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I suppose it’s been a blessing more than a curse that nothing has become of the multiple projects out there aiming to tell the life story of Elvis Presley. There’s definitely an amazing movie waiting to happen, but the odds are stacked against it being the first one that comes out. One that has a lot of promise, however, is Fox 2000’s Last Train to Memphis, which Variety reports will have The Last King of Scotland’s Kevin MacDonald in the director’s chair, with Shangri-La’s Steven Bing and Jagged Films’ Victoria Pearman and Mick Jagger all set to produce. Not a rotten apple in that bunch.
Last Train to Memphis will be adapted from Peter Guralnick's 1995 Presley biography of the same name, and John Fusco will be handling screenwriting duties. Perhaps best known for writing the westerns Young Guns and its sequel, Fusco last penned 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom for Rob Minkoff, and wrote the upcoming Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny. We’re not really sure what to expect out of this guy, to be honest.
But there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to MacDonald, who won an Academy Award for Best Documentary for 1999’s Munich Olympic Games doc One Day in September. He’s directed over a dozen documentaries, which solidifies his ability to form cohesive narratives out of facts, and his latest was Marley, about the reggae legend Bob Marley. In fact, he’s worked in close company with Mick Jagger before, for the 2001 doc Being Mick. His latest film, the post-apocalyptic thriller How I Live Now, has nothing to do with music or biographies, but it further showcases his talents as a feature filmmaker.
Guralnick’s biography focused on Presley’s early years, as he made his transition from a regular teenager to a sudden superstar, bringing rhythm and blues to white people with his controversial gyrating hips. The producers are currently looking for a handsome young singer that could play the role, and have started up the website Young Elvis Casting for anyone to upload an audition video where they perform six to eight bars of any song by Presley. There is a lot of comedic potential within this audition process, so plan accordingly before entering.
Beyond having a list of Rolling Stones documentaries behind him, Jagger is really getting into producing these biopics, as he’s on board for the James Brown feature Get on Up, and he’s working with Terence Winter and Martin Scorsese for a music business drama for HBO.
Already, Last Train to Memphis seems to have gained ground over the other Elvis projects floating around. There’s director John Sheinfeld’s adaptation Fame & Fortune, as well as BiteSize Entertainment’s Growing Up Graceland, scripted by David E. Stanley and David Gruder. And then there’s Cary Elwes’ long-awaited Elvis & Nixon. My money is still on MacDonald.