“It’s an prompt sure, if Sofia Coppola’s identify is on it,” mentioned actress Cailee Spaeny of accepting the lead function in “Priscilla,” whatever the challenges it could carry, and the movies it might be in comparison with. “You simply don’t ask any questions, even when it’s one thing like this, which is so intimidating to tackle. Inside her palms, it’s a no brainer.”

Lengthy earlier than she was tapped to star within the Oscar winner’s movie adaptation of Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me,” Spaeny thought-about Coppola a private hero who helped form her cultural tastes. “I discovered Sofia’s work once I was round 15 years outdated, via ‘The Virgin Suicides,’” she mentioned to IndieWire over Zoom. “I by no means considered who was behind the digicam till I watched her motion pictures.” Inside a yr the younger Missouri native received her first callback from the director for a movie that didn’t find yourself taking place, 

US actress Scarlett Johansson arrives for the premiere of "Asteroid City" at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City on June 13, 2023. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
DOGTOOTH, (aka KYNODONTAS), Aggeliki Papoulia (center), Mary Tsoni (right), 2009. ©Kino International/Courtesy Everett Collection

Nevertheless, it was getting on the radar of Fred Roos, a former casting director and present producer who works intently with the filmmaking household, years later that put Spaeny within the operating for “Priscilla.” All the sudden, there’s a name asking if she is free to seize espresso with Coppola in New York. “Okay, my baggage are packed. I’m able to go. What does she need,” mentioned Spaeny within the second. Getting into the assembly with the director, nonetheless having no clue what was occurring, “20 minutes in, [she’s] pulling out her iPad and saying, ‘I’m actually on this story,’ displaying me photographs of Priscilla Presley,” mentioned the actress. “I feel perhaps you could possibly do it,” mentioned Coppola. 

Having the filmmaker’s muse Kirsten Dunst (Spaeny’s co-star in an upcoming Alex Garland movie) as a private reference sealed the deal. “Clearly, I grew up watching them collaborating, and so to enter into this film with that approval was good,” mentioned the 25-year-old.

Coppola rapidly exceeded any expectations Spaeny had of working together with her, making it clear early on she had religion within the actress and Jacob Elordi, who performs Elvis reverse her Priscilla, “which is one thing that you just don’t at all times have,” mentioned Spaeny. “She’s actually nice at setting a tone the place everybody appears like they’ll collaborate, and she or he has an ideal stability of figuring out when to hone in and in addition figuring out when to loosen up and have enjoyable, and simply have fun the truth that we get to make motion pictures. So it’s a extremely light set to be on, which is sort of by no means the case.”

Jacob Elordi, Cailee Spaeny, Sofia Coppola
Jacob Elordi, Cailee Spaeny, and director Sofia Coppola on the set of “Priscilla.”Sabrina Lantos

Particularly given how the A24 movie solely had 30 days to finish manufacturing. “The quantity of scenes we needed to attempt to movie in a day, and the age ranges inside a day have been nearly a joke,” mentioned the star. Figuring out how you can navigate taking part in Priscilla as a bashful Catholic college lady, a high-glam 60s rocker spouse, and a extra smooth, unbiased girl of the 70s, in what might be all in at some point, “all got here right down to cash. ‘What’s going to save lots of us probably the most cash? How can we be probably the most resourceful,” mentioned Spaeny. “After which the second dialog is, ‘Is that this sensible? How are we going to get the jet black eyeliner off her face in time to make her look 14 once more?’ and ‘Are we going to have sufficient time to bronze her pores and skin for the 70s?’”

“It’s at all times a dream world that you just’re not going to take any of that on, however while you’re within the trenches, and it’s such a collaborative venture you do,” she added. “You’re there like, ‘How do I assist you to? How do you assist me? How can I get this wig off in time? I want to carry nonetheless, so that you get this wig on my head. You make me look good, I make you look good.’ In a fantasy world, you’re like, ‘I’m simply going to be in my bubble and I’m going to be in my second the entire time.’ But it surely doesn’t work out that method, particularly while you’re flying by the seat of your pants and also you’ve received all creatives and heads of departments going, ‘How are we going to make this work?’ And scrambling until the final second.”  

In her estimation, it was Coppola’s kindness via the battle to execute her particular imaginative and prescient in such a short while that saved collaborators at their A-game. “This was a tricky shoot for all departments, however they received artistic they usually simply made it work,” mentioned Spaeny. “Everybody needed to be in tune with one another. There was no room for no matter bullshit generally occurs behind the scenes. All of us try to do the identical factor, we’re heading for a similar objective. We’re doing this for Sofia, we’re doing this for Priscilla as properly, and we don’t have time to fiddle. All of us needed to be workforce gamers.”

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 04: (L-R) Sofia Coppola, Priscilla Presley, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi attend a red carpet for the movie
Sofia Coppola, Priscilla Presley, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi attend a pink carpet for the film “Priscilla” on the eightieth Venice Worldwide Movie Competition.Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Photos

Regardless of the age hole between Elvis and Priscilla Presley being a significant component within the movie, Spaeny is just one yr youthful than her co-star Elordi, making their familiarity with the fabric extra comparable. “We strategy motion pictures in comparable methods, and we’re actually simply nerds about the entire thing. We’d name one another and swap notes or, ‘Oh, I discovered this little bit of footage. Have you ever seen this earlier than,’” mentioned the actress. Being within the trenches on a hurried, unbiased manufacturing, “We actually needed to belief one another, and I knew that anytime I got here to set, he was going to be ready. He was going to come back in with concepts and ideas, and I used to be at all times excited, on daily basis, to see what he dropped at the desk,” mentioned Spaeny.

Priscilla Presley herself was additionally a supportive presence, having an hours-long assembly together with her earlier than manufacturing to inform her “I’ve all the religion in you. You’re going to do an amazing job. I’m proper right here, if that you must discuss something, whether or not it’s the film or in the event you’re simply feeling confused and that you must give me a name,” mentioned Spaeny.

“Priscilla” lastly premiered on the Venice Movie Competition in early September to a lot acclaim, together with a seven-minute standing ovation, which was such a whirlwind expertise for Spaeny that she remains to be processing all of it. “I didn’t even know that was a factor,” mentioned the star of being awarded the competition’s Volpi Cup for Finest Actress. “I truly haven’t even seemed up who the previous winners are. . . Hopefully it’s good for the movie. It’s such a reduction taking up this, probably the most difficult character I’ve ever performed, and to have that appreciated is so good. And perhaps it’ll be good for me. I don’t know. I don’t know what these issues imply. I simply know they’re good, so I’m attempting to only take pleasure in it.” It’s particularly significant to listen to constructive suggestions from Presley after working so onerous to do proper by her story. “It’s superb that we’re getting an amazing response and critics prefer it, however that’s the final assessment,” mentioned Spaeny.

The breakout approaches her first award season similarly to how she took on the lead function, doing her finest to remain grounded via all of the noise. “I wish to actually take every one among these moments in and respect it, and simply not take it with no consideration,” mentioned Spaeny. “Loads of this stuff will be overwhelming, and I can black out as a result of it’s loads, however the factor that I attempt to remind myself is to only be current.”

It’s onerous for her to find out what to do subsequent, particularly with the SAG strike nonetheless ongoing (although theater is a problem that pursuits her), however Spaeny already has wrapped a number of tasks with administrators like Garland and Zoe Lister-Jones. She wouldn’t dare ask Coppola when their subsequent collaboration will likely be, however Spaeny does say “I wish to be working with creatives who’ve a robust imaginative and prescient and I’ve gotten fortunate to work with many, and Sofia is correct on the high of that checklist. So I hope that my profession continues, and I hold working with individuals who simply have a definite clear view and have authentic concepts.”

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