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An Elvis impersonator reviews ‘Elvis’

Elvis Presley impersonator JD King on what ‘Elvis’ gets right – and badly wrong

Written by
JD King

I’ve been performing as Elvis for nearly 20 years and I’m an old Elvis nerd, so I was weary going in, but I thought the film was fantastic. I wondered if they’d be able to capture this shy, humble country boy who just feels the music and translates it on the stage, but they really did. I knew the film would be quite bombastic and amped-up in the Baz Luhrmann style, but it really captured his humanity

Austin Butler is excellent, particularly with the off-stage stuff. I can’t fault him for his body language, cadence and voice. He even nails his laugh. His on-stage performance was very, very good.

Being a performer, I’ve been massively into studying his concerts. My favourite Elvis movie is a 1970 concert film called Elvis: That’s the Way It Is, which Elvis draws from. I loved the bit where he's putting together a big-band version of ‘That’s All Right Mama’ – it didn’t happen quite like that in real life, but it’s a lovely fun way to tell that part of the story. 

Photograph: Courtesy Warner Bros. PicturesAustin Butler as Elvis Presley in ‘Elvis’

My favourite Elvis song to perform, ‘Polk Salad Annie’, appears briefly in the movie too. It's swamp rock track written by Tony Joe White.

Elvis takes lots of liberties with the story, but I understand why. The one bit that stuck out to me is when he’s firing Colonel Parker on stage, because it didn’t happen – he fired him in private – and Elvis wouldn’t have made a big statement like that on stage. He wasn’t a publicly rebellious person. He had strong opinions but he didn’t shove them in anyone’s faces.

Photograph: JD KingJD King performing as Elvis

I haven’t had hordes of women screaming at me in quite the same way as in the movie, but people do get very into it when you’re performing. You get fans who idolise you. I’ve done hen parties and I performed at a nudist camp once – it was mostly the blokes who didn’t put their clothes on for the show. There is underwear thrown but it’s not always the little lacy kind. It’s not quite the same when it’s big bloomers landing on stage. 

 Underwear thrown but it’s not always the little lacy kind

Do I have a Colonel Parker in my life? I do, my manager. She’s not quite like Colonel Parker. We have a healthier relationship!

Interview by Phil de Semlyen

Elvis is in cinemas worldwide Jun 24. Read our review here. For more info on JD King’s performances, head to

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