Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, country rock guitarist and singer
Memphis, Tennessee, July 4, 1956
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Tailor: Gloria Bava
It doesn’t get much more American than Elvis.
Austin Butler went all out in his performance as the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Lurhmann’s characteristically flamboyant biopic, released last summer. Butler’s performance received particular praise—including endorsements from the Presley family—and Elvis would be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Costume Design.
Elvis follows Presley’s brief life from boyhood through the various levels of stardom, particularly through the lens of his complicated relationship with his domineering manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). In the early years of his fame, Presley’s hip-swinging celebration of Black music is shown to so enrage the bigoted establishment that he’s being threatened with legal trouble.
The film presents his July 4, 1956 concert in Memphis as an opportunity for Presley to maintain the cleaned-up “New Elvis” image he had introduced three days early while performing “Hound Dog” on The Steve Allen Show three days earlier, stuffed into a white tie and tails as he crooned to an actual basset hound. Instead, having rediscovered the meaning behind his music among the blues joints on Beale Street, Elvis delivers a sweltering performance of “Trouble”—and lands himself right in it, arrested by the Memphis vice squad when he soundly disobeys being told to not “so much as wiggle a finger.” To avoid prosecution, Colonel Tom devises a plan for Elvis to swap out his blue suede shoes for spit-shined service derbies: “It’s either the Army or jail.”
Except that isn’t quite what really happened. Continue reading
Ryan Reynolds as Curtis Vonn, charismatic drifter and gambler
Iowa to New Orleans, March 2014
Film: Mississippi Grind
Release Date: January 24, 2015
Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Costume Designer: Abby O’Sullivan
I was honored to correspond with Abby O’Sullivan, the talented costume designer who worked on Mississippi Grind, to learn firsthand insight about the inspiration, concept, and execution of the costumes that gave the film its distinctive look.
Abby recalls Mississippi Grind as “a special film” that stands out on her impressive resume due to the talents of the creative team, particularly directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and cinematographer Andrij Parekh, who all contributed to developing the “distinctive 1970s Americana road movie” attitude that radiates off the screen like neon bar lights through Marlboro smoke. Continue reading