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The Unique Way Tom Hanks Describes Colonel Tom Parker From Elvis

Appearing in a biopic about a famous person is always an interesting acting challenge, particularly if they're closer to infamy than fame. That's the case with Elvis Presley's longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker, whose general public persona is that of a ruthless and craven promoter more interested in squeezing as much money as possible out of the King and his image than in any other possible concern. Tom Hanks is playing Parker in Baz Luhrmann's biopic "Elvis," and as it turns out, Hanks found the man to be more than the two-dimensional villain he's often portrayed as.

In a story published by The New York Times about the film, Hanks explained that in researching the role of Parker, he was "anticipating hearing horror stories about this venal, cheap crook." However, after speaking with Elvis's friend Jerry Schilling and wife Priscilla Presley (who had a heartwarming reaction to "Elvis"), he found "Just the opposite. Both Priscilla and Jerry said he was a lovely man."

Hanks elaborated more on Colonel Tom at a recent screening of the film

During a trip to Graceland to screen and discuss "Elvis" (via WREG Memphis), Tom Hanks spoke a little bit more on his interpretation of Colonel Tom Parker's life and work.

"Colonel Tom Parker was a carney, pure and simple," Hanks said. But, in continuing, Hanks points out that being a "carney" isn't as simple a designation as it might seem. "Now, being a carney is a sleazy guy who overpays for soft serve ice cream, chili dogs," said the actor, but he went on to say that there's another, more romantic side to the profession of a shameless showman and promoter like Colonel Tom. During his life, said Hanks, Parker could also be seen as someone who "understands these magic lights at the edge of town attract people who want to have a good time."

You can expect Hanks' portrayal in "Elvis" to attempt to capture the balance of both the "sleazy guy" and the "lovely man" aspects of Parker — at least if the actor's own comments about the character are any indication.