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How Tom Petty became the key to HBO's Elvis Presley Documentary

HBO's two-piece documentary "Elvis Presley: The Searcher" covers lots of land and talks with lots of people who were close to Elvis. However, according to director Thom Zimny ​​and producer Jon Landau, a key to the movie came from one of the last people they interviewed: Tom Petty, who sat down to talk about Elvis in March 2017, less than seven months before his unexpected death . 19659002] "What Tom did, maybe more than anyone, told the story we were trying to tell," said Landau, long-term boss of Bruce Springsteen, who is also interviewed in The Searcher. "Tom began to talk about the later part of Elvis's career, which usually deals with failure. He said," Yes, but when you put all the madness aside, there's still this incredible singer surrounded by this incredible band. "

" And, for example, he chose this episode "American Trilogy" very grainy but spiritual and beautiful trilogy that Elvis used to do. Tom described exactly what it meant that Elvis exceeded the graininess to do something so touching and so good. Thom [Zimny] and I had planned to use "American Trilogy" all the time, but Tom spontaneously took it in the discussion on his own. "

Petty, Zimny ​​added, was one of the last interviews made for" The Searcher. " "I have not had any experience with that interview before," says the director whose other work includes editing a ten episodes of "The Wire" and guiding several documentaries about Springsteen.

"Tom seemed completely synchronized with the movie I spoke if for many years with Jon. The "American Trilogy" sequence was an idea between Jon and I: How can we interpret his later tour career to another place? And Tom just went there. "

Petty is just one of many voices in The Searcher, a two-part, four-hour chronicle of Elvis's life and career, premiere of HBO on Saturday. But one of his comments could serve as a mission for the movie:" [Elvis] had no roadmap and he paved the way for what to do and what would not be done. And we should not make the mistake of writing a great artist because of all the complaints that came later. We should live in what he did that was so beautiful and eternal, which was the big big music. "

The film began when Priscilla Presley, Elvis ex-wife and a key figure in the Elvis property, approached HBO with the idea of ​​a new documentary using rare images from the archives. HBO went to Landau, who in his younger days as a rock critic wrote one of the first serious evaluations of the 70's Elvis as a musical and cultural force.

"My view was telling stories from beginning to end, good times and bad times, "said Landau." Elvis's weaknesses, his bad decisions, the things he did not control because of the Colonel [his manager, Colonel Tom Parker] – we must cover all these things, but I do not want the movie to be about those things.

"I finally wanted this thing to be about this genius. Because I think he was a genius from start to finish, even when he recorded the soundtrack for" Clambake. "

Zimny ​​sa Landau was an important voice in the film's production – but it was Priscilla who gave the title of the movie when she commented that Elvis spent her entire life as a "searcher".

"It was almost a joke when we were in the edit room," said Landau. "When we stumped, I would say," Why do not we add more Priscilla? "Because everything she said was so empathetic and intelligent."

Like any other interview topic, Priscilla never sees the camera talking about Elvis. All the interviews in "The Searcher" were audio-only, with none of the talking main movie standard in documentaries like this. And while the four hours contain Elvis images as we saw earlier, the film makers made a deliberate attempt to find a new approach.

"The idea was not to repeat Elvis's images as we had seen 1000 times," said Zimny. "And by not cutting a talking head sitting in a chair, it gives you freedom. It's scary first because you have Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen or Robbie Robertson who is talking and you have to come up with a picture. But I loved the thought of finding outtakes or using Super 8 footage that does not feel like it's from a clip pole. We wanted to stay away from the VH1 language.

"I felt we had to rely on the audience to understand Elvis's history, so let's focus on the successes between the big moments. He wanted to make a gospel song at the Ed Sullivan show? Let's concentrate on it, not how he shot from his waist.

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