Elvis Presley: Why The King turned down the 1976 movie that could have rebooted his career

Elvis: Warner Bros release teaser for film

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Aside from being the biggest rock and roll solo artist in music history, Elvis Presley was also a Hollywood star. Sadly not much can be said for many of The King’s paint-by-numbers rom-coms, aside from the occasional classic like Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas. However, not long before he died in 1977, the legend had the opportunity to reboot his acting career in what would have been his first good movie in years.

A Star Is Born already had two versions in the 1937 original and 1954 remake starring Julie Garland.

The film about a hard-drinking musician who discovers and falls in love with a young singer was most recently remade in 2018 starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

But before that was the 1976 version of the movie starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

It turns out originally fellow Las Vegas International Hotel performer Barbra wanted Elvis to co-star opposite her and so she organised a meeting with The King to discuss the opportunity around 1974.

Elvis was interested in the part and thought it would help revive his career in the mid-1970s.

So why didn’t Elvis take the role before his death in 1977? The answer is his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

The proposed contract is still in the Graceland archives to this day and was asking too much of The King who hadn’t made a movie in several years.

Included was $1000 a week in expenses for Elvis including First Class transportation. Not only that, but also a requirement that his name be first position credit, holding 100 per cent of the title above the title on the poster.

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Elvis’ manager also didn’t want to have his client portrayed as having a showbiz career in decline, even though The King’s concert tours continued to pack out venues.

Additionally, Ernst Jorgensen in Elvis Day By Day said that Parker had demanded a $1 million salary for The King, even though the last time he acted in a movie was 1969’s Change of Habit.

Negotiations with The Colonel fell through and Elvis never did get to act once again in A Star is Born, even though he probably couldn’t put up with being second billing to Barbra.

Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling later said: “There was no way the film’s budget could stand two superstar salaries and Elvis didn’t care about the money. He was smart enough to know that this kind of supporting role could be his way back into the movies.”

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In the end, Kristofferson took the role of John Norman Howard instead of Elvis.

A Star Is Born was a box office hit and saw the musical movie nominated for four Oscars.

The King never made another movie but would continue touring until the last weeks of his life.

Elvis tragically died aged just 42 of a heart attack on the toilet upstairs at Graceland on August 16, 1977.

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