When Baz Luhrmann envision the cast of Elvis, he had one star in mind to play the singer’s notoriously sinister music manager. Col. Tom Parker—Tom Hanks. And though the part is a far cry from his normal roles, it didn’t take long for Hanks to realize that starring as Parker was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Luhrmann’s biopic follows a different path than other movies that depict The King of Rock. Instead of focusing on his time as a pop culture sensation, he highlighted how Elvis became a living legend who eventually earned a reputation that preceded his death. And to do that, he had to make the world understand his contemptuous relationship with Tom Parker.
“The gargantuan size and complexity of Parker would define the air for Elvis to be internal and spiritual,” the director told Entertainment Weekly. “Without that, it would be hard to reflect Elvis against it.”
Luhrmann immediately knew that Hanks would not only fit the part, but he would love the chance to do it. He just needed a chance to meet with the actor and lay it all out.
“I went, ‘I bet Tom Hanks would be into a playing a dark note on his instrument that no one could see coming,'” Luhrmann added.
And Luhrmann was right. Tom Hanks was a quick sell. It only took 30 minutes to convince him to join the project. As Hanks shared with EW, he saw a Shakespearian element in the touted relationship, and he was intrigued.
“And I told Baz, ‘But you’re describing Falstaff and Hal.’ And Baz said, ‘Exactly, except with millions of dollars thrown into it,'” Hanks recalled.
“Baz said, ‘There would’ve been no Colonel Tom Parker without Elvis,” the actor continued. “And there certainly would’ve been no Elvis without Colonel Tom Parker. And when he said that, I said, ‘Oh, well, okay, now that’s brand new.'”
Physically Transforming into Elvis’ Mysterious Music Manager Took Five Hours Each Day
Like most people, Tom Hanks saw the Colonel as a no-nonsense tyrant who always had an upper hand in the industry. But upon studying the man, he realized that he actually knew nothing about the man. And that drove him into a rabbit hole of research that made him even more excited to transform into the film’s villain.
“Playing Elvis is like playing Jesus. And it doesn’t really matter who plays Pontius Pilate because if you have a good Jesus, you got it,” Hanks continued. “But the challenge for me, as well as the freedom, was having this engineered look every day. Because what you get from that is a suit of armor.”
That suit included layers of costumes and makeup that took 5 hours to create each day.
“I had the luxury of essentially recreating somebody who no one really knew,” the two-time Oscar winner says. “I had a different layer of expectations.”