After spending time in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, Tom Hanks is apparently getting ready to enter Elvis Presley‘s world by taking on the role of The King’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, in a new biopic now in development. Baz Luhrmann, whose credits include 2001’s Moulin Rouge!, is directing.
Tom has played real-life people a number of times in the past. This includes airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger in Sully, astronaut Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 and, of course, Fred Rogers in the forthcoming A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It’ll be interesting to see him play the Colonel as there are two very different views on the manager: some believe Elvis thrived under his guidance while others felt he held the singer back from being everything that he could be (which seems unimaginable given the level of success he did and continues to have). In either case, there’s no question that Elvis was loyal to him.
Steve Binder, who directed the classic 1968 Elvis comeback TV special, exclusively told Closer Weekly: “Elvis was a country boy for real. I think he had a gut loyalty because his father, Vernon, evidently had bonded with Parker, and I guess between the Colonel and Vernon they could get Elvis to do anything.”
Elvis biographer Susan Doll offers a positive view of the Colonel, pointing to the fact that just as Elvis’ film career had gotten going, he was drafted into the army from 1958-1960. “Everybody here said, ‘Well, that will be the end of Elvis’ career. He’ll be out of the limelight for two years.’ But the Colonel was a very smart man, and there’s a reason why Elvis was incredibly loyal to him his entire career,” Susan exclusively told Closer Weekly. “For two years, the Colonel worked his ass off keeping Elvis in the spotlight, just kicking out this publicity and taking advantage of him being in the army, proving that he’s not this rebellious teen who smokes pot and shoots his mother (as one rumor had it). Instead, this is a kid who served his country and is glad to do so. There was a lot of publicity about him getting his hair and those ‘damn’ sideburns cut off to go into the Army. All of that was photographed and on the news. It starts to change people’s minds about him and the bad publicity starts to be forgotten and is replaced by positive publicity. He also made sure that some of Elvis’ songs were in the can so that they could be released during that time frame.”
Steve sees the man pretty differently, pointing to a sequence during the comeback special when Elvis took to the stage with an acoustic guitar and interacted with the audience. “The Colonel tried to sabotage the improv session,” he said. “Even to the point where he insisted that he would give out the tickets to the audience and when I showed up, there was no audience. We had to beg people, even at a drive-in restaurant eating breakfast, to come over and see Elvis Presley. The Colonel was all about control and power, period. When we were in the middle of production, Elvis and I get called to the Colonel’s little office near the stage. Elvis is standing alongside of me, and the Colonel says, ‘Elvis wants a Christmas song in the show, don’t you, Elvis?’ I look over and Elvis has his head bowed and his hands covering his crotch like a little kittle kid and he says, ‘Yes, sir,’ to the Colonel. I said, ‘If Elvis wants a Christmas song in the show, I’ll put a Christmas song in the show.’ The Colonel says, ‘Okay, boys, go back to work,’ and we walk out of his office. Elvis jabs me in the ribs, comes to life and says, ‘F–k him!’ We walked down on stage and they never put a Christmas song in the show.”
“When we parted ways at the end [of the special], Elvis told me that after the experience he was never going to sing a song he didn’t believe in; he was never going to make a movie where he didn’t work with a great director,” Steve continued. “He went on and on and I said, ‘Elvis, I hear you, but I’m not sure you’re strong enough to stand up for yourself to do all that.’” He wasn’t.
More information on the Elvis biopic to come.