Colonel Tom Parker’s biographer, Alanna Nash, says that Tom Hanks’ accent in Elvis is inaccurate. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the musical drama depicts the life and career of its titular character, Elvis Presley, exploring his rise to fame and journey to becoming the world’s most recognizable rock ‘n roll star. It also delves into Presley’s complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Parker. In addition to Hanks, Elvis stars Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Bracey, and more. Elvis premiered on June 24 and has generated mostly positive reviews, with particular praise given to Hanks and Butler’s respective performances.
Elvis‘ focus on Parker quickly became a talking point among audiences, many of whom were either unaware of his background or interested in the extent of his relationship with Presley. After emigrating illegally to the United States and concealing his Dutch heritage for years, making his accent appear Southern, Parker came in contact with Presley in 1955 before officially beginning to manage his career a year later. A controversial figure, he practiced numerous unethical tactics and had a hand in almost all of the star’s endeavors, including those pertaining to his personal life. Hanks’ Elvis transformation as Parker shocked fans, as the actor not only looks unrecognizable, but speaks in a rather unique accent for the part.
When it comes to the accent employed by Hanks in the film, Nash, a music journalist who wrote The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, is telling Variety that it is inaccurate. After being asked if the manager’s voice really sounded like that of Hanks, Nash said, “No.” Read Nash’s quote regarding Hank’s accent in Elvis below:
“No. It was more American, more rural. And he had what sounded like a slight lisp or speech impediment. Turns out he didn’t have an impediment — he was just trying to wrap a Dutch tongue around the English language, Southern-style. It sounded like a weird (Southern) regional dialect, and you would know it was Dutch only by listening for certain consonants. But Baz wanted to make him seem more ‘other.’ Or as Baz told me in an interview, “I thought it was very important that Tom present the audience with a strangeness, a sort of ‘What is going on with this guy?’”
Despite the issue of the actor’s accent, as raised by Nash, Luhrmann has praised Hanks’ performance in Elvis. When speaking about the star back in January, Luhrmann complimented his ability to play a “new string on his instrument.” Throughout the course of his career, Hanks has played a variety of characters, but there’s little question that Elvis represents something new for the Oscar-winning actor. Hanks’ accent in the film might have raised some eyebrows, but as Nash pointed out, there was a purpose behind it. Beyond that, Hanks can be commended for trying something very different with his portrayal.
As is the case with most biographical works, there will almost certainly be aspects of Luhrmann’s Elvis that some take issue with. When it comes to the depiction of Colonel Parker, Nash is able to shine a light on what may or may not be true. Nevertheless, Hanks’ portrayal of Presley’s manager is still a sight to behold. As long as some slight inaccuracy doesn’t trip audiences up, there is much to enjoy about what Hanks brings to Elvis. Fans of the actor can catch his full transformation now, as Elvis looks to make noise at the box office with its recent release.
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Author: Brady Entwistle