Priscilla fact vs. fiction: How accurate is the movie?

Sofia Coppola's 2023 film Priscilla follows the real-life relationship between Priscilla and Elvis Presley. But how much of it is true?
Priscilla movie on A24
Priscilla movie on A24 /

Curious to get a closer look at one of the most famous celebrity couples of all time? Sofia Coppola's 2023 film Priscilla chronicles the complicated romance between Elvis Presley (played by Jacob Elordi) and his ex-wife Priscilla (played by Cailee Spaeny), who he met when she was just 14 and he was 24. The film, distributed by A24, is based on the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me written by Priscilla.

The drama gives audiences a behind-the-scenes look at Elvis and Priscilla's relationship from Priscilla's point of view, starting with their first meeting in the late '50s in Germany up until their final moments as a couple. After premiering in theaters last fall, Priscilla is now available to stream on Max. If you've started to watch the award-winning movie and are curious as to which parts are accurate and which have been embellished, we don't blame you! The good news is that we're here to break down fact vs. fiction.

Having recently read Elvis and Me, I can confidently report that Priscilla is a very faithful adaptation. It's pretty much exact from page to screen for this one, with only just a couple of timeline changes made to enhance the narrative of the movie — for example, changing when exactly Elvis gifted Priscilla her dog. But, truly, there are no big moments in the movie that aren't straight from the book. There are, however, a few parts of the book that were left out of the film. Let's first go over the most prominent moments from Priscilla that are, in fact, true!

Priscilla Presley
Priscilla Presley / Keystone/GettyImages

Elvis and Priscilla did meet in Germany

It's true! Elvis was stationed out in West Germany while serving in the military in the 1950s. Priscilla's father, Paul Beaulieu, was a U.S. Air Force officer, which caused the family to move around a lot. Fate had it that Elvis was in Germany at the same time as Priscilla and her family. Priscilla was invited to attend one of Elvis' parties on Sept. 13, 1959, which was the night they met. Her parents were skeptical of the whole thing but wanted to make their daughter happy, so they allowed her to go.

Elvis was looking for some sort of normalcy out in West Germany, feeling homesick and wanting to make sure he was still relevant in the United States. For these reasons and many others, he was drawn to Priscilla and wanted to spend a lot of time with her, which he did. Innocence was something he craved during such uncertain times. In Germany, the two arranged more visits, and eventually, Priscilla's father was adamant he needed to meet Elvis if they wanted to keep spending time together. Elvis made a good impression on Priscilla's parents, though they didn't understand what he would want with a teenager.

Elvis left Germany in March 1960 to go back home to the States, leaving Priscilla behind. She believed her shot to be with him was over, but their relationship only progressed in the years to come.

Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley in Priscilla /

Priscilla did move to Graceland, where she had to finish school

Priscilla and Elvis kept in touch over the phone for the next couple of years until Priscilla came to visit him in the States. In Elvis and Me, Priscilla says she first visited him in Los Angeles while he was shooting a movie, though Priscilla depicts her visiting him first at his Memphis mansion, Graceland. Just like in the movie, however, Priscilla did accompany Elvis on a trip to Las Vegas while on a visit in real life, and they continued getting closer and closer. This led to the couple eventually convincing Priscilla's parents to let her move to Memphis and finish high school there.

Priscilla moved to Memphis in Dec. 1962, though the compromise was that she had to move in with Elvis' father and stepmother close by. Priscilla kept her promise to her parents that she would graduate, though it wasn't an easy road. Staying up late with Elvis and his friends on school nights, Priscilla barely slept most nights and had to be up bright and early for school.

Elvis Presley, Priscilla Presley, Tom Jones
Elvis Presley / Avalon/GettyImages

Elvis did control what Priscilla wore

Just like in Priscilla, Elvis became very controlling over Priscilla in real life — down to her appearance. He took her shopping and would decide which colors or prints suited her best, encouraging her to get a new hairstyle and makeup style. (Cue the now-iconic Priscilla look.) Priscilla began wearing false eyelashes and winged eyeliner, and she even dyed her hair from brown to black. Even when Elvis was away shooting movies in L.A., he wanted her to remain the way he thought was best. If she wore an outfit he didn't find flattering, he would tell her straight to her face. This created an insecurity in Priscilla, as she was desperate for his approval. She also felt restless when he was on a movie shoot, not having anything to do while isolated from her family in Memphis.

Elvis and Priscilla did wait until marriage to have sex

Speaking of control, while Priscilla and Elvis shared their first kiss in Germany, they didn't have sex until they got married. Elvis wanted to preserve Priscilla's innocence, something he was losing in himself as he became older and more famous, and he also was fearful she'd become pregnant. Priscilla explained in her memoir that once a woman became pregnant, Elvis would see them more as a mother than a romantic interest. As Priscilla was becoming an adult and forming sexual needs, Elvis was suppressing his — or fulfilling his needs with other women. This made Priscilla increasingly frustrated, though she stuck around.

Elvis Presley, Priscilla Beaulieu
Way To A Man's Heart / Keystone/GettyImages

In Dec. 1996, Elvis decided it was time he and Priscilla got married, which she was ecstatic about. As was her family. This would finally prove that their relationship with legitimate — not only to her parents and the media but to Priscilla herself. They got married in May 1997 when Priscilla was 21 and Elvis was 32, opting for a 14-person wedding in Las Vegas followed by a bigger reception in Graceland after their honeymoon. Priscilla became pregnant soon after, explaining in Elvis and Me that Elvis would not allow her to take birth control. She was hesitant to tell Elvis at first, not sure what his reaction would be, but he was thrilled.

Unfortunately, there were still problems between Priscilla and Elvis. Just as we see in the movie, Elvis did ask Priscilla to separate while she was pregnant. However, he soon changed his mind and then never brought it up again.

“I don’t think Elvis really intended to leave me. It wasn’t his style," Priscilla wrote in a 1985 essay for the Orlando Sentinel. "I later realized he too had questions about how a baby would affect his life. Would his public accept him as a father? He wasn’t even sure whether his fans had adapted to his becoming a husband. How loyal would they be?” 

Priscilla movie on A24 /

On Feb. 1, 1968, Priscilla and Elvis' baby girl Lisa Marie was born, and yes, Priscilla did wear fake eyelashes while she gave birth. A double set of fake eyelashes, actually!

Elvis did have an affair (or more), which Priscilla called him out on

Just like in Priscilla, Priscilla did suspect Elvis of having multiple affairs, at least one of which he admitted to. It was believed the singer/actor would get close to his co-stars while filming movies in Los Angeles, though Elvis claimed those were just lies in the tabloids. Priscilla believed some of his excuses, but definitely not most. One of the heavily reported close relationships Elvis had while with Priscilla was with actress Ann-Margret, who he reportedly had an affair with. According to Elvis and Me, Priscilla confronted Elvis about it, even throwing a vase at the wall, but he just dismissed her.

"I want a woman who's going to understand that things like this might just happen," Priscilla recalled Elvis telling her at the time, via her memoir. "Are you going to be her or not?"

Singer Elvis Presley...
Singer Elvis Presley... / Getty Images/GettyImages

Now, here are a few things Priscilla left out.

Elvis' death is not covered in Priscilla

Though Elvis and Me is primarily about Priscilla's romance with Elvis, it does have a circular ending revolving around Elvis' death. When Elvis and Priscilla split in 1972, they still maintained a good relationship. They co-parented Lisa Marie and treated one another as their best friend, with Priscilla still coming to visit Graceland on occasion. Elvis and Priscilla's divorce was finalized in Oct. 1973.

“It was like we were never divorced,” Priscilla told PEOPLE. “Elvis and I still hugged each other, still had love. We would say ‘Mommy said this’ and ‘Daddy said that.’ That helped Lisa to feel stable. There was never any arguing or bitterness.” That said, Elvis' death was incredibly heartbreaking for Priscilla. This is not covered in the film; instead, the movie ends with Priscilla driving away after telling Elvis she was leaving him and saying goodbye to Graceland.

Elvis' death was rapidly declining in the '70s, having reportedly overdosed twice on barbiturates, and his live performances were becoming more and more of a struggle. On Aug. 16, 1997, Elvis' fiancé Ginger Alden (who is not featured in Priscilla) found him unresponsive in Graceland. He was pronounced dead at the age of 42 at Baptist Memorial Hospital that afternoon.

Elvis, Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley New York Press Conference - June 6, 1972 / Tom Wargacki/GettyImages

Elvis' friend allegedly assaulted Priscilla

Another big moment from Elvis and Me which is not included in Priscilla is an alleged assault that Priscilla recalled. While in Germany, Elvis would arrange for his father or his friends to drive Priscilla to and from his home, and during one of those times, Priscilla was taken advantage of. Though she did not disclose the man's name in her memoir (she gave him a placeholder name of "Kurt"), Priscilla revealed that Elvis' friend pulled over while she was falling asleep and tried to kiss her before throwing her down on the car seat:

"We had driven off the highway onto a dirt road. I could see the lights of one distant house, and the rest was all blackness. I began to get frightened. ‘What’s going on?’ I inquired, confused. By then Kurt had stopped the car and shut off the ignition. I repeated my question, but Kurt didn’t answer. Instead, he turned and grabbed me, trying to kiss me. I pushed him away, struggling. He threw me down on the seat. Panicked, I begged, ‘Don’t! Leave me alone!’ I started fighting. I kicked one door open and opened the driver’s door with my hand while simultaneously banging the horn, hitting ht lights, and scratching at his face. Out of frustration and fear of being caught, he finally gave up. The rest of the way home, he never said a word. I just sat there sobbing, disbelieving, praying that I would get home safely."

Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me

Priscilla explained in her memoir that she later told Elvis what happened, and the man was removed from the friend group. "When I finally did tell him, Elvis went berserk. ‘I’m going to kill him,’ he shouted," she wrote. Elvis frequently had a big posse around him, something that became frustrating to Priscilla who wanted more alone time with him, though it was uncertain who he could really trust.

Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley
Family at Home / Magma Agency/GettyImages

Priscilla had an affair which is only alluded to in the movie

In quick moments you might only realize if you're familiar with the true story, Priscilla does feature a couple of scenes of Priscilla's romantic interest Mike Stone. He's portrayed by actor Evan Annisette and makes a brief appearance later in the movie. As Priscilla explained in Elvis and Me, she formed a connection with her karate instructor which led to an affair. Their relationship lasted between 1972 and 1975, reportedly, and Elvis was furious when he found out about it. This came during a point in Priscilla's life when she was beginning to form an identity outside of her life with Elvis, which was incredibly fulfilling for her. She was finally becoming independent.

"A transformation had begun. Along with this new confidence, off came my false eyelashes and heavy makeup, the jewels, and flashy clothes. All devices that I depended upon for security now shed."

Priscilla Presley, Elvis and Me

Priscilla ends on a much more hopeful note than Elvis and Me does, highlighting the titular character's next chapter in life, away from the man who ruled her life for years. In real life, Priscilla still speaks very highly of her late ex-husband, and approves of the latest adaptation of her book — she served as an executive producer on Priscilla.

While participating in a Q&A in Nov. 2023, according to PEOPLE, Priscilla, now 78 years old, said of Coppola's film: “I think it's right on, to be honest with you.” She gushed over the director, adding: “If anyone were to do a movie, it would be for her. I would never support another movie from anyone else doing it.”

Priscilla is now available to stream on Max, or you can buy it on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.

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