From the pastel tones of the cake shop in Marie Antoinette to the meticulously decorated bedroom of a Lisbon girl in The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola has proven herself to be a master of detail in her two decades as a filmmaker. Able to capture a feminine spirit that is both gorgeous and a little neurotic. (The influence of her films on the Tumblr era cannot be ignored.) When it comes to Coppola’s favorite visual themes, however, she may have reached their peak with “Priscilla,” based on the best-selling memoir by Elvis Presley’s widow, Priscilla Presley. Elvis and Me” chronicles her relationship with Elvis Presley, which began when she was only 14 years old.
Shot in Canada in 30 days on an impressively slim budget and starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordia, Priscilla presents a world of the past that has been meticulously recreated – including a visit to Elvis Presley’s Memphis mansion, Graceland. From recreations of interiors, as well as a Vegas casino illuminated by golden gauze palm trees, to interpretations of 1960s newspaper clippings, airline tickets, magazines and wallpapers. The flawless production design was led by Tamara Deverel, known for her work with director Guillermo del Toro. (In an interview ahead of the film’s release, it seemed clear that audiences were in for something when Coppola said she and Tamara Deverel had talked about how their idea for the version of Graceland in the film was to “look like a wedding cake.” Something special.)
Deverell had never been to Graceland before, so to build the rendition on a Toronto soundstage, she began a “rapid and intensive” research process, focusing specifically on capturing the appearance of the house when Elvis Presley’s widow arrived in 1963, and what it looked like when she arrived in 1963. How the mansion changed during the time she lived there until she moved out a decade later. “We stuck with some of the images we had of Priscilla at Graceland,” Deverell told Vogue. “I really don’t want the focus to be on Elvis.”
So Deverell created a version of Graceland that respected historical accuracy (such as her reproduction of the door covered in musical notes) but also fit the film’s more abstract sensibility, imagining what the house would have looked like from the perspective of a young Elvis Presley’s widow. “Graceland is a family home, and we really wanted it to reflect what Priscilla was feeling inside,” she said. “This translated into creams, whites, blues and golds, very beautiful and luxurious.” Over time, the house gradually changed in details, reflecting the way people redecorated in reality, but the feel of the main rooms continued throughout. Remains the same from the movie: cream curtains, pearly walls, deep carpets, in which Priscilla immerses herself in doing her homework and playing with her puppy. She was prevented from going out, as a cruel Elvis cousin shouted to her not to “let herself be the center of attention other than Elvis.”
The house, presented by photographer Philippe Le Sourd, is hazy, like an eternal magical moment, with dust particles floating in the air. This makes the space a place that is both captivating and suffocating, much like the central relationship in the film. “Just the quality of the light and the composition help make it dreamlike, like a memory,” Deverell said.
“Already a memory because it exists in our collective memory,” she continued. “Everybody knows who Elvis is. Now a lot of people probably know who Elvis’s widow is. That’s one of the things I want to focus on. This is not Elvis’s movie, this is Elvis’s widow’s movie, it’s hers Memory. Through Sofia Coppola, I asked her some questions, like, does she remember any memories of Elvis’ bedroom? She didn’t really remember it in any concrete way. So I always felt like, okay, let me do it Honor her memory of what it could have been.”