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Caroline Young

Priscilla Star Cailee Spaeny Explains Why Watching The A24 Movie Next To Priscilla Presley Was A 'Weird' And 'Surreal' Experience

Cailee Spaeny in Priscilla.

Priscilla is the latest buzzy A24 movie to make headlines. The Sofia Coppola film offers a fresh perspective on the romance between Priscilla and Elvis Presley. It is told from Priscilla’s point of view and stars Cailee Spaeny in the title role alongside Jacob Elordi's Elvis. It is somewhat of a star-making performance for the actress, who has yet to have such a high-profile film role, and she is getting lots of praise for her portrayal. However, even though she's wonderful in the film, the performer originally felt awkward about watching the movie at the Venice Film Festival premiere, and she felt it was “surreal” watching the movie alongside the real Priscilla Presley. 

For the 25-year-old actress, the release of Priscilla is a big moment, as she is portraying an incredibly recognizable, American pop culture figure. Initially, though, the actress didn’t intend to watch the movie, due to her own nervousness. However, Coppola convinced her to attend the full screening at the Venice Film Festival, so she didn't miss such a major moment in her career. Spaeny told the THR:

I wasn’t going to watch the movie; I just don’t like watching myself. I was so nervous at Venice, and there was this whole plan that I would leave and then come back for the end of the film. But I turned to Sofia right before I went in and said, ‘What do you think I should do? Should I watch it or should I not?’ And she said, ‘I just don’t want you to regret not seeing it at the Venice Film Festival. This is a really special moment.’ So I did it, but it was just weird.

Even though it may have been strange for Cailee Spaeny, I’m sure she’s glad she didn’t miss the moment. Priscilla was inspired by Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me, and the author was also involved with the film to ensure the movie was as true to her perspective as possible. Therefore, Presley was also invited to the Venice premiere alongside the cast, who was able to promote the film due to A24’s interim agreement with SAG-AFTRA. 

While it was meaningful to have Presley there to watch the film, taking in the movie alongside the subject of the film was another source of nervousness for Spaeny. She said: 

It was surreal to be watching this movie for the first time with Priscilla sitting right next to me. Jacob was in between us, so there was a point that I turned to Jacob and went, ‘What does she look like? Does she seem okay?’ (Laughs.) So he would look over and tell me, ‘Yeah, yeah, she seems like she’s liking it.’ But Venice was the first time that she turned to me and said, ‘Great performance. I watched my life through you and you did an incredible job.’ So that’s all I needed to hear, and it doesn’t matter what anyone says now. I mean, I’m very grateful that it seems like the reception is mostly positive, but genuinely, just to hear that from her is everything to me.

While it may have been a strange experience to view the film in such a high-pressure situation, the outcome made it all worth it. Priscilla seeks to understand the life and emotional struggle of Priscilla Presley through her tumultuous relationship with Elvis. Knowing that the subject felt seen through the portrayal by Spaeny is an otherworldly compliment. The film is getting wonderful reviews for both the actress's and Elordi’s performances, but the Mare of Easttown alum seems to have already gotten the best review from the best possible source. 

Priscilla may be a critical darling, and loved by Priscilla Presley herself, but the movie isn’t sitting well with everyone. The Elvis Presley Estate has condemned the film, favoring a more gentle approach and lauding the portrayal of the rock star in 2022’s Elvis

However, Priscilla Presley’s support of the movie has made many fans feel as though the new project is an authentic and honest perspective of the controversial relationship at the center of the film. For context, Elvis was 24 when he began his romance with Priscilla Beaulieu, who was 14 at the time. These complexities are some of the most compelling elements of Priscilla, and Spaeny and Elordi portray them so delicately on screen. It’s a marvel to watch, and thankfully the actress was able to see the result for herself.  

You can see Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in Priscilla, which is currently playing in theaters nationwide. For more information on other Oscar-worthy films heading to cinemas in the near future, check out CinemaBlend’s 2023 movie schedule.

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