Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla is already shaping up to be one of the most discussed biopics of recent years.
But if the late Lisa Marie Presley had managed to get her way, the film would have never made its way to the big screen.
The forthcoming drama tells the story of the relationship between Elvis and Priscilla Presley, which began in 1959 when Elvis was 24 and Priscilla was 14.
In emails seen by the US publication Variety, Lisa Marie reached out to the Oscar-award-winning director four months before her death in January to express her concerns with the film’s script and its portrayal of her father as a “predator”. It is claimed that two separate emails were sent to Coppola on 2 September 2022, within four hours of each other.
One of Lisa Marie’s messages read: “My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative. As his daughter, I don’t read this and see any of my father in this character. I don’t read this and see my mother’s perspective of my father. I read this and see your shockingly vengeful and contemptuous perspective and I don’t understand why?”
Based on Priscilla’s memoir, Elvis and Me, Coppola’s film stars Cailee Spaeny as the central figure while Euphoria actor Jacob Elordi plays the “Suspicious Minds” singer. The story is told from Priscilla’s perspective and delves into the darker elements of the King of Rock and Roll’s persona.
According to The Independent’s reviewer Geoffrey Macnab, Priscilla shows Elvis “in a far from flattering light, as an insecure narcissist fixated on a teenage girl and unwilling to allow his young wife any independence”.
Lisa Marie Presley— (Getty)
At the time of her messages to the filmmaker, Lisa Marie was grieving the loss of her son, Benjamin Keough, who died by suicide aged 27, two years prior. She argued that the portrayal of Elvis would contribute further to the difficult time her family had experienced.
One of the messages noted that she’d told one of her young twins, Harper Lockwood, “that there is going to be a movie about her grandfather that is going to try to make him look really, really bad but it’s not true.”
She continued: “I had to explain that her beloved grandmother is supporting it. These two little girls have been through so much in the past seven years, enduring my divorce and horrific custody battle and then losing their brother. We’ve all been drowning.”
Lisa Marie had a tumultuous relationship with her mother throughout her life. After her death, Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley Keough was named the sole trustee of her estate, following a legal dispute with Priscilla.
However, in her message to Coppola, Lisa Marie expressed that she felt “protective” of her mother, as she felt Priscilla did not fully anticipate the potentially negative reactions that audiences would have to her story.
“I am worried that my mother isn’t seeing the nuance here or realising the way in which Elvis will be perceived when this movie comes out,” she wrote. “I feel protective over my mother who has spent her whole life elevating my father’s legacy. I am worried she doesn’t understand the intentions behind this film or the outcome it will have.”
Sofia Coppola and Priscilla Presley— (Getty Images)
Lisa Marie also appealed to Coppola’s own experience of having a family in the public eye, being the daughter of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola.
“I would think of all people that you would understand how this would feel,” she explained. “Why are you coming for my Dad and my family?”
Presley added that if the film continued with the same script, she’d feel “forced” to openly express her disapproval “and go against you, my mother and this film publicly”.
In response to Lisa Marie’s concerns, Coppola attempted to assure her both her parents would be presented in a nuanced way.
“I hope that when you see the final film you will feel differently, and understand I’m taking great care in honouring your mother, while also presenting your father with sensitivity and complexity,” she wrote, according to Variety.
The Independent has reached out to representatives of Sofia Coppola and Priscilla Presley for comment.