When I was just barely in my 20s, I had an idea for a movie about Elvis Presley. Unlike other movies about Elvis that sought to tell a sanitized or even honest depiction of Elvis’s life, my idea was to create a fictional history for Elvis – a dark and twisted “what if” history…something Tim Burton, Oliver Stone, or Quentin Tarantino would be proud to call their own.
To further differentiate my story from other scripts, my story would put the focus on the King’s manager Col. Tom Parker. As the story developed, it became Parker who was pulling the strings on Elvis’ life far more than just decisions relating to his career. In fact, I theorized, what if Col. Parker didn’t just discover Elvis, but actually invented him?
The story evolved and matured over the years as I worked on it. Key to the final product was the insertion of an investigative reporter character who chases the truth about Elvis through the decades. This turned the story from just a drama into a high stake’s thriller.
My hard work paid off recently. The Elvis Conspiracy has been named the winner of the Best Screenplay Award in both the Multi Dimension Independent Film Festival and the MoviePlay International Film Festival. Within the past month the script has also been named a Finalist in England’s Bright International Film Festival and an Official Selection of Mexico’s Oaxaca Film Festival.
Previously The Elvis Conspiracy has also been a finalist in the Chicago Screenplay Awards, Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition, and the Emerging Screenwriters Suspense Screenplay Competition. It was also an Official Selection of the Marina Del Rey Film Festival.
The screenplay poses the question: What if there was more to the legend of Elvis than we know? What if his manager Col. Parker made the whole thing up?
Alternate History is a genre that artists like Quinten Tarantino have had great results with such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Inglorious Bastards. Tarantino is not the only filmmaker to experiment in this genre. Forrest Gump, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, and Fatherland are other examples of successful ventures into the world of alternate history scripts that take real historical events and then give them a fictionalized twist.
Col. Parker, even unfictionalized, is a fascinating character. For instance, there is no record of where he got the title “Colonel”, nor would he ever give a direct answer on the subject.
Col. Parker was also the one who turned down the offer for Elvis to star as Tony in the film adaptation of West Side Story – despite the star’s objections. That film went on to win 10 Academy Awards, while Elvis made Blue Hawaii instead.
To bring the story alive, and to keep it believable, I intertwined conspiracy theories with real events from Elvis’s life. The result could be described as The Da Vinci Code meets Eddie and the Cruisers.
When I started writing the script years back, I envisioned one actor in the role of Col. Parker, Tom Hanks. And, I knew if I wanted to attract Hanks or anyone of his caliber of talent, I needed to write an award-worthy role.
Well, it almost worked. I created an award-winning script with Col. Parker as the lead character, however Hanks has now already played a version of Col. Parker in a far different film for director Baz Luhrmann. So, the chances of landing him are slim to none. If medical conditions hadn’t sidelined them, I think either Val Kilmer or Bruce Willis could have surprised a lot of people in The Elvis Conspiracy.
So, who has the name and talent to earn an Oscar in the role of Col Parker? Russel Crowe, Daniel Craig, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Jon Hamm, and Hank Azaria could all provide amazing interpretations of the action to delight award voters. Jim Carrey may be best known as a comedic actor, but people forget he’s a damn good dramatic actor too.
And what of the supporting role of Elvis Presley? The actor playing this role actually gets to play three versions of the character. They have to come up with three distinctly different personalities. Again, in the hands of a capable actor it seems a shoo-in for award program supporting actor categories.
To be honest, back when I was in my 20s, I envisioned myself playing Elvis as a young man and John Travolta playing Elvis in his later years. Like Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds, I am far more muscular now than in my youth, but there is no way I could believably play a young Elvis. And without me as young Elvis, there isn’t really a reason for my doppelganger to play old Elvis.
I would imagine that young Elvis will be played by an unknown – a career defining role propelling them to the national spotlight the way Twilight made Robert Pattinson an instant star. But, that’s not to say an actor with a few credits to their name wouldn’t excel.
ALL SHOOK UP
The search for the right Elvis is a subject that is usually on my mind in one way or another. For instance, whenever I’m watching a film or television series, I find myself studying the facial features of the young actors to see if they could be plausible in The Elvis Conspiracy.
When it comes to actual stars who might be able to ride to best supporting actor accolades, I am a big Tom Holland fan. I also think Zac Efron is incredibly under appreciated. Dacre Montgomery from Stranger Things is amazingly talented, and Finn Cole really impressed me in Animal Kingdom.
You’ll recall that I mentioned a major shift in the screenplay occurred when I inserted an investigative reporter into the mix, someone threatening to uncover what may be the greatest swindle in entertainment history. The actor playing the reporter must be capable of starting out fresh and innocent, a tool of the Colonel. Then he must grow bitter and suspicious as time goes on.
For this role three actors immediately come to mind: Johnny Galecki, Toby Maguire, and Haley Joel Osment. Each of these men have the ability to play an underdog that gets tired of being taken for granted, armed with a tenacity to pursue a story for decades.
So comes the question, will The Elvis Conspiracy make it to the screen – either in theaters or on your living room television via a streaming service? There’s no guarantees, but that’s the idea. And the pieces seem to be falling into place.
With the success of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, the King is a hot topic right now. And The Elvis Conspiracy provides a totally fresh approach to the subject. That’s a win-win situation in terms of factors that appeal to producers and film studios.
Look at how many people have been chomping at the bit to play The Joker, with both Joaquin Phoenix and the late Heath Ledger winning Oscars for their interpretations. Elvis and Col. Parker are also roles that actors are attracted to.
If you look at some of the other successful Elvis stories produced in Hollywood, in addition to Tom Hanks other stars including Beau Bridges and Randy Quaid, have been drawn to the role of Elvis’ illusive manager. Similarly, in addition to Austin Butler’s recent performance, Kurt Russel, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Michael Shannon, Bruce Campbell, and Don Johnson have all played the singer himself.
So, what do you think? Is The Elvis Conspiracy a film you’d want to see?
I’m interested in hearing from you. Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.
And, if it’s a project that you might have an interest in then be sure to reach out.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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This year, I had the great pleasure of appearing in the hilarious Paul Rudnick comedy I Hate Hamlet for Elgin Theatre Company in the greater Chicago area. To our great honor, I Hate Hamlet has been nominated for seven prizes in the 2022 Broadway World Chicago Theatre Awards:
- Best Direction of a Play – Regina Belt-Daniels
- Best Ensemble Performance
- Best Play
- Best Performer in a Play – Rikki Lee Travolta
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – David Gasior
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Trace Gamache
- Best Supporting Performer in a Play – Travis Greuel
If you want to voice your support for the Elgin Theatre Company production of I Hate Hamlet, you can cast your vote at: https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/voteregion.cfm