From Graceland to Queensland: Why Hollywood called on Australia to make the biopic of Elvis

Elvis movie filmed in Australia

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted June 20, 2022

The Elvis movie is the latest in a string of A-list films and TV shows to be filmed in Australia. We chat with the Village Roadshow Studios President about why Hollywood is coming in droves to make movie magic Down Under.

Is it just us, or has there been an uncanny amount of Elvis sightings in Australia this year?

From the Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition hitting Bendigo, to Elvis-themed wedding venues popping up in Melbourne and now the Australian-made Elvis biopic hitting cinemas on June 23, it seems the King of Rock 'n’ Roll is still very much alive in Australia.

While Elvis Presley himself was never able to make it Down Under, he sure has been on our minds and even now, 45 years after his death, Australians can’t help falling in love with everything Elvis.

The latest film biopic from Australia's Academy-Award nominated director Baz Luhrmann focuses on Presley’s rise from poverty to worldwide superstardom in 1950s America, with a focus on his complex relationship with his manager during the rise of rock 'n’ roll. 

Elvis | Official Trailer

Mixing the glitterati of Hollywood and Australia, the film stars Austin Butler in the title role, two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks as his manager Tom Parker, and Australia’s own Olivia DeJonge as Elvis' former wife Priscilla Presley.

Despite Elvis being an iconic symbol of Americana, Australia was chosen to be the location to resurrect the legend - and was filmed right here on the Gold Coast.

We chat with Lynne Benzie, President of Village Roadshow Studios – the home of the Elvis production – on what it was like to facilitate the production about the rise and fall of The King. 

Can’t help falling in love with Australia

Baz Luhrmann, director of Elvis, is Australian-born-and-made, which greatly influenced the decision to shoot on the Gold Coast from the start.

At the launch of the Elvis: Direct From Graceland exhibition in Bendigo, Priscilla Presley told us that Luhrmann stayed for an extended period at the famed Presley residences in Graceland, Memphis, where he was able to take on extensive research in preparation for the motion picture.  

Filming previous hits including Australia, The Great GatsbyStrictly Ballroom and the Academy Award nominated Moulin Rouge Down Under, for Luhrmann, filming Elvis in his home country was a no-brainer.

In a statement, Luhrmann said that he continues to support the Australian arts scene “in the same manner that we ourselves were supported and mentored”, because “Australia continues to be one of the great filmmaking locations in the world.”

To show he meant business, Luhrmann moved his production headquarters to the coastal suburb of Miami, Gold Coast, alongside his wife of 25 years and Australia’s most lauded Academy Award winner, the Production and Costume Designer Catherine Martin.

Previously having launched the careers of Australian celebrities such as Gold Logie-nominee Sonia Kruger (Strictly Ballroom), a first time Academy Award nomination for Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge), and having a combined film intake of over a billion dollars worldwide, it’s easy to see why Australia has a burning love for Baz Luhrmann projects.

The Elvis cast itself consists of many Australians, including Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley, Richard Roxburgh and Helen Thomson as Elvis’ parents, and David Wenham as country music singer Hank Snow, bringing clout to the Australian acting scene.

In a statement at the film’s world premiere on the Gold Coast, Luhrmann praised the Australian film industry, stating “I hope they [the industry] look at it [the Elvis film], and they go wow, we can do that, because they can.” 


The Elvis biopic focuses on Presley's rise to fame during the birth of rock 'n' roll. Image: Alamy.
Over 9,000 costumes were made by Catherine Martin and her team for the production. Image: Alamy.

Australia attracting the limelight

Over the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia became somewhat of a haven for movie and TV show makers who were looking to create media in a safe environment – with the bonus of the great weather when staying on the Gold Coast, and what Lynne Benzie refers to as “enormous financial and industry-specific benefits.”

In a joint initiative with the Federal and State Governments, Gold Coast City Council, and Screen Queensland, Village Roadshow Studios was able to bring the Warner Bros. Pictures production of the Elvis biopic to the golden Aussie shores.

“The Gold Coast has fast become a one-stop-shop for filmmakers and is an attractive destination for productions to choose to shoot,” says Benzie. “With some of the most diverse and unique locations in Australia, along with world-class crews and infrastructures complementing our state-of-the-art studios, we are encouraging more productions to shoot on the Gold Coast.”

Elvis is the latest in a string of high-profile international filming projects to take place in Australia, including Amazon’s 2021 hit Nine Perfect Strangers, the 2022 George Clooney and Julia Roberts rom-com Ticket to Paradise, 2022’s Gold with Zac Efron, as well as a range of films shot and produced at Village Roadshow Studios including The Shallows, Dora The Explorer, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Aquaman, and Thor: Ragnarok.

Local businesses have also benefitted from the Elvis production. According to Benzie, the Elvis production alone “employed 900 Queenslanders and injected more than $105 million into the local economy.”

Additionally, she says, the “celebrity status” of having big-name stars such as Tom Hanks or Austin Butler having an extended stay Down Under helps with tourism, bringing “massive traditional and social media reach” to showcase the Gold Coast and wider Australia.

In a statement, Queensland Premier Anastasia Palasczuk praised the film industry’s contribution to the Gold Coast economy, adding that the filming had created “more than 55,000 jobs” since 2015 alone. 



The film is one of many 'Hollywood-style' blockbusters to be filmed in Australia in recent years. Image: Village Roadshow Studios.
Whole forests were created for the production of Dora The Explorer. Image: Village Roadshow Studios.
A replica of a town in Sicily was created for the filming of Aquaman at the Village Roadshow Studios. Image: Village Roadshow Gold Coast.

What kind of films are getting made Down Under?

The Village Roadshow Studios host the largest sound stage in the Southern Hemisphere, along with water tanks, production offices, editing suites, wardrobe, makeup, construction, paint, and carpentry shops, proving to be what Benzie calls a “one-stop destination” for international producers and companies looking to film abroad.

It’s not your smaller productions, either - for Thor: Ragnarok, the Studios’ backlot was used by Marvel to create sets that were each the size of a football field. The standalone Avengers epic starring Australia's Chris Hemsworth went on to make over $1 billion worldwide.

The Studios were then transformed into an exact replica of a Sicilian town for Aquaman, which became the highest global-grossing DC film at $1.6 billion.  

The trend for filming megahits in Australia appears to be continuing, with the Studios also home to productions of upcoming Hollywood-backed TV shows including Amazon’s The Wilds and Netflix’s True Spirit, as well as motion picture blockbusters such as the Godzilla vs. Kong sequel, set to hit cinemas in late 2022.

For Elvis, the sound stages on the Studio lot were transformed into iconic Memphis and Graceland locations that Benzie says are “synonymous” with The King.  

All shook up about Elvis?

So, what are you waiting for, hound dogs? If news of the Elvis film has you ready to pull out the blue suede shoes, keep them laced, because the film has audiences shaking, rattling, and rolling. 

From a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival to the Presley family’s unanimous tick of approval, Elvis and its star-studded cast will have you transported from the Gold Coast to Graceland in no time.

Elvis will be showing in cinemas from Thursday, June 23.

Thank you very much. 


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