'The hardest part of writing the script was just editing down so many incredible details from Priscilla's memoir,' she says. 'I was interested in trying to imagine what growing up in that world must have looked like through her eyes.'
Currently prepping for Priscilla's upcoming shoot in Toronto, Coppola took a quick break to chat with Vogue.
Vogue: Can we expect any BTS shots from the set of Priscilla?
Sofia Coppola: I love the steps that go into making a film and seeing how it all comes together. But at the same time, I don't wanna spoil too much of the magic so audiences know too much before they've seen the movie. We're building our Graceland set right now, and it's been really fun to watch it come together. I definitely wanna share some of that process.
Vogue: What about Priscilla's story made you want to adapt her memoir as your next feature?
Sofia Coppola: I've had her memoir for years and remember reading it a long time ago. A friend of mine was talking about her recently, and we got around to discussing the book. I read it again and was really moved by her story. I was supposed to start this big Edith Wharton project that was gonna take five months to shoot and felt really daunting. I came up against a few hurdles, so I just decided to pivot to making one film with one idea. I was just so interested in Priscilla's story and her perspective on what it all felt like to grow up as a teenager in Graceland. She was going through all the stages of young womanhood in such an amplified world-kinda similar to Marie Antoinette.
Vogue: I'm reading the memoir right now and can definitely see those parallels. She writes about living with Elvis and his crew at Graceland like it's a sort of mini Versailles.
Sofia Coppola: Totally. It's all from her perspective of being in this wholly unique world at the height of Elvis's fame. The memoir was hard to edit down because there are so many incredible details, but we're making a low-budget film. Not everything can be quite as epic as it was in Priscilla's real life, so we have to recreate it in a crafty way.
Vogue: What about Cailee Spaeny made her the right choice for Priscilla?
Sofia Coppola: The character goes from the age of 15 to 27 over the course of the film, so she had to be able to act and age across a big span of time. It was really important for me to have the same actress playing Priscilla at those different stages of her life, and I think Cailee can pull it off. She's such a strong actress, and she also looks very young.
Vogue: Were you familiar with Jacob Elordi from Euphoria?
Sofia Coppola: Yeah but just a little bit. I've only watched one episode with my daughter, and it was a little too much. He also plays a real dick on that show. But he's so sweet and humble as a person. I thought nobody was gonna look quite like Elvis, but Jacob has that same type of magnetism. He's so charismatic, and girls go crazy around him, so I knew he could pull off playing this type of romantic icon. But we're talking before we've even started filming, so I can't get too deep into it.
'It always inspires me when I start a project to collect images centered around the feel and the mood and the look of what I'm working on,' Coppola says. This shot of the Presley wedding served as a key inspiration for her while writing her Priscilla script. Photo: Courtesy of Sofia Coppola
Vogue: I'm curious if you saw Baz Luhrman's Elvis biopic and what you thought of that film's portrayal of Priscilla?
Sofia Coppola: I think Baz is so unique, and his take on that story was so creative. But Priscilla is such a minor character in that film, so I never felt like I was treading on the same territory. I love that people were so into his film about Elvis, and now in a few years there'll be another film about Priscilla. I think it'll be interesting to have two completely different interpretations of the same events and time period.
Vogue: Is Elvis more of a supporting character in your script?
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, Priscilla is the real focus of it. There are some aspects of Elvis's career included, but it all sort of plays out in the background of their relationship and her developing her identity. I loved how Baz approached his story in a very collage-y way, but I'm glad it didn't go into much of Priscilla's story because now I can really dive deep.
Vogue: Is Priscilla directly involved in your film?
Sofia Coppola: She's an executive producer! I've met with her a few times, and she's been incredibly open. She's also been really supportive of Cailee as we head into filming. It's really unique to talk to her about the film since I've never made something about a real person who was still living-The Bling Ring aside. But I want it to feel emotionally authentic. She's probably told these stories a million times, so I feel grateful that she's been so patient. It's amazing how much detail she can recall from that time in her life. One of my favorite bits of research was that Vogue video where she talked about some of her most iconic looks.
Vogue: What can you tell me about diving into the fashion of that period for the film?
Sofia Coppola: I'm so in love with the style of the late '60s. I'm excited to do something rooted in that Americana style for the first time. And Priscilla is a quintessential glamour icon. I love that she was always done up. Even around the house, she and Elvis would never come downstairs until they were both dressed and tailored. They were extremely dedicated to fashion, so it's been fun to dip into an era when everyone still got dressed up. I just wish she saved some of her clothes!
Vogue: She didn't keep anything?
Sofia Coppola: Not really. A lot of Elvis's stuff got archived, but only a handful of Priscilla's looks, mostly the more sentimental stuff like her wedding dress. She said, 'Nobody thought about preserving outfits at that time.' Back then you kinda just gave everything to Goodwill and never thought about it coming back in style. Thankfully I saved all of my Marc Jacobs pieces from the '90s so my daughters can wear them one day.
Vogue: You mentioned that Priscilla took precedence over your miniseries adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country. Is that still gonna eventually happen at Apple?
Sofia Coppola: It's on hold until after Priscilla when I can reassess where it's at. I think I went into that project a little naively because I'd never attempted something at that scale before. It was gonna be a five-hour Gilded Age period piece that I would ultimately rather make as a long movie. But the budgets for TV are different than film, and getting enough money to make the kind of film I wanna make is just a massive challenge these days. I worked on it for a long time, so maybe I'll revisit it eventually, but I'm excited to kinda change gears and jump into Priscilla.
Vogue: I know you've gotta get back to prepping Priscilla, but before you go, what's something you watched recently that you really enjoyed?
Sofia Coppola: I'm honestly so deep into Priscilla land that it's kinda consumed my viewing habits. I've been so steeped in research. I watched a lot of documentaries just to familiarize myself with old footage of her and Elvis. And I love all of her home movies on YouTube. They shot so much footage where you can see their personalities and the way they interacted with each other.
Vogue: Thanks for taking the time to chat. Best of luck with the shoot this month!
Elvis and Me DVD (based on Priscilla Presley's best-selling book)
More about Priscilla Presley
My Life With and Without Elvis Presley | For the First Time ... Priscilla Tells All (August, 1973)
Elvis looked even better in person, Priscilla says
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Visit Graceland
Married at 21, Priscilla Presley Recalls life with Elvis
Priscilla talks about life with Elvis
Priscilla and Lisa Marie talk with Oprah
Late nights in the pub with daughter Lisa Marie, her crazy life with Elvis : Priscilla Presley reveals all
Priscilla Presley talks about Elvis meeting The Beatles
Photos: Elvis Presley, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley & Lisa Marie Presley
Navarone Garibaldi (Priscilla's son)
Video Interviews with Priscilla Presley
Interview with Priscilla Presley (1978)
Priscilla Presley on Good Morning America (1979)
Interview with Priscilla Presley (1980)
Priscilla talks to Barbara Walters (1985)
Priscilla Presley on 'First Person' (1991)
Priscilla Presley gives Larry King a tour of Graceland
Priscilla Presley talks about Elvis meeting The Beatles
Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu Getting Married
Lisa Marie Presley
Lisa Presley Home Page
Lisa Marie's singing, writing pretty goo
Lisa Presley | The Rolling Stone Interview
Complete Lisa Marie Presley Playboy Interview
Interview with Lisa Presley | Enough Rope
Interview with Lisa Marie Presley
Father and Daughter Together Again
In The Ghetto | Lisa Marie & Elvis Presley
The Presley Women | Priscilla & Lisa Marie Presley's First Mother/Daughter Interview