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'Priscilla': Sofia Coppola balances 'fantasy' and 'reality' in biopic starring Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi as Elvis

"There's this idea in our culture that the fame and wealth will make you happy, ... it comes with a whole other set of baggage," Coppola said

For decades, Priscilla Presley's personal life with Elvis Presley has been seen as both glamorous but riddled with rumours, and now Sofia Coppola is putting Priscilla's perspective front and centre in Priscilla, starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi.

Where to watch Priscilla: In theatres Nov. 3
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Ari Cohen, Dagmara Dominczyk, Tim Post, Lynne Griffin
Runtime: 113 minutes

In terms of what drew the Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette filmmaker to Priscilla's story, after reading her book "Elvis and Me: The True Story of the Love Between Priscilla Presley and the King of Rock N' Roll," Coppola was interested in "how people become who they are" and find their "identity."

"This was so much about that and also really connected a lot to my mother's generation, and looking at what my mother went through, and then looking at my daughters and being in between these generations that have changed so much, and then in some ways, have a lot still in common," Coppola said at a virtual press conference before the film's release.

The movie starts off when Priscilla Beaulieu was just 14 years old in Germany, seemingly quite bored and longing for a more exciting social life. We then see the moment she first meets Elvis at a house party in 1959, when Elvis was 24, with the film exploring how their relationship evolved from there.

Priscilla follows the title character's journey back to the U.S. and when her parents eventually consent to her finishing her high school years in Memphis, before she married Elvis.

Coppola added that for Priscilla, and her movies generally, she's particularly interested in the difference between the "fantasy" and "reality" of someone's life.

"I'm always interested in the fantasy and the reality of what looks like one thing, looks ideal and the reality of that," Coppola said. "Maybe growing up around the film business, I kind of see the different sides, so I do have a more realistic view of what that can be like.

"I think there's this idea in our culture that the fame and wealth will make you happy, and ... the reality of that is it comes with a whole other set of baggage. So I'm always interested in the mix of fantasy and reality."

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla (Elevation Pictures)
Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi in Sofia Coppola's Priscilla (Elevation Pictures)

'Nuggets of gold that helped me put this massive puzzle together'

In Spaeny's portrayal of Priscilla, she balances the glamour of this infamous person with the more demure demeanour she often has.

With the actor having the opportunity to speak to Priscilla to get a better understanding of her experiences with Elvis, but also how she was feeling at particular moments, the actor was able to collect these "nuggets of gold" for her portrayal of Priscilla.

"She would go into these sort of specific memories that she had with him and it was really special," Spaeny said. "The detail that she would talk about, but also just taking in the presence of this woman who's lived this life.

"Her eyes would sparkle ... talking about certain moments she had or she'd laugh at an inside joke that they had, but it was these sort of nuggets of gold that helped me put this massive puzzle together."

"You really brought that through that she's never a doormat, you're never as a victim, which is really important, that you have her strength underneath all of her very delicate femininity," Coppola added.

Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla (Elevation Pictures)
Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla (Elevation Pictures)

Elvis' charm and his 'dark side'

While it can be easy for Elvis' presence to take over a story, Coppola's film always maintains Priscilla's viewpoint as the guiding light in the film, showing both the seemingly sweet, but also darker moments with Elvis.

"For me, it was really important to go by the perspective that Priscilla writes about in her book, showing him as a human," Coppola said. "I think he's such a god-like figure in our culture and history, and to show his human side, and she talks about what he was like, his vulnerabilities and what they were like behind closed doors.

"I thought it was so interesting to ride the highs and lows that she went through and show his incredible charm and loveability, and then also this dark side that he had, and showed us the complex relationship. But it was important that he was never villainized, that we saw him as a human, that he was struggling and understand her story through that."

But the filmmaker also stressed that it was a "new challenge" for her to take on a story about someone who is alive to see the final product.

"I've never worked on someone's story that was alive to see the story, so it was definitely something I kept in mind, and how do I express what I'm connecting to and then also make sure that it's a story that Priscilla feels represents her experience," Coppola said. "I think a big challenge was to to give such a big part of someone's life and boil it down to the essence, to fit into a length of a movie.

"How do I do that to give the impression of everything she went through and I want it to feel like these memories that come together, and then by the end you have a sense of what her experience was like, I hope."