Before her tragic passing earlier this year, Lisa Marie Presley expressed her deep concerns about the script for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming film “Priscilla.” In a series of exclusive emails obtained by Variety, Lisa Marie implored Coppola to reconsider the script’s depiction of her father, Elvis Presley, and its potential impact on her family. These messages were sent four months prior to Lisa Marie’s untimely death from a fatal cardiac arrest in January.
In her emails, Lisa Marie vehemently criticized the script, describing it as “shockingly vengeful and contemptuous.” She pleaded with Coppola to spare her family from public embarrassment and to be mindful of the fragile relationship between Lisa Marie and her mother, Priscilla Presley. Lisa Marie also expressed concern about the film bringing unwarranted scrutiny to Elvis’s living grandchildren, who were still grieving the loss of her son, Benjamin Keough, who tragically passed away in 2020.
A Controversial Biopic
“Priscilla” is a biographical film based on Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir, “Elvis and Me.” The film has generated significant discussion among critics and audiences due to its portrayal of Elvis and Priscilla’s courtship, which began in Germany in 1959 when Priscilla was just 14 and Elvis was 24.
Lisa Marie Presley’s emails to Sofia Coppola expressed her disappointment in the portrayal of her father, stating, “My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative.” She was particularly concerned that the script did not align with her own perspective of her father or her mother’s viewpoint. She questioned why the script appeared to reflect Coppola’s vengeful and contemptuous perspective.
While Lisa Marie reached out to Coppola before the film went into production, she made it clear that she would publicly express her concerns about the project and her mother, Priscilla, who served as an executive producer and participated in promoting the film. “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,” Lisa Marie wrote.
Sofia Coppola’s Response
In response to Lisa Marie Presley’s concerns, Sofia Coppola expressed her intentions for the film. She hoped that when Lisa Marie saw the final product, she would have a different perspective and understand that the director was taking great care to honor Priscilla while presenting Elvis with sensitivity and complexity.
Coppola remained committed to her vision for “Priscilla,” which explores Priscilla’s struggles to adapt to life with a global superstar. The film aims to tell a love story, and efforts were made to tone down certain elements of the book to make it more palatable to contemporary audiences.
Public Reception and Controversy
“Priscilla” premiered at the Venice Film Festival and received acclaim for its star, Cailee Spaeny, who won the best actress prize. Critics and viewers alike have noted the age gap and power dynamics between the on-screen Elvis, portrayed by Jacob Elordi, and Priscilla. The film has been described as an exploration of the attrition caused by psychological abuse in a relationship.
Fans on social media have accused Elvis of “grooming” his eventual bride, and the film has sparked discussions about the complexities of their relationship. Most reviews found the film to be in line with Sofia Coppola’s renowned filmography, portraying a young woman’s life in a “gilded cage.”
Lisa Marie’s Doubts
Lisa Marie Presley was skeptical that her mother, Priscilla, fully comprehended the modern interpretation of her experiences. In her emails to Coppola, Lisa Marie expressed her concern that her mother might not see the nuance in the film or the potential public perception of Elvis when the movie was released.
She felt protective of her mother, who had dedicated her life to elevating Elvis’s legacy, and worried that Priscilla might not understand the film’s intentions or its potential impact. Lisa Marie also appealed to Sofia Coppola’s own Hollywood legacy, mentioning the director’s famous family, which includes her father, Francis Ford Coppola.
The Personal Toll on Lisa Marie
The emails reveal the personal struggle faced by Lisa Marie Presley when dealing with adaptations of her father’s legacy. Lisa Marie expressed the emotional toll the film was taking on her and her family. She recounted an anecdote about her young twins, Harper Lockwood, who were sent a trade announcement about “Priscilla” going into production. Lisa Marie had to explain to her daughters that they would have to endure another challenging period in their lives.
She stressed that the movie would attempt to portray her grandfather in a negative light, which she believed was untrue. Lisa Marie pointed out that her beloved grandmother, Priscilla, was supporting the film. She underlined the hardships her family had faced in recent years, including her divorce and a custody battle, as well as the loss of her son, Benjamin Keough.
Lisa Marie praised the 2022 film “Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann, as a source of relief and pride for her family. She expressed how the film had provided a positive depiction of her father, making her daughters proud to be his granddaughters.
Challenges of Adapting Elvis’s Legacy
The emails highlight the challenges faced by Hollywood when creating art based on the legacies of iconic figures like Elvis Presley. Estates representing deceased stars often become embroiled in disputes over adapted content. Elvis Presley Enterprises, which manages Elvis’s physical estate at Graceland, denied the use of his music catalogue for the film.
The emails also shed light on the personal and emotional stakes for Lisa Marie Presley, who felt a deep responsibility to protect her father’s legacy and the emotional well-being of her family.
Lisa Marie Presley’s concerns about Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” script and its potential impact on her family reveal the complexities of adapting the legacies of iconic figures and the deeply personal nature of such endeavors. The film’s controversial portrayal of Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship has sparked significant public debate, and the emails shed light on the emotional toll such adaptations can have on the families of the figures being depicted. The ultimate reception of “Priscilla” and its impact on Elvis Presley’s legacy remains to be seen.