Riley Keough on Why She Didn’t Want to Star in ‘Elvis’: ‘It’s a Little Too Close’

The Presley family legacy was at the forefront of Riley Keough’s mind thanks to the Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.”

The “War Pony” director and granddaughter of Elvis Presley revealed that watching the musical biopic was an “emotional experience” during an interview at Cannes, where the movie is set to premiere out of competition.

“It’s very intense to watch when it’s your family,” Keough said during a Variety interview at Cannes. “The first movie I ever watched in the theater and said I wanted to make movies was [Baz Luhrmann’s] ‘Moulin Rouge,’ I was 12. It was a real honor to know Baz was doing this movie…It wasn’t like I distrusted Baz in any way, but you’re protective over your family.”

Austin Butler stars as the titular King of Rock ‘n Roll, with Olivia DeJonge playing Priscilla. Tom Hanks frames the film as manager Colonel Tom Parker. Recent Oscar nominee Kodi Smit-McPhee plays country legend Jimmie Rodgers, Yola Quartey is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. transforms into B.B. King.

Keough was not asked by Luhrmann to act in the film, but she also was not interested in appearing in the retelling of her family’s history.

“It’s a little too close,” Keough said. “It’s intense enough to watch, I don’t want to act in it. It was never a conversation. I think there was a boundary there that felt respected in a nice way.”

Keough explained that Luhrmann consulted with the Presley family, including her grandmother Priscilla and mother Lisa Marie, for several hours before starting to film “Elvis.” Luhrmann also was granted access to Graceland, but the Presley clan did not have any impact on Luhrmann’s creative decisions for the film.

“At the end of the day, we’re not going to tell Baz Luhrmann how to make a movie,” Keough added.

While first watching the film, Keough said she “could feel how much work Baz and Austin put into trying to get it right,” which made her “emotional immediately.”

“I started crying five minutes in and didn’t stop,” the “Zola” star continued. “There’s a lot of family trauma and generational trauma that started around then for our family. I felt honored they worked so hard to really get his essence, to feel his essence. Austin captured that so beautifully.”

Elvis’ wife Priscilla, to whom he was married from 1967 to 1973, thanked Luhrmann for putting his “heart and soul” into the feature. Keough’s mother Lisa Marie also previously raved that Butler deserves an Oscar for his transformation into Elvis.

“Austin Butler channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully,” Lisa Marie tweeted. “In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and finally done accurately and respectfully.”

She added, “It is finally something that myself and my children and their children can be proud of forever.”

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