“Bend It Like Beckham” star Jonathan Rhys-Meyers will soon belt it like Elvis.
Brit thesp has signed on to star as the king of rock ‘n’ roll in CBS’ upcoming mini “Elvis.” Casting comes after a nationwide talent hunt that saw producers interview nearly 500 wannabe Elvises via a series of open casting calls.
Also joining the “Elvis” cast is Camryn Manheim, who’ll play Elvis’ beloved mom, Gladys.
Lensing will begin Jan. 10 in New Orleans. Jaffe/Braunstein Films is producing with Robert Greenblatt and David Janollari (“Six Feet Under”) onboard as exec producers along with Howard Braunstein and Michael Jaffe (“10.5”).
Braunstein said he had long eyed Rhys-Meyers for the lead role, even before the nationwide hunt began.
“He was the first person I’d ever thought of for the role,” he said. “I watched ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ and when you see him, you just say, ‘He is Elvis.’ But at the time he wasn’t available, so we started the search.”
Despite seeing so many other people for the part, “Frankly, we never found anyone that really embodied the essence of Elvis,” Braunstein said. “There were those who looked like Elvis or sounded like Elvis, but they were imitators, not actors.”
By the time the hunt was over, however, Rhys-Meyers’ schedule had cleared up and he was free to take the part.
“He both has the physical look and the style that embodies Elvis, both the sweetness and the sex appeal,” Braunstein said.
Greenblatt said Rhys-Myers didn’t audition for the gig but did shoot a piece of film in which he was made up like Elvis and showed off his King-ly accent. “It was uncanny. . .the dialogue sounded so authentic,” the producer said.
Randy Quaid was the first thesp cast in “Elvis”; he’ll play Col. Tom Parker (Daily Variety, Dec. 10). Rose McGowan will play Ann-Margret.
Rhys-Meyers’ other credits include Cassander in Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” and roles in “Vanity Fair” and Woody Allen’s upcoming untitled London-based pic.
Manheim is best known for her work on ABC’s “The Practice.” She’ll be seen next in Lasse Hallstrom’s “An Unfinished Life,” which stars Morgan Freeman.