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Sean O'Connell

I Asked Priscilla Star Cailee Spaeny About Filming Her Devastating Finale Scene, And She Told Us How Dolly Parton Helped

Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla.

Year after year, the legacy of Elvis Presley grows. Usually, it’s aided by a Hollywood project that shines a brighter light on the legendary singer’s life and career, which causes more reflection on what he accomplished, and the circumstances that influenced his meteoric rise and eventual demise. Baz Luhrmann started the recent dissection of Presley’s career with his Oscar-nominated 2022 film, which took a physical toll on Austin Butler, who played the man. And this season, Sofia Coppola is coming at the Elvis mythology from the perspective of Priscilla Presley in her critically acclaimed Priscilla, currently available in theaters and doing well at the box office. Critics have been raving specifically about Cailee Spaeny’s breakthrough performance in the title role, but there was one scene in particular I really wanted to hear her thoughts on. 

This isn’t really getting into spoilers, but the Priscilla scene that hit me the hardest – by design of the film – is the final shot of the movie. For the bulk of Sofia Coppola’s drama, we are seeing how Elvis’s love has limited Priscilla, and kept her tucked away at Graceland while he piloted through his career. The way he described it to this teenage girl is that he needed to go out and be “Elvis,” but when he got home, he wanted to be real… with her. But that prevented her from living the life she’d choose to live. 

In the final scene, Priscilla (Spaeny) comes to terms with the fact that she has to leave Elvis (Jacob Elordi), for her own health and sanity. And Coppola chooses to conclude the film with a heartbreaking rendition of Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You,” released in 1974. The lyrics line up so beautifully with how we are led to believe that Priscilla Presley felt – for even though she was leaving Elvis she always would be emotionally connected to him – that the song drop kicks the emotion of the sequence right into our guts. And what Spaeny told us, she had Parton’s song playing on set that day, and it helped more than she expected. The Priscilla star told CinemaBlend: 

I think that was really important for Sofia. She uses music a lot while we’re filming scenes. That one in particular was very helpful because we shot that on Day Two. So it was hard to understand the gravity of it. Obviously, you do your research and you go into it with as much knowledge as possible. But filming that on Day Two was tricky, but having that track playing – that song really sums up so much of that moment.

The fact that Cailee Spaeny shot that unforgettable sequence on the second day of production is mind blowing. Her Priscilla has to sell years of experience felt opposite Jacob Elordi’s Elvis Presley, and the idea that she had to process that level of memory without having the grace of spending weeks or months in character makes the conclusion that much more remarkable. And now, imagining her watching this scene while sitting next to Priscilla Presley herself makes me nervous! 

There has been a lot of fan conversation around Priscilla, some of it having to do with the inevitable Elordi versus Butler interpretations of The King, and some of it having to do with the Presley estate’s reaction to Sofia Coppola’s movie. As with anything, we suggest you view the film for yourself and make up your mind. Then use our guide to upcoming A24 movies to see what else the studio has coming to theaters.

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