Home NEWS Actor Cailee Spaeny on ‘Priscilla’- The New Indian Express

Actor Cailee Spaeny on ‘Priscilla’- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

In her latest feature, PriscillaSofia Coppola takes on one of the most complex true love stories that history bore witness to, between a musical legend (Jacob Elordi as Elvis Presley) battling his inner demons and a young woman (Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley) discovering the overwhelming high of first love and the chaos — both internal and external — that ensue when it gradually turns sour. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, the adaptation wouldn’t have been the nuanced, sophisticated and relatively sombre portrait it now is, in which Elordi and Spaeny competently rise to the challenge of roles tailor-made for them.

Interestingly, for a story of two characters undergoing intense turmoil, the film has very little space for violent outbursts or melodrama, a welcomingly refreshing quality. Recalling the fruitful discussions with Sofia Coppola about approaching the material’s distinctive tone, Spaeny attributes her performance’s evident merits to the “calm and collaborative” environment that the writer-filmmaker created for the actors to be at their most productive.

“More than her giving me what she wanted me to do, it was more about us both asking the big questions about Priscilla and what she was going through during different stages of her life: Where did she find the strength to leave? How did she keep her secret from her schoolmates? How did she not have any allies in this journey? What was she feeling at a given point? Finding the answers — and evaluating them — from a personal standpoint was my homework,” says Spaeny, who found much comfort in the “safe bubble” that Sofia made. “Anyone who works with Sofia Coppola brings their A-game; she makes it easier to work and do a good job for her because she is so caring to her cast and crew.”

Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley | AP

Calling Sofia a wellspring of cinematic references and film history, Spaeny remembers walking into a “creatively rich” pre-production space populated with photographs from an older era, particularly William Eggleston’s documentation of 1960s Americana, various films and musical playlists. Preparations also came in the form of spending time with the real-life Priscilla and then Spaeny and Sofia having conversations about “what their experience with her was like, what to learn from her testimonials, and leaning on her past experiences.”

Spaeny found much inspiration from time spent with the actress, entrepreneur and activist, applauding her “willingness to make time for questions, be it through calls or text messages. She decided early on not to be present on set when we were filming — to make me less nervous,” she laughs. “Priscilla was very considerate about being there whenever we needed her, but she also understood the importance of giving us space to exercise our creative freedom. I think, in prep, you do as much research as you can to get everything exact, and you get so nitpicky; you are shuffling through every detail and nuance, and then once you get there, you have to trust that you’ve done your work, trust your fellow creatives and hope they’ve done their research, and cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

When asked if there was a pressure to play Priscilla precisely as she was or whether she had the liberty to take the latter’s personality traits and present them in a way that she saw fit, or whether she found any commonalities at all, Spaeny observes that though she initially felt there wouldn’t be anything in common, the material — based on the 1985 memoir ‘Elvis and Me’ penned by Priscilla Presley and Sandra Harmon — offered her points and milestones that she felt was “so universal” — points which helped Caeny further enhance her performance.

“Priscilla has lived a singular and rarefied life: she underwent experiences that many young people, specifically young women, have in their time. Obviously, hers is a very heightened version of those, but this idea of falling in love for the first time and losing yourself along the way — because being in love for the first time is such an incredible feeling, and you’d sort of do anything and change anything about yourself to hold on to that — and sometimes you come around and have to pick up the pieces and try to figure out who you are and who you are outside of these people — that was universal. Priscilla knew this was the person she wanted to be with, and she committed to that at a very young age. The similarities with my life had more in terms of me wanting to be an actress, wanting to drive out to Hollywood, California… things like that. But I hope that when people watch the film, they’ll see that what she went through is a universal experience.”

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