As fans everywhere honor Elvis’ legacy, there’s no better time to look back on the many talented actors that have paid tribute to the King by playing him on-screen. Whether actually portraying Presley himself or just paying homage to his legendary stage presence, actors love to curl their lips, shake their hips, and give that twang-y “Thank you, thank you very much” their very best shot. Naturally, some succeed better than others. Be cruel if you must, but read on for a list of the actors who’ve done the best job of filling Elvis’ famous blue suede shoes.
Jack White, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
the White Stripes frontman as The King is a stroke of genius: What
other current rock star has Elvis’ style and boogie chops? White
gives a surprisingly nimble comedic performance, nailing The King’s
famously indecipherable speech patterns. (White does a sharper Elvis in
his brief scene than Rob Schneider has over the course of his entire
career.) Though he doesn’t get much screentime, White creates an
inimitable new chapter in Elvis movie history.
Bruce Campbell, Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
In Don Coscarelli’s cult flick, Campbell plays an aging Elvis who
switches places with an impersonator (also Campbell) in the ’70s
in order to live a quiet life. Unfortunately, Elvis loses the contract and whether he actually is Elvis or a deranged impersonator, is soon
up for debate. But no one can deny how ably the square-jawed Campbell
plays the King. (He delivers the heck out of Presley’s famous “Thank
you, thank you very much” at the end.)
Stitch, Lilo & Stitch (2002)
underrated Disney gem taps into Elvis’ Hawaiian connection in a way few
recent movies have. Young Lilo listens to “Heartbreak Hotel” and pines
for a friend to share in her Elvis obsession. Before you know it, she’s dressing her newly arrived pal Stitch in an adorably tiny
jumpsuit and teaching him to play “Devil in Disguise” on the ukulele.
Turns out he’s a natural, though his time as Elvis comes to an end once
he’s accosted by camera-happy beachgoers and realizes the cost of fame.
Kurt Russell, 300 Miles to Graceland (2001)
Russell’s connection to The King goes all the way back to a bit part in the 1963 Elvis musical It Happened at the World’s Fair. Ironically, Russell would go on to score an Emmy nomination for a 1979 Elvis telefilm (directed by his future Escape from New York collaborator John Carpenter) and voice the King in Forrest Gump. In this caper, Russell rocks the sideburns and white jumpsuit — his co-impersonator Kevin Costner doesn’t fare as well. Alas.
Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon (1999)
work in Milos Forman’s Andy Kaufman biopic is a quite a feat — he’s
doing Kaufman doing Elvis. The movie recreates one of Kaufman’s
signature bits, where the comedian suddenly transforms from his awkward
“foreign man” character into a spot-on Elvis impression, much to the
surprise of the audience. Carrey deservedly won a Golden Globe for his
performance, which is still one of his best.
Val Kilmer, True Romance (1993)
as “The Mentor,” Kilmer is all Elvis as he spurs movie geek
Clarence (Christian Slater) on in his quest through the seedy
of Los Angeles. (Clarence is so Elvis-obsessed, he admits he would have
carnal knowledge of The King should his life depend on it.) Kilmer nails The King’s distinctive cadence the same way he nailed
Jim Morrison’s hippie dippie tones
in The Doors. Sure he’s a figment of Clarence’s
imagination, but that doesn’t stop “The Mentor” from helping our hero be “cooler than cool.”
Harvey Keitel, Finding Graceland (1998)
While this movie is yet another “guy who thinks he’s Elvis” movie, Keitel — in a moving performance — skewers Presley’s Tupelo drawl and down-home demeanor. Yes, the sight of Keitel boogieing onstage in a blue jumpsuit is more than a little silly. But, like other movies about Elvis that don’t actually feature Elvis, Finding Graceland is more about what The King’s mystique means to his fans than the artist’s actual life. Still, Keitel doesn’t quite go the “full Elvis,” unlike this next entry..
Nicolas Cage, Wild at Heart (1990)
David Lynch’s bizarro neo-noir is like a lost Elvis caper on acid, anchored by Cage channeling The King’s swagger and vocal cadence in the role of rouge hero Sailor. (Cage would go on to ape Elvis for the pretty much the rest of his oddball career.) As the credits roll, Sailor serenades Laura Dern’s Lula with a moving rendition of “Love Me Tender” that pays nice homage to The King. Of course, he does so after encountering Sheryl Lee as The Good Witch from Wizard of Oz. This is a David Lynch movie after all.
Jesse Pearson, Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
The chance to play Conrad Birdie — the most obvious Elvis stand-in ever — was Pearson’s big break, and he nailed it with his smooth vocals and slick dance moves. Unfortunately, Pearson’s career fizzled after that, and he passed away in 1979. Perhaps the current Birdie on Broadway, Nolan Gerard Funk, will someday play The King on the big screen. If not, there’s always his co-star John Stamos. We all know he’s perfectly comfortable in a white sequined jumpsuit.