How true to life is Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis?’

The stunning biopic takes some creative liberties

What you need to know: Elvis Presley

Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” a biopic on the larger-than-life King of Rock & Roll, has had an impressive opening weekend, tying for first place at the box office with “Top Gun: Maverick.”. The movie has also garnered praise from audiences and critics alike, receiving a strong 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.

“Elvis,” played by Austin Butler in a star-making performance, has brought the rock icon back into the public sphere, with his entire life story playing out through the film. But after seeing the film, one may wonder, “Did this all really happen?”

Was Elvis’ iconic stint in Vegas really just a ploy to pay off Colonel Tom Parker’s gambling debts?

The movie’s main villain is, without a doubt, Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by an unrecognizable Tom Hanks. The film implies that Parker tricked Presley into a Vegas residency as a way to pay back the International Hotel for his gambling debts.

One part of this the movie gets right is that Parker was gambling addict, often spending long periods in Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Palm Springs, California, to get his fix. Later in life, he became a frequent traveler to Las Vegas for its gambling scene.

However, the idea that Parker used Elvis’s residency at the International to repay his debts was mostly a rumor.

Did Elvis really go to jail for indecency after a performance?

In the movie, after Elvis is arrested for indecency after disobeying a police chief’s orders to not even “wiggle a finger” during a performance, Colonel Parker gives Elvis the option to enlist in the military to get out of prison time. However, this is categorically untrue, as Elvis went into military service because he was drafted, like many others at the time.

Although his reason for enlisting was misrepresented in the movie, Colonel Parker did capitalize on Elvis’s service to present him as an “all-American boy.”

Did Elvis really go to Black Pentecostal tent revivals as a child in Memphis?

In the movie, Luhrmann shows a young Elvis at a Black tent revival service, suggesting that’s where he learned to dance and got his iconic wiggle.

While it is possible that Elvis experienced this during his childhood in Memphis’ Black neighborhoods, there is no proof that he visited any tent revivals specifically. However, it is known that he sometimes attended East Trigg Baptist Church, an all-Black congregation, to hear gospel music.

Did Elvis really fire Colonel Tom Parker onstage during his Vegas residency?

One of the film’s most dramatic scenes show’s Elvis drunkenly calling out his manager from the stage, essentially telling him he knows about all the lies the Colonel told him and then firing him.

While this event never happened, it is reminiscent of a time when Elvis called out Barron Hilton from the stage during one of his performances at the Hilton for firing an employee that Elvis had become close to. That same night, Elvis did fire Parker.