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Cailee Spaeny: 'Priscilla' Presley 'gives so much of her life away'

Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) spends a lot of time alone in Graceland. Photo courtesy of A24
1 of 6 | Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny) spends a lot of time alone in Graceland. Photo courtesy of A24

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Cailee Spaeny said Priscilla, in theaters Friday, portrays the sacrifices Priscilla Presley made to be in a relationship with Elvis Presley. Spaeny plays her from ages 14 to 24.

"She really gives so much of her life away to him," Spaeny told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. Priscilla's studio, A24, received permission from the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists so the cast may promote the film.

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Presley began attending Elvis' weekend parties when he was stationed at an Army base in Germany. She moved to Graceland while still in high school, and lived there in isolation while Elvis traveled to make movies.

"When Elvis was around, it was this feeling [that] this is my one person," Spaeny said. "This is the love of my life, and yet I can feel right around the corner that he's going to be gone again."

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Presley is an executive producer of the film. Sofia Coppola wrote the screenplay based on her autobiography, Elvis and Me.

Spaeny read Elvis and Me "multiple times" and spoke with Presley. Spaeny said her first 4-hour lunch with Presley gave her a sense of how she felt in moments to be depicted in the film.

"You could see her sort of reliving those moments again, which were fascinating and sometimes really special and heartwarming," Spaeny said. "She did take the time to go through different moments of how she was feeling or inside jokes between them."

Though Elvis and Priscillas's inside jokes did not make it into the film, Spaeny said Presley felt pressure to hold Elvis's attention. The longer she spends alone at Graceland, the more she experiments with asserting herself.

"Those moments were few and far between that she felt like she could stand up to him and get angry," Spaeny said. "We see her learning who she is, coming into her own and trying to navigate herself outside of this relationship and this man."

Though the film covers 10 years in Presley's life in chronological order, Coppola focuses on the feelings and moments in between pivotal events such as Elvis' movies and 1968 comeback special.

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Spaeny said she hoped to convey to viewers the impressions she got from listening to Presley's first-hand recollections.

"It says so much without having a lot of dialogue [and] so simply," Spaeny said. "So, those emotions and those feelings were part of trying to get those flashes of these memories to feel genuine and to feel layered."

Spaeny said she also prepared to portray the span of 10 years being filmed out of order. She said her wardrobe, hair and makeup helped her keep track of where she was in Priscilla's life.

"I really wanted those ages to feel genuine," Spaeny said. "I wanted it to feel true so that was a real interesting thing to tackle and something I tried to map out before we went into shooting."

The film concludes in 1972, long before Presley became an actor in 1983. Still, Spaeny said, she explored Presley's life after Elvis in her research and was struck by her goofy work in films like The Naked Gun.

"She really made me laugh, but I was also genuinely just shocked because she has so many different sides to her," Spaeny said. "The second you feel like you've got your finger on her, she's got something else up her sleeve."

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