Sofia Coppola reassured the late Lisa Marie Presley that “Priscilla” was being made with a certain “sensitivity” to the legacy of Elvis Presley.
The writer-director responded to two emails sent by Lisa Marie in September 2022 that objected to the initial script. Coppola adapted the screenplay from Priscilla Presley‘s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me,” with Priscilla serving as an executive producer on the film. The emails were obtained by Variety and IndieWire confirmed their validity with Coppola’s representatives. Distributor A24 declined to comment.
“I hope that when you see the final film you will feel differently,” Coppola wrote to Lisa Marie at the time, “and understand I’m taking great care in honoring your mother, while also presenting your father with sensitivity and complexity.”
A representative for Coppola told IndieWire that the auteur’s statement “was in fact in her email response to Lisa Marie.”
“Priscilla” began production in October 2022. Lisa Marie died in January 2023. The film is currently in limited release.
Star Cailee Spaeny won the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival at the film’s premiere for her portrayal of Priscilla. Jacob Elordi portrays Elvis in the film, which charts the couple’s love story beginning when Priscilla was 14 and Elvis was 24.
“My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative,” Lisa Marie wrote to Coppola. “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. I read this and see your shockingly vengeful and contemptuous perspective and I don’t understand why? 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 continued, “I am worried that my mother isn’t seeing the nuance here or realizing the way in which Elvis will be perceived when this movie comes out. I feel protective over my mother who has spent her whole life elevating my father’s legacy. I am worried she doesn’t understand the intentions behind this film or the outcome it will have. I would think of all people that you would understand how this would feel. Why are you coming for my Dad and my family?”
Lisa Marie added that “Priscilla” was being released on the heels of tumultuousness within the Presley family.
“I had to explain that we are going to have to endure another hit in our lives. That there is going to be a movie about her grandfather that is going to try to make him look really, really bad but it’s not true,” Lisa Marie said of telling her children, including actress Riley Keough, about the feature. “I had to explain that her beloved grandmother is supporting it. These two little girls have been through so much in the past seven years, enduring my divorce and horrific custody battle and then losing their brother. We’ve all been drowning.”
Lisa Marie instead pointed to Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” as “a break from suffering and a ray of light that hit us last year,” saying it made her family “so proud and honored” to be related to Elvis.
“It made them feel blessed for a moment and less cursed in life. It made us all so proud because it was a true depiction of who he really was,” Lisa Marie said, questioning why Coppola felt a “need to attempt to take my father down on the heels of such an incredible film using the excuse that you are trying to tell my mother’s story, but from your very dark and jaded reality.”
Coppola told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year that she was “struck by how much I connected with it emotionally” of Priscilla’s life story.
“I thought it was just going to be a fun adventure, and I was surprised by how relatable her story was,” Coppola said, citing being the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola. “I know from my family what it’s like to be inside a show business family. I know that growing up, people are looking at you in a different way. And also living in a house with my dad, this big personality, a great artist and a lot of our life revolving around that. And seeing my mom’s life, how she was trying to find her way within his, I could relate to that.”
Priscilla has called the film “masterful.” Still, the Presley estate denied Coppola the use of Elvis’ music following reports that the Presley Enterprises were unaware of “Priscilla” being produced. An estate official told TMZ that writer-director Coppola’s vision of Graceland is inaccurate, calling the first look at the film “like a college movie.”