The Venice Film Festival is going to be weird this year because of the SAG-AFTRA strike. It starts a week from now and while it’s usually a star-studded affair, this year most actors involved with the films at the festival won’t be able to attend. However, the studio A24 has a waiver because they reached an agreement with the union. A24 isn’t affiliated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers so they were able to do their own thing without the major studios. Sofia Coppola’s new movie Priscilla, a biopic about Priscilla Presley, falls under that waiver for reasons that are kind of convoluted (it has to do with the fact that the movie was filmed in Canada). So potentially, Priscilla stars Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny could attend the festival to promote the movie. I’m not sure if they will because of how it would look while most actors are still on strike, but we will see. Sofia Coppola is also part of the WGA but she’s allowed to promote the movie and I think she will be doing the lion’s share of that work.
Sofia and Priscilla were interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter about the movie ahead of the premiere. Sofia says she was drawn to Priscilla’s story because it was surprisingly relatable, and Priscilla says that Sofia could understand her life because she also grew up in the orbit of a very famous man, her dad Francis Ford Coppola. There’s also an interesting little interlude about Priscilla’s legal proceedings with her granddaughter Riley Keough. Riley had become the executor of Elvis’ estate through Lisa Marie Presley’s will, and Priscilla claims she wasn’t notified of that. It seemed like she was trying to push Riley out of her position, shortly after Lisa Marie Presley had suddenly passed away. What kind of grandma takes you to court when your mom has suddenly died?? It was shady, but both Priscilla and Riley now claim to be on excellent terms.
Sofia related to Priscilla because of her dad: “I know from my family what it’s like to be inside a show business family,” Coppola says. “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,” Coppola says.
Priscilla trusted Sofia with her story: “Her story was so vivid in my mind and the visuals of that world, Memphis, the ’60s. It’s so American,” Coppola says. “And I always like themes about finding one’s identity and teenage girls growing into adulthood.” She reached out to Priscilla, who says she had been a fan since Lost in Translation, which won Coppola an original screenplay Oscar. Priscilla, who has an executive producer credit on the film, felt Coppola was someone she could trust. “I just got who she was and I felt that she could get me,” she says. “I thought, we have different stories, but she could understand this better than any writer because she kind of lived it in her own way.”
The drama about Lisa Marie’s will and Elvis’ estate: “Riley is now the executor, which should be right, obviously, being her daughter,” Priscilla says. “Riley and I are on good terms. We were never not on good terms. That was all publicity. This is private and this is not something to fool around with and say that we’re not agreeing. In fact, I’m having dinner with [Riley] tonight. We understand what needs to be done. I’m there for her. She knows that. She wants me there for her to help her.” In comments to Vanity Fair published the morning of this interview, Riley characterized the relationship similarly. “Things with Grandma will be happy. They’ve never not been happy,” Keough told the magazine of Priscilla. “She was a huge part of creating my grandfather’s legacy and Graceland. He was the love of her life. Anything that would suggest otherwise in the press makes me sad because, at the end of the day, all she wants is to love and protect Graceland and the Presley family and the legacy.”
I agree with Priscilla that Sofia is probably the best person to tell her story. A consistent theme across Sofia’s work is female alienation, female isolation. Priscilla’s story is most similar (to me) to her film Marie Antoinette: a teenager marries a famous, wealthy, powerful man. She’s swept up into a world that’s very different from what she’s used to, with intrigue and power struggles. And she’s not prepared for the ways in which the world will judge her or the alienation that comes with that kind of fame. Anyway, what really piqued my attention is how Priscilla and Riley talk about each other. I do not believe–at all–that they would be on such great terms after Priscilla tried to basically cut Riley out of the estate and Riley had to pay her a lump sum of $1.4 million to settle out of court. What Riley says is extremely gracious, but Priscilla comes across as controlling. “She wants me there for her to help her.” Really? Then why was Lisa Marie so careful to make sure that Riley was the one in charge of her estate, not Priscilla? It doesn’t scan.
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