Priscilla is a biopic of Priscilla Presley, based on her 1985 memoir Elvis and Me. Set for release in January, the film has already sparked conversation among critics and fans due to its handling of the former couple’s relationship, which began when Priscilla was 14 and Elvis was 24.
In the emails obtained by Variety, Presley asked Coppola to reconsider her depiction of Elvis, claiming it portrayed her father as “a predator and manipulative”.
Presley called the script “shockingly vengeful and contemptuous,” and begged the Oscar-winning director to refrain from straining her fragile relationship with her mother, as well as drawing further attention to Elvis’ living grandchildren as they continue to grieve the loss of Lisa Marie Presley’s son, Benjamin Keough, who died in 2020.
“My father only comes across as a predator and manipulative,” Presley wrote in one of the emails, which were both sent in September last year. “As his daughter, I don’t read this and see any of my father in this character. I don’t read this and see my mother’s perspective of my father. I read this and see your shockingly vengeful and contemptuous perspective and I don’t understand why?”
Presley said she would be forced to speak out against the project and her mother, who is credited as an executive producer.
“I will be forced to be in a position where I will have to openly say how I feel about the film and go against you, my mother and this film publicly,” Presley wrote.
When asked for comment on the exchange, Coppola’s representative offered the same response she gave Presley.
“I hope that when you see the final film you will feel differently, and understand I’m taking great care in honoring your mother, while also presenting your father with sensitivity and complexity,” wrote Coppola.
Lisa Marie Presley concluded her second email by sharing an anecdote about one of her young twins, Harper Lockwood, and how she had to pre-warn her about the film and its depiction of her grandfather.
“I had to explain that we are going to have to endure another hit in our lives. That there is going to be a movie about her grandfather that is going to try to make him look really, really bad but it’s not true,” she wrote.
“I had to explain that her beloved grandmother is supporting it. These two little girls have been through so much in the past 7 years, enduring my divorce and horrific custody battle and then losing their brother. We’ve all been drowning.”
Presley praised the 2022 film Elvis, which was directed by Baz Luhrmann, as “a break from suffering and a ray of light that hit us last year… it made them so proud and honored to be his granddaughters. It made them feel blessed for a moment and less cursed in life. It made us all so proud because it was a true depiction of who he really was.”
She said she did not understand Coppola’s “need to attempt to take my father down on the heels of such an incredible film using the excuse that you are trying to tell my mother’s story, but from your very dark and jaded reality.”
In a four-star review of Priscilla, NME wrote: “It’s fascinating to watch the story unfold from Priscilla’s perspective, since Elvis has largely been portrayed in a positive light on screen until now, and there are aspects of their relationship that are likely to surprise anyone not previously familiar with her life story.”
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