Premiering in Australia with a level of glitz and glam that would make The King himself proud, Baz Luhrmann’s latest film Elvis opened on the Gold Coast.
After making headlines at the film’s Cannes premiere last month, the Oscar-award-winning director joined the cast of heavyweight stars on Saturday night, including Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, and Australian actress Olivia DeJonge.
A hyped-up crowd, including numerous Elvis impersonators, lined up outside Event Cinemas at Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast to watch them walk the red carpet.
Director Baz Luhrmann arrived wearing a pink-and-black outfit complete with a jewelled Elvis belt buckle.
He said the movie is a vindication of local cast and crew, who shot the film during the pandemic at studios on the Gold Coast.
“I was told a million times you cannot make Vegas here. You cannot do Graceland here,” he said.
“I hope that they look at it and they go ‘wow, we can do that’, because they can.”
Production was paused for six months during 2020 after Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive to COVID-19.
By the time filming resumed in September of that year, Australian actors had been cast in about a dozen key roles.
Actor David Wenham, who plays country icon Hank Snow, said Saturday’s screening feels like bringing the film home.
“So many people from this area worked on the film, so Baz was adamant that the premiere had to be on the Goldie,” he told AAP.
Mr Wenham paid tribute to Luhrmann, saying he was loyal at a time when the film industry was getting little support.
“Besides Austin and Tom, I think everybody else is Australian on the screen, Baz is an amazing man in terms of what he does for the local industry.”
Told through the eyes of Elvis’s manager, the movie follows the star’s life from his beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi, to the heights of his fame.
Running just above two-and-a-half hours, Elvis received a 12-minute standing ovation at its Cannes premiere but has garnered mixed reviews.
Critics have been united however, by their praise for Butler’s all-singing, all-dancing performance as Elvis.
Actor Helen Thomson, who plays his mother, said the 30-year-old deserves all the success in the world.
“During some of the numbers we would all come and just watch, thinking he’s just phenomenal.”
Producing the film in Queensland created about 900 local jobs, according to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who arrived at the event in a rainbow sequinned jacket.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than Elvis,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk is looking into building more film studios in the sunshine state, and would like to see Luhrmann make another project on the Gold Coast.
Elvis is released in Australian cinemas on June 23.