For two and a half hours, “Elvis” is dominated by Austin Butler’s performance as the iconic singer-songwriter. But the ending to filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s splashy biopic hard cuts to the real Elvis Presley in one of his last performances ever, and for Luhrmann and editor Jonathan Redmond, this “gut punch” was the exact right way to conclude this epic story.
Back in 2018, the editing process for the film began – before even a frame of the movie had been shot. Indeed, Luhrmann and his team started by putting together a reel using existing materials to give a sense of what “Elvis” would feel like. And it was in thumbing through that archival material that they hit upon the footage that would close out the film.
“As you know there’s the trope at the end of a movie, usually in credits, you see the real character and I feel like we do need to visit Elvis,” Luhrmann said in the latest installment of TheWrap’s “How I Did It,” which is Sponsored Advertising Content.
“We found this material online. This performance of ‘Unchained Melody’ was so heartbreaking to watch, he can hardly talk,” Redmond, who edited the film alongside Matt Villa, added. “And then he sits down and sings and he sounds like a god. It’s one of the most extraordinary performances I’ve ever heard.”
Luhrmann admitted there was “pushback” on using the footage. “He’s clearly suffering with drugs, yes, but he sings the best he ever sings and it’s the last time he sings.”
It was the hard cut from Butler’s performance to the real Elvis that convinced Luhrmann this was the only way to end the film.
“Jonathan was cutting and I came in and I sat down and he went, ‘Have a look at this.’ And the moment it went from Austin to Elvis, for me there was a gut punch — and I’ve been working on it five years — it was a gut punch of, ‘Oh my God, it’s all real. He’s a real person. It all really happened.’ You just knew that there was no other possible ending to the movie, it had to be that.”
Redmond added, “Giving Elvis the last word just felt right.”
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