The hotly anticipated release of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is just days away. Austin Butler’s portrayal of the ‘The King’ will be hitting US theatres on June 24, charting two decades of the incomparable rock n roller’s life amidst the rocky relationship he held with his manager Colonel Tom Parker. Those twenty years are crammed into an approximate runtime of around two and a half hours, but GamesRadar reports that a four-hour version of the film exists.
GamesRadar’s scoop comes courtesy of an interview Baz Luhrmann had with the RadioTimes, where the Australian director said: “I mean, I have a four-hour version, actually. I do. But you have to bring it down to 2 hours 30.” It is commonplace in modern cinema that most films released are roughly between 90 to 150 minutes in length, the odd big biopic, period drama, or war epic could potentially see that target stretched more to the 180-minute/three-hour mark, but four whole hours of cinema is seldom seen unless you were to count home cinema offerings such as Zack Snyder’s Justice League. In recent years, the likes of Avengers: Endgame have just breached the three-hour mark, but a four-hour runtime normally means that an audience has just sat down to watch a re-release of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the 1939 megahit Gone with the Wind (which is two minutes shy of four hours long if we are being picky). Perhaps the four-hour version of Elvis would have rivaled Gone with the Wind’s eight Oscars? Maybe we will get Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis in a few years on HBO Max.
Baz Luhrmann went on to describe to the RadioTime just what is missing from the theatrical release of Elvis, that fans would have been privy to in the four-hour version. “I would have liked to lean into some of the other things more – there’s so much more,” he said. “I mean, there’s lots of stuff that I shot like the relationship with the band, I had to pare [that] down – and it’s so interesting how the Colonel gets rid of them.” It would appear that Luhrman was caught in a trap (pun intended) with run-time and fans will have to make do without seeing the villainous Tom Hanks ridding Elvis of his bandmates, that is at least until the deleted scenes appear in the bonus material of the inevitable Blu-ray release of Elvis.
It is well documented that Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis had a rocky relationship, with countless stories depicting Parker’s manipulative ways over the singer. As a result, it is no surprise that not only is this the source of much of Elvis’ narrative, but also the source of Baz Luhrmann’s difficulty in keeping the runtime of his new film down. It is the very nature of biopics, that elements of a person’s life will be cut out for the sake of the film, after all, a person’s lifetime, even if cut tragically short like Presley’s, is far too long to have all its pivotal moments crammed into one film.
When June 24 comes around, audiences will be able to decide for themselves if the scenes Baz Luhrmann has decided to include in Elvis were the best ones, or whether the cutting room floor is full of better offerings. It will also give audiences the chance to rate Austin Butler (Once Upon a time in Hollywood) has done Elvis Presley justice and likewise Tom Hanks in the case of Colonel Tom Parker. However, given the fact that Butler has reportedly given so much to the role he can’t separate Preseley’s tone of voice from his own and Tom Hanks’ stature as an actor, all signs point toward the fact that Elvis will be a wonderful treat for audiences the world over, albeit a tad shorter than Baz Luhrmann intended.