Elvis Took a Bullet
Plenty of filmmakers have started with the premise that Elvis is still alive — but what about if he were reincarnated? That’s the notion behind this 2001 comedy, which stars writer/director Jerry Eeten as “Aaron Presley,” who fancies himself as the reincarnated King, thus providing no end of trouble for his skittish, pill-popping doctor roommate. (Yes, you read that right.)
Tony Scott’s 1993 film, from a screenplay by famed Elvis fan Quentin Tarantino (who even played an Elvis impersonator himself, on an episode of The Golden Girls), cooked up the novel notion of an Elvis who doesn’t need an excuse for still being alive, because he’s purely in our hero’s head. He doesn’t bear Elvis’s name; he’s credited merely as “Alter Ego,” turning up twice to advise Clarence (Christian Slater). We don’t even get a clear look at his face, so it’s almost impossible to tell that Val Kilmer (who previously played an Elvis-ish pop star in Top Secret!) is playing him. But between the flashy costume, the distinctive speaking voice, and the gold lamé suit, there’s no doubt who’s pushing young Clarence to go shoot Alabama’s pimp. And in yet another weird bit of circularity, Gary Oldman, who played that pimp, would re-team with Slater in the straight-to-video 2012 Tarantino rip-off Guns, Girls, and Gambling as… wait for it… an Elvis impersonator.
The spirit of Elvis hovers over the entirety of this brilliant 1989 Jim Jarmusch effort, which tells a trio of stories set in a Memphis hotel. But the physical manifestation of that spirit only turns up once, and the backstory there is, well, peculiar. According to Greil Marcus’ brilliant 2000 Clinton-and-Elvis book Double Trouble, the ghost of Elvis—“probably the least convincing impersonation of Elvis ever captured on film” — was played by one Steve Jones, whose wife, Paula Jones, famously sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. “That Jones’s suite was dismissed deprived us of the spectacle of the trial,” Marcus writes, “with one Elvis righteously defending the honor of his wife against the depredations of another Elvis — but for that we are all better off.”
Any look at Elvis-inspired cinematic oddities would have to end here, with Don Coscarelli’s 2002 adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s novella, which proposes that the real Elvis never died at all; he switched places with an impersonator in the 1970s, and that impersonator was who died in 1977. The film catches up with Elvis (played, wonderfully, by Bruce Campbell) as a senior citizen, residing in a Texas retirement home, best buddies with a still-alive, black JFK (Ossie Davis), whom he joins to fight a reanimated Egyptian mummy. And as weirdo Elvis movie premises go, I can’t imagine anyone’s ever going to top that one — at least, until we finally get Bubba Nosferatu.