Cailee Spaeny’s star-making flip as Priscilla Presley in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla comes as no shock to anybody who’s adopted her younger profession to date. The Springfield, Missouri native has constantly stolen scenes since her characteristic movie debut in 2018’s Pacific Rim Rebellion, and she or he’s solely adopted go well with by way of all kinds of roles in Unhealthy Occasions on the El Royale, How It Ends and Mare of Easttown. Spaeny’s fast climb is all of the extra spectacular when you think about that she initially moved to Los Angeles with goals of turning into a teenage pop star.
Previous to Priscilla, maybe her most acclaimed position was as Lyndon on Devs, Alex Garland’s sci-fi gem of a miniseries that FX on Hulu aired in March 2020. Garland was enamored with Spaeny and the remainder of his forged to such a level that he voiced his want to reunite sometime quickly, and rapidly began writing extra materials with them in thoughts. True to his phrase, he then forged Spaeny and several other different Devs alums in his upcoming A24 actioner, Civil Battle, however it was the extra casting of 1 Kirsten Dunst that will change Spaeny’s life. Dunst was so taken with Spaeny’s work on the Civil Battle set that she really useful her to her most frequent collaborator, Coppola, at a time when she knew the filmmaker was seeking to forged Priscilla’s eponymous position.
“Kirsten believed in me and preferred what I did [on Alex Garland’s Civil War], and she or he is clearly Sofia Coppola‘s muse. So, to enter into this movie with that as a begin was fairly particular,” Spaeny tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Spaeny was considerably caught off guard by how fast and casual the audition course of was. She by no means even needed to do a chemistry learn along with her co-star Jacob Elordi, who performs Elvis Presley. Fittingly, Spaeny acquired the excellent news about her casting whereas nonetheless filming Civil Battle, so she was capable of rejoice with Dunst and specific her gratitude to her for placing her on Coppola’s radar.
“There was no audition course of, actually. I simply met Sofia for the position,” Spaeny says. “I then noticed Kirsten the day that I bought it, and it was simply actually overwhelming and surreal to see her and have all of it confirmed. I gave her a hug, after which I began to tackle this huge problem with, genuinely, my dream director.”
Oddly sufficient, Presley is the fourth biographical position that Spaeny has performed within the final 5 years, however she’s by no means had entry to her real-life topic fairly like this. Spaeny and Presley talked at size by telephone, and Priscilla welcomed her questions on something and every part. Throughout one specific telephone dialog, Spaeny heard Presley gasp, as Elvis himself got here on her radio within the background. Regardless of what one may assume, this isn’t a typical prevalence for Presley.
“She and I had been on the telephone and she or he [gasped], ‘Do you hear that? … He’s on the radio,’” Spaeny says. “After which she put the telephone as much as the speaker … And I mentioned, ‘Does he come up in your radio quite a bit?’ And she or he mentioned, ‘No, he doesn’t … That’s a bit unusual.’ So I bought that firsthand expertise along with her, and I positively felt like she thought that was a bit spooky.”
Beneath, throughout a dialog with THR, Spaeny, who’s additionally main Fede Álvarez’s buzzy new Alien film in 2024, discusses her tendency to not watch her personal work and the way Coppola finally satisfied her to stay round for Priscilla’s Venice Movie Competition premiere screening that will later land her the fest’s prestigious Volpi Cup for finest actress.
So we now have Kirsten Dunst to thank for getting the ball rolling in your casting?
It positively didn’t damage the method, that’s for certain. I assume Kirsten believed in me and preferred what I did [on Alex Garland’s Civil War], and she or he is clearly Sofia Coppola’s muse. So, to enter into this movie with that as a begin was fairly particular. It was additionally surreal within the sense that Kirsten performed Marie Antoinette [in Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006)] when she was round 23, after which I did this at 24. So it was humorous that our paths crossed in that manner. It felt very kismet. So Kirsten having that religion in me and Sofia trusting her was an effective way to begin this movie. And really unusual.
And Alex Garland, to his credit score, mentioned that he’d rehire a number of his Devs actors, and since he stayed true to his phrase, you met Kirsten on the set of his A24 film, Civil Battle. In order that’s yet one more domino in all this.
Yeah, I assume that’s the way it works, proper? You do the work, and when you’re a very good worker and a very good actor, and also you attempt to be type and examine up and put your finest foot ahead, then you definately hope that it comes again to you. So I’m seeing that now, which is reassuring. It’s good to know that it actually does imply one thing.
If you bought the decision that Sofia was concerned with speaking about Priscilla, did you might have a response that was much like Priscilla’s response when she acquired her first direct invitation from Elvis? After all, they’re wildly totally different circumstances.
Yeah, it was one thing like that. I used to be additionally fairly shocked that it occurred so quick. There was no audition course of, actually. I simply met Sofia for the position. I then noticed Kirsten the day that I bought it, and it was simply actually overwhelming and surreal to see her and have all of it confirmed. I gave her a hug, after which I began to tackle this huge problem with, genuinely, my dream director. As a teenage woman, she bought me into indie movies, and one in all her movies was the primary time I ever requested the query of who’s behind the digicam. In order that was an unbelievable name to get, but additionally terrifying. The worry kicked in nearly instantly.
In your viral junket movies with Dakota Johnson, Misplaced in Translation truly got here up, so there’s a path up to now.
These movies are so humorous. They’re truly humorous.
Did you and Jacob Elordi learn collectively earlier than issues formally bought going, or did Sofia simply roll the cube on the 2 of you?
There was a dialog about perhaps having some type of chemistry learn, however then I feel she simply felt good about her decisions and mentioned, “Let’s simply do it. Let’s go.” I don’t know what the behind-closed-doors conversations had been like and why she determined to not, however that’s the factor about Sofia. She has a really distinct imaginative and prescient and an actual confidence in what she’s doing, though she goes about it in a really humble manner. She’s very soft-spoken and extremely type, and she or he is aware of what she needs. If you placed on a Sofia Coppola film, you understand it’s a Sofia Copolla film, and it’s exhausting to seek out these assured, distinct visions with filmmakers. So I really feel very fortunate that I bought to be part of this, and it makes life quite a bit simpler when your director is aware of what they need.
So far as prep, you relied on Priscilla’s e book, Elvis and Me, the script and a few literary works of the period, however then you definately had a while with Priscilla as properly. What sort of follow-up questions did you ask?
I wished her to really feel secure and never really feel like I used to be digging into this. I wished her to really feel like she may go at her personal tempo in retelling this story, as a result of I knew that it was in all probability an emotional factor to relive. So I attempted to watch out about that. I wished her to really feel like she was in the precise arms and that she felt protected. So our first assembly truly went round 4 hours, which I used to be shocked about, however she was very gracious along with her time. I simply let issues go the place they naturally went, and actually, the largest factor for me was simply with the ability to sit in entrance of her and take her in as an individual and the way in which that she holds herself. However I bought little golden nuggets alongside the way in which, comparable to how she felt on the primary night time they met or their inside jokes. She’d discuss one thing he did or mentioned, and she or he’d perform a little giggle whereas going proper again to that day.
So these had been actually particular moments to expertise and return to along with her. I bought actually fortunate, simply having her help and her saying issues like, “You’ll be able to name everytime you need. I’m round to speak by way of something you want, whether or not it’s concerning the film or the rest. I simply need you to know that I’m right here.” It’s clearly very intimidating to play an actual individual and in addition know that this individual was going to look at the film in some unspecified time in the future, however she couldn’t have been extra supportive. I wished to make this film for her. We not often get to take a look at her aspect of the story, and she or he deserved to really feel protected and secure all through this course of.
Sofia screened the film for Priscilla previous to the Venice Movie Competition premiere, however throughout Venice’s screening, did you ever look over at her to see her reactions? Or did you might have tunnel imaginative and prescient the entire time?
I wasn’t going to look at the film; I simply don’t like watching myself. I used to be so nervous at Venice, and there was this entire plan that I would depart after which come again for the tip of the movie. However I turned to Sofia proper earlier than I went in and mentioned, “What do you suppose I ought to do? Ought to I watch it or ought to I not?” And she or he mentioned, “I simply don’t need you to remorse not seeing it on the Venice Movie Competition. It is a actually particular second.” So I did it, however it was simply bizarre. It was surreal to be watching this film for the primary time with Priscilla sitting proper subsequent to me. Jacob was in between us, so there was a degree that I turned to Jacob and went, “What does she seem like? Does she appear okay?” (Laughs.) So he would look over and inform me, “Yeah, yeah, she looks as if she’s liking it.” However Venice was the primary time that she turned to me and mentioned, “Nice efficiency. I watched my life by way of you and you probably did an unbelievable job.” In order that’s all I wanted to listen to, and it doesn’t matter what anybody says now. I imply, I’m very grateful that it looks as if the reception is usually optimistic, however genuinely, simply to listen to that from her is every part to me.
The imagery within the movie that in all probability struck me essentially the most is when Priscilla is alone in Graceland. She simply appears round with extensive eyes and is really unable to get snug. Vernon Presley even tells her at a sure level that strangers aren’t allowed in Graceland, however she was actually a stranger for fairly some time. Within the context of the film, do you suppose she ever really felt at dwelling in Graceland?
I positively felt that it at all times appeared like she was a visitor of the home, and that’s instructed in so many stunning methods. Sofia does such a fantastic job at saying a lot with so little and hanging on these pictures of this younger woman looking for her manner on this lonely, dreamlike however suffocating dwelling. By way of Priscilla herself, it’s a good query if she ever felt at dwelling there. I’m certain there have been occasions that she finally bought there, however by way of making this movie and what’s instructed by way of the visuals, we positively leaned into her feeling remoted and lonely.
She was at all times residing in a boy’s world, and it was positively an necessary a part of the story to look at her navigate the best way to be the right spouse, but additionally work out the best way to cling with the fellows. That was one thing that Priscilla and I mentioned. I requested her, “Did you ever make jokes with them?” It was such a bizarre steadiness of being this princess-like girl when she solely actually frolicked with these males, and she or he by no means felt like she may get near the wives of those males, both. She ended up telling me that she knew details about [Elvis’] pals having affairs, so she by no means felt like she may get near the ladies. So these particulars had been golden nuggets in making an attempt to place the puzzle items collectively of how she by no means felt like she discovered her place on this world.
You as soon as instructed me a few haunted set that resulted in an orb showing in your digicam roll …
(Laughs.) Oh God.
And whereas I don’t count on one other story on that stage, did something out of the odd occur on the Priscilla set?
Not on set, however I truly haven’t instructed anybody this but. Once I was on the telephone with Priscilla one time, we had been talking, after which Elvis got here on her radio within the background. It’s so humorous that I’ve by no means had the chance to say that but, however she and I had been on the telephone and she or he [gasped], “Do you hear that?” And I mentioned, “What?” And she or he mentioned, “He’s on the radio.” After which she put the telephone as much as the speaker, and I feel it’d’ve been “Love Me Tender” or one thing like that. It was one in all his slower songs. After which I mentioned, “Does that occur quite a bit? Does he come up in your radio quite a bit?” And she or he mentioned, “No, he doesn’t.” After which she went, “Hmm, that’s a bit unusual.” In order that was a really fascinating second and interplay to have along with her, as she took that in and reacted to him on the radio. I’m certain that’s one thing we’ve all considered: How does she really feel when she hears him come up once more on the radio or TV? So I bought that firsthand expertise along with her, and I positively felt like she thought that was a bit spooky.
Is it fairly weird to recreate somebody’s wedding ceremony, particularly when it’s one of popular culture’s most well-known nuptials?
Yeah, it was. There’s little or no footage of her from that [overall] time, however that wedding ceremony was very properly documented. She talks about it now and the way she needs that if she may do it over once more, she would have much less press concerned of their wedding ceremony. There’s tons of video footage and tons of pictures, in order that was one of many moments the place we leaned closely on the precise footage and photos, and had enjoyable recreating that second. It was positively fascinating to look at. It feels barely performative once they’re in entrance of the cameras, and so they look actually nervous. She talks about how she needs she may’ve had extra time along with her husband that day. So, sure, it was fascinating. Additionally, it was a lot enjoyable to have Chanel are available and recreate her wedding ceremony costume. The atmosphere on set was actually intense, and it nearly felt like an actual wedding ceremony day. Everybody’s expectations had been actually excessive, and all of us introduced our A sport to attempt to make it look proper. It’s a good looking second within the film.
You’ve now performed 4 real-life folks (Presley, Lynne Cheney, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Ginsburg). If you bought began seven years in the past, did you ever think about you’d make a reputation for your self in these biographical roles?
No, completely not. I grew up within the South as an enormous Elvis fan, and my mother collected Elvis memorabilia and went to Graceland as a child on trip. So the mixture of that and being in my room as a 14-year-old woman — watching Sofia Coppola’s entire filmography of labor and having that shake up how I seen cinema, to receiving Kirsten Dunst’s blessing — all of it got here collectively on this very magical manner that I by no means may have dreamed of. However that’s how this humorous little business works. It’s that domino impact, such as you mentioned. I really feel very fortunate to have gotten this chance, and I’m glad that this movie has been properly acquired. So we’ll see what occurs, however I’m excited to see the place this takes me.
Priscilla‘s theatrical launch expands Nov. third. This interview was edited for size and readability.