There’s a poignant scene in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” where Austin Butler’s character says the words, “I will always love you.” It’s a shot that comes at the end of the movie, and Luhrmann describes it as the actual death scene of the movie.
But in a recent interview with diverse With collaborator and cinematographer Mandy Walker, Luhrmann revealed a scene of Butler singing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” that never made the final cut.
After Elvis and Priscilla Presley break up, Elvis picks up their daughter, Lisa Marie, at the airport. The pair have a short heart-to-heart in the back of a Pullman Mercedes, a heartbreaking moment that foreshadows Elvis’ death and examines his isolation. As Elvis climbs the stairs, leaving his family behind, for Luhrmann it is the film’s death scene.
“The script was very long, but I always wanted another moment for Priscilla to come back into his life and for them to be friends. Somehow when he walks on that plane and it takes off, we don’t need to see him die, he’s dead,” says the director.
He explains that Dolly Parton had always wanted Elvis to sing the song, “but the Colonel interceded and never recorded it.”
Parton revealed in 2020 during a podcast interview on “Live and Learn with Reba McEntire” that Presley was set to record the track. Barton said, “The night before the session, Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s longtime manager] He called me and said, “You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have at least half of the publication.” I said: I can’t do that. And he said, “Well, then we can’t do that.” And I cried all night, because I just imagined Elvis singing it. I know it wasn’t [his decision], but it’s true. I said no.”
Luhrmann explains that the scene was a special moment because he was nearing the end of filming: “Austin sang ‘I Will Always Love You’ in the back of the car. The scene opens with Priscilla saying, ‘It’s a beautiful song,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, Dolly wants me to sing it, but Colonel…” “However, the moment wouldn’t work with the scene and the movie, so it was cut.
Luhrmann reveals, “When Austin got out of the car, he looked across to Priscilla and said that line, and that’s where it came from.”
The director credits production designer Catherine Martin (also the film’s costume designer) for acquiring a rare Pullman Mercedes for the scene. Production found one in Melbourne, Australia, and shipped it to the film’s set.
But Luhrmann and the production ran into another hurdle: He was out of time and wanted to shoot the sequence on the tarmac. “We didn’t know how we were going to fit him into the schedule. You can’t drive the car because of the petrol, so it’s the guy, Fletch, who pulls the car with a piece of rope. There’s no plane, no runway. Just a wind machine and actors,” he said.
Watch the car scene below.