The official runtime for Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” is 159 minutes, but that’s nothing compared to the 240-minute cut that the filmmaker had to trim down into a releasable theatrical cut. Speaking to Radio Times, Luhrmann confirmed that a four-hour “Elvis” cut exists with scenes that include the music icon’s infamous meeting with Richard Nixon.
“I mean, I have a four-hour version, actually,” Luhrmann said. “I do. But you have to bring it down to 2 hours 30… I would have liked to lean into some of the other things more – there’s so much more. I mean, there’s lots of stuff that I shot like the relationship with the band, I had to pare [that] down – and it’s so interesting how the Colonel [Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks] gets rid of them.”
The four-hour “Elvis” cut also included a greater exploration of Elvis’ relationship with “first girlfriend, Dixie,” Luhrmann said. “And later on how… once he’s caught in a trap, and he’s discombobulated and doesn’t understand… someone who’s got such a hole in his heart like Elvis constantly looking and searching for love and finding it on stage but nowhere else.”
Luhrmann also shot scenes that tackled Elvis’ “addiction to barbiturates and all of that.” The filmmaker added, “What happens is he starts doing wackadoo things – like going down to see Nixon. I had it in there for a while but there just comes a point where you can’t have everything in, so I just tried to track the spirit of the character.”
Even at 159 minutes, several critics have found Luhrmann’s “Elvis” theatrical cut to be a bit bloated. Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review: “It’s a spectacle that keeps us watching but doesn’t nail Elvis’s inner life until he’s caught in a trap… ‘Elvis’ is a fizzy, delirious, impishly energized, compulsively watchable 2-hour-and-39-minute fever dream — a spangly pinwheel of a movie that converts the Elvis saga we all carry around in our heads into a lavishly staged biopic-as-pop-opera.”
Warner Bros. opens “Elvis” in theaters June 24.