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Why The Elvis Cast Looks So Familiar

It's hard enough to make a film based on real events, but it's an entirely different kind of challenge to capture the entire life of a historical figure in under three hours. In other words, 2022's "Elvis" has its work cut out for it. Luckily, the film also has a wealth of talent behind it. Director Baz Luhrmann's filmography is marked by stunning successes. He previously made a great historical film with 2008's "Australia" and a fantastic movie musical with 2001's "Moulin Rouge!" Here Luhrmann is pulling all his experience together to create what is undoubtedly one of the best Elvis movies to date.

Of course, directors are only as good as their cast, and "Elvis" has a phenomenal cast made up of many new faces that can help audiences buy into the illusion of the early rock n' roll scene. While there are more than a few film veterans in "Elvis," there are also cast members who are taking part in their first feature film. Despite how fresh the faces may be, most of them will look familiar to some viewers, and here you can put to rest that itch in the back of your mind. This is why the "Elvis" cast looks so familiar.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is a man who needs no introduction, but his character in "Elvis" might. Colonel Tom Parker was a musical promoter who worked with some of the biggest names in country music before stumbling across the path of a young Elvis Presley (via Elvis Australia). In 1955, Parker began managing Elvis' musical career and helped him negotiate a new deal with the record label RCA. Parker continued to act as Elvis' manager until the singer died in 1977, and his character in Baz Luhrmann's biopic acts as a sort of guide for the audience, leading viewers through the King's life story.

Hanks, of course, has extensive experience not just as an actor, but as someone responsible for bringing historical figures to life on the big screen. His career is littered with films based on a real events like "Apollo 13," "Saving Mr. Banks," and "The Post." He's also taken on more focused memoir-esque projects like "Charlie Wilson's War," "Captain Phillips," and "Sully." Recently, Hanks was the lead in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," a biopic about the life of beloved children's television host Mr. Rogers. He's the perfect actor to embody Colonel Tom Parker, and his committed performance helps to ground the film while elevating it to an entirely new level.

Austin Butler

Austin Butler's acting career began when he was still a teenager. Mid-2000s kids probably caught some of his earliest appearances — Butler had roles on shows like "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide," "Hannah Montana," "iCarly," and "Zoey 101." He continued to focus on TV appearances for years, showing up on popular series like "Switched at Birth" and "Arrow." If you don't recognize him from his time on the small screen, you might be more familiar with his recent film endeavors. 2019 in particular was a big year for Butler, who had roles in "The Dead Don't Die" and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."

Playing Elvis is a huge role for Butler, and while making the film, he felt the pressure of trying to accurately capture the King's personality. The pressure reached its peak, as the actor told The Latch, when Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla Presley sat down to watch the film. "I was more nervous than ever when I found out she was going to sit down in the theater and finally see it," he said. Luckily she loved the film, and tweeted about Butler's "mesmerizing" performance. He melts into his role as the King in a way that any actor would envy, and that every audience member will likely appreciate. 

Olivia DeJonge

Olivia DeJonge plays a central role in "Elvis," starring as Priscilla Presley. The Presleys were married from 1967 to 1973, divorcing just four years before Elvis's death. Speaking with Bollywood Hungama, DeJonge described her take on Priscilla: "She's this bright young woman ... [who] gets thrown into the beautiful chaos that is [Elvis'] life." Eventually Priscilla needs to strike out on her own to take care of herself, but her relationship with Elvis remains an important part of her life.

DeJonge is a relatively new face, with just over a dozen acting credits to her name. Her big screen roles have come in films like "Josie & Jack," "Stray Dolls," and "Undertow," but she's also had some highly successful TV gigs. In 2019 she starred as Elle Tomkins on the Netflix series "The Society," which Rotten Tomatoes rates at an 86%. Just before the "Elvis" premiere, DeJonge played Caitlin Atwater in HBO's critically acclaimed miniseries "The Staircase."

Dacre Montgomery

27-year-old Dacre Montgomery plays Steve Binder, a role that director Baz Lurhmann called "very important." Binder is a famed director and producer whose collaboration with Elvis in the late 1960s resulted in one of the most important moments in rock n' roll history (via Elvis Australia). The two of them worked on what is now known as "The '68 Comeback," but what was called at the time simply "Elvis." The special, taped and released in 1968, featured Elvis performing at his absolute best and is one of the standout moments of his career. 

Montgomery has had a smattering of roles over the past decade. Some sci-fi fans might recognize him as the Red Ranger from 2017's "Power Rangers," an ill-fated update of a classic children's TV show. More than likely, however, people will recognize Montgomery from his role in "Stranger Things" as Billy Hargrove, a vicious bully and the older step-brother of Max Mayfield. Montgomery told Glamour Magazine, "I wanted to make [Billy] more than the bully and someone who is struggling with so much more." He succeeded in that endeavor, and he brings the same amount of depth to his real-life character in "Elvis." 

Natasha Bassett

People have a real fascination with celebrity love lives, and "Elvis" dives headfirst into the rock star's various relationships. Natasha Bassett will be portraying Dixie Locke, who's known as Elvis's first girlfriend (via Elvis News Examiner). The two began dating in 1954, just before his singing career began, and they stayed together until 1956. The tension between Elvis' growing career and his relationship with Locke is a source of conflict in the film. By the time the two of them split up, Elvis had become a global sensation who spent little of his time back home.

Previously, Bassett has starred in polarizing movies that split the opinions of critics and audiences. Her 2016 film "Katie Says Goodbye" failed to make an impact with critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences highly approved of the film. Bassett did it again in 2020 when "The Pale Door" scored just 49% among critics but topped 60% with audiences. In the lead-up to its release, "Elvis" already secured critical approval, and there's little doubt that general audiences will be thrilled with the film.

Luke Bracey

Elvis didn't build his career entirely on his own. He had the help of other musicians, mentors, and talent managers like Jerry Schilling. Elvis and Schilling first met when they were just kids (per Elvis Australia). Schilling was never Elvis' official manager, but the two collaborated for the first 20 years of Elvis' career before Schilling began managing other artists like the Beach Boys and Billy Joel. In Baz Lurhmann's biopic, Schilling is portrayed by Australian actor Luke Bracey, who's made frequent appearances in action flicks and the occasional romantic comedy throughout his career.

Bracey's third feature film role was in 2013's "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" as Cobra Commander. Since then Bracey has shown up in films like "The November Man" and "Hacksaw Ridge." He also had the unenviable job of filling in Keanu Reeve's shoes in the critically maligned "Point Break" remake, and his performance was arguably the highlight of the film. As director Ericson Core told Elle, "Luke just breathed it all in and gave an incredibly grounded and truthful performance." On the romantic comedy front, Bracey had the opportunity to costar with James Marsden in 2014's "The Best of Me," and he worked with writer-director Max Landis on "Me Him Her" in 2015.  

David Wenham

Elvis might be the namesake of Baz Luhrmann's film, but he's far from the only artist who's featured in the story. Elvis himself had the opportunity to perform alongside some of the greatest musicians of his entire generation, and the movie highlights a few of the artists who influenced the King. One such artist is Hank Snow, a renowned guitarist and songwriter who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979, just two years after Elvis' death.

David Wenham plays the country music legend in "Elvis." Wenham is no stranger to Luhrmann's style — the two worked together previously on 2001's "Moulin Rouge!" and 2008's "Australia. The director shouted out Wenham's talent on Twitter, praising his "range as an actor" and saying he's almost unrecognizable in "Elvis." Newbies to Luhrmann's work probably still recognize Wenham from his role as Faramir in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy or his time helping Hugh Jackman slay vampires in "Van Helsing." Wenham also has some experience portraying historical figures. He played Dilios in Zack Snyder's "300" and its sequel –- though Elvis fans are probably hoping for a little more historical accuracy than the Sparta of "300."

Richard Roxburgh

Throughout his life, Elvis maintained a very close relationship with his father, Vernon Presley, and the two of them would even frequently travel together on tour (via The Washington Post). After Elvis' tragic death in 1977, his father became the executor of his estate, acting in that role until his own death in 1979. Casting Presley and his wife Gladys, who died in the early years of Elvis' career, proved to be difficult. As reported by Variety, Luhrmann had to recast the roles after pandemic-related delays changed the production's schedule.

Like his costar David Wehham, Roxburgh has a history with Luhrmann that runs all the way back to "Moulin Rouge!" Roxburgh also has "Van Helsing" in common with Wenham -– he played Dracula in the 2004 action film. Wenham wasn't the only familiar face on set for Roxburgh, as he also previously worked with "Elvis" star Luke Bracey on Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge." TV buffs may have caught Roxburgh on recent shows like "The Hunting," "Catherine the Great," and "The Crown." Whether tackling serious drama or campy horror, Roxburgh always brings his A game.

Kodi Smit-McPhee

Elvis had the opportunity to know and perform with some musical legends like Hank Snow, but he had even more time to develop his skills with his contemporaries, like Snow's son Jimmie Rodgers Snow. The young Snow played with performers like Elvis and Buddy Holly before putting his musical career on the backburner to focus on his faith and preaching (per Artist Info). He's one of the many Elvis contemporaries featured in Baz Luhrmann's biopic.

In the film, Snow is portrayed by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who's recognizable to film fans of all stripes. At age 13, Smit-McPhee starred as Boy in John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." The young actor went on to join the superhero world as Nightcrawler in several of the "X-Men" films. That put Smit-McPhee in front of a huge audience, but another film cemented his reputation as a young star to watch. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after playing Peter Gordon in Jane Campion's stunning film "The Power of the Dog." Smit-McPhee brings an understated brilliance to all his roles, and he's done the same with his performance as Hank Snow's son.

Xavier Samuel

Xavier Samuel plays another Elvis contemporary, Scotty Moore. Elvis' history with Moore goes all the way back to the beginning of his career, when Moore's band auditioned Elvis on behalf of Sun Records label owner Sam Phillips in 1954 (via The New York Times). At the time, Moore said he wasn't overly impressed with Elvis, though he admitted the young man had a nice voice. However, the two went on to play together for years, and Moore played a big part in creating the King's iconic sound.

Samuel is probably best known for his work in the "Twilight" series. He played Riley, an evil vampire created by Victoria in her attempt to raise an army of newborns to fight the Cullens. Samuel has even more experience with movie monsters based on fictional classics. In 2015 he starred in "Frankenstein," a modern retelling of the gothic tale that also featured Carrie-Anne Moss in a lead role. Even more recently, Samuel had a role on the Amazon Prime series "Tell Me Your Secrets," which was a major bomb with critics but has overwhelming support from audiences, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully audiences will be just as pleased with his portrayal of one of the greatest guitarists in rock history.

Elizabeth Cullen

Many of Elvis' girlfriends fell into the public eye by association with the singer, but Natalie Wood was already a famous actress when she and Elvis began their brief relationship (via Express). Wood had recently finished work on "Rebel Without a Cause" when she met Elvis, and he rented out an entire movie theater for their first date. The two weren't together long, however. During a trip back to Elvis' home, tensions between Wood and Gladys Presley put a damper on the relationship.

In "Elvis," Wood is played by Elizabeth Cullen. At 24, Cullen is just slightly older than Wood was when she and the King fell for each other. "Elvis" is Cullen's first feature film role, but TV fans might have seen her on "All My Friends Are Racist" or in her larger role on "The Bureau of Magical Things," a Nickelodeon series that has had a successful first two seasons (via Otakukart). Cullen's small role in "Elvis" is still a pivotal one that helps dig into the King's early romantic relationships.

Kelvin Harrison Jr.

It's no secret that Elvis was inspired by Black musicians like legendary blues singer B.B. King, who met the young Elvis on several occasions (via Literary Hub). Long after Elvis died, King recalled, "I remember Elvis distinctly, because he was handsome and quiet and polite to a fault." When it came to the obvious influence of King's music on Elvis' own performances, King said, "I believe he was showing his roots. And he seemed proud of those roots." The two didn't have a close relationship by any means, but each left an impact on the other, and they both changed the course of music history forever.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays B.B. King in "Elvis," and he's expressed his excitement for audiences to finally get a chance to see the film — "It's going to be epic," he told NME. This isn't the first time that Harrison Jr. has been responsible for bringing a historical figure to life on screen. He previously played Teddy Greene in the historically-inspired series "Godfather of Harlem," which has received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. He also starred as Fred Hampton in the 2020 film "The Trial of the Chicago 7."