengeful and contemptuous” and expressed concern that it would ruin his legacy and cause embarrassment within her family.

“My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative,” Lisa Marie wrote. “As his daughter, I don’t read this and see any of my father in this character. I don’t read this and see my mother’s perspective of my father.” She urged Coppola to revisit his portrayal and, if the director didn’t, wrote, “I will be forced to be in a position where I will have to openly say how I feel about the film and go against you, my mother, and this film publicly.”

Variety reports that Lisa Marie is believed to have seen an early version of the script, which was later trimmed by 10 pages before principal photography began on October 24, 2022. A source said efforts were made to “tone down” some of the material from the book.

The King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s daughter also worried the project would be “another hit” to her twin daughters, Harper and Finley Lockwood, following her divorce from their father, Michael Lockwood. Additionally, the young teens also had to face the death of their half-brother, Benjamin Keough, in 2020.

For her part, Coppola seems to have politely rebuffed Lisa Marie’s request. A representative shared an excerpt of the director’s response to Lisa Marie with Variety. “I hope that when you see the final film you will feel differently and understand I’m taking great care in honoring your mother, while also presenting your father with sensitivity and complexity,” she told the late musician.

Ultimately, Lisa Marie didn’t get to see the finished product, because she died of cardiac arrest on January 14, 2023. In notable contrast to Coppola’s film, she had offered high praise for Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 biopic Elvis starring Austin Butler, writing in an Instagram post it offered a portrayal of her father “FINALLY done accurately and respectfully.”

The movie brought Priscilla to tears

jacob elordi, sofia coppola, cailee spaeny, and priscilla presley standing together for a photo in front of a blue and white background
Jacob Elordi, Sofia Coppola, Cailee Spaeny, and Priscilla Presley attended the premiere of Priscilla together at the Venice International Film Festival.Getty Images

Back in June, Priscilla posted about her anticipation for the new movie on social media. “I am excited about the interpretation of my book by the masterful Sofia Coppola,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “She has such an extraordinary perspective and I have always been such an admirer of her work. I’m certain this movie will take everyone on an emotional journey.”

Then when Priscilla debuted at the Venice International Film Festival in early September, the real Priscilla was there to witness the seven-minute standing ovation it earned from attendees. Earlier that day, she became emotional at the movie’s press conference, saying, “It’s very difficult to sit and watch a film about you and about your life and about your love.” However, she quickly praised Coppola for doing “an amazing job.”

Get all the latest news about the Presley family delivered straight to your inbox

A few days later, she singled out Spaeny’s performance on social media, saying she wouldn’t be surprised if the 25-year-old actor won an Oscar for the film. Spaeney already won Best Actress at Venice.

Two days before the movie’s limited release in late October, Priscilla again took to Instagram to praise the Coppola. “I can’t think of anyone I would have trusted more than Sophia to bring this book to life,” she wrote, referring to her memoir that inspired the movie.

Riley Keough has been quiet

Actor Riley Keough, who is Lisa Marie’s oldest daughter and one of Priscilla’s granddaughters, has yet to say anything publicly about the movie. That includes this latest controversy. However, Variety reports that Keough knew of her mother’s concerns about Priscilla. This August, Keough became the sole trustee of her mother’s estate and the owner of Graceland.

The Elvis Presley Estate called the movie a “money grab”

Although not in the Presley family, the Elvis Presley Estate has also weighed in. It labeled the new movie a “money grab.”

In June, TMZ reported the film was produced without the knowledge or consent of the estate. An unnamed official slammed Priscilla, particularly Coppola’s direction and writing. “It feels like a college movie. The set designs are just horrific, it’s not what Graceland looks like,” the official said.

The estate also refused permission for Coppola to use recordings of Elvis’ music in the film.

Ultimately, it seems critics have generally agreed with Priscilla’s and Coppola’s assessments. As of Friday, the movie held an 86 percent fresh rating on the review database Rotten Tomatoes.

You Might Also Like