Elvis Presley was on top of the world when he kicked off his Hollywood career. Women would have killed to act alongside the King. But one of his “Girls! Girls! Girls!” co-stars initially refused to act alongside Presley at all.
In fact, the studio begged and pleaded with her before she finally accepted. That co-star was Stella Stevens. And at the time, she had a career almost as chaotic as Presley’s ended up being. Stevens had won both a Golden Globe in 1960 and appeared as a pin-up in Playboy as well.
In 1962, Hollywood approached her with a chance to star alongside Presley. But Stevens refused the offer to star alongside the King of Rock ‘n Roll. The reason why? Stevens thought the script was horrible and thought it would damage her growing career. “Girls! Girls! Girls!” was almost minus its central girl.
“I was sent the script by Paramount to read. And I thought, ‘Hm, he’s from Memphis, and so am I. That’s a good idea to put us together.’ So I read the script. I wound up throwing it across the room! I thought, ‘What a piece of s–t. I’m not going to be in this,'” she said according to Express.
The studio threatened that Stevens would never work in Hollywood again. But the actor called their bluff, refusing the Presley film.
“I said, ‘I’ll starve. I don’t care. My child will starve because of you, and we will die because of you, because I will not do this junk.’ So they said, ‘please reconsider’, and they promised that my next film would be with Montgomery Clift. And I said, ‘Oh, well, yes. Okay, I’ll do the Elvis picture. It’s only six days’ work, and I’ll just forget about it,” she said.
Elvis Presley and Stella Stevens On the Set
If the studio thought Stella Stevens might end up enjoying the experience, then they were wrong. Stevens was a vocal critic of both the film and the Elvis Presley formula. Presley had established himself for both singing and dancing in his films. Eventually, that song and dance started to grow stale.
“One day I said, ‘Elvis honey, why do you do this crap?’ He pondered and said, ‘Don’t knock success, Stella.’ Which is true. The odds against getting anywhere in the movies are so great that if you realized beforehand, you’d stay home,” Stevens said in 1967. “Anyway, never be in an Elvis movie. His fans come for the sole, purpose of seeing Elvis. They don’t look at anyone else on the screen.”
Stevens ended up having a terrible time on the film. She claimed that the director often ended up belittling her in front of the cast and crew. She also said that Presley ended up being drunk and intoxicated while on the set for most of the film.
“He was drunk in Hawaii and on the set when he sang Return to Sender or at least acting like he was and telling me he was. He was drinking Hawaiian Rum Punches, and they punched him just about out,” she said.
The film ended up being a success despite Stevens’ problems behind the scenes.