Elvis in America
(A Movie Treatment - Copyright 2011)
This movie will be the first of its kind: the Elvis “what if” bio pic. It is both “true life” and “high concept” fantasy. This movie will ask the questions: what if Elvis didn’t die when and how he did, but instead had somehow found a way to turn his life around? It’s the story of a larger-than-life persona who gets a second chance through our imagination… an eternal story of redemption, told through perhaps the most iconic figure of modern American popular culture. This movie is a passion play of good versus evil, where the very soul of America is held in the balance as depicted in the character of Elvis. Will the nation’s “first son” of American music be lost in the excesses of success and soulless isolation, or will he be able to return to his roots and find meaning in his life once again? Audiences will cheer for Elvis as he struggles to rediscover the unique essence that once made both he, and America, great in the eyes of the world.
Shot from inside a ‘70’s era limo at night; lights and people surround the vehicle but the tones are hushed. The door to the limo opens and a silhouette of a hulking figure climbs into the spacious back seat alone. By the silhouette we can tell that it is “him”. The crunch of seat leather mixes with muffled hollering from outside the car's interior while the entourage in uniform red jackets mill around the silver limo. The figure now reclining in the back seat appears restless as he glances furtively out the limo window. He suddenly says “let’s go” and one of the red jackets pounds on the roof and the limo emerges from a dark underground garage onto the streets of Los Vegas at night, well lit by ‘70’s era signage. Elvis pushes an eight track tape in front of him and gospel music begins playing low inside the limo; he puts his head back and breaths deeply.
(Camera view from the back seat) …eventually we see the limo arriving at Caesar’s Palace. The limo abruptly drops down into a subterranean entrance with white glare of light passing over Elvis’ face, still upturned and eyes closed. He emerges from the limo in full regalia, having donned large sunglasses and wearing a cape over his jumpsuit. He is surrounded by his entourage and is escorted through the white cement underbelly of the performance center. The camera follows his back and his flowing cape and the members of his inner circle glance nervously at him but nobody dare interrupt his solitude as he travels through the bowels of where he is to perform. The sound of his band revving up the audience is obscured by the thick cement above the entourage. Despite the nervous vibrancy surrounding the entourage there is an eerie silence at its core where Elvis walks alone, his head bowed, lumbering forward. The entourage pauses in front of the opening to the stage and the sounds in the arena have grown much louder. Elvis looks through the portal to the stage and the his head slumps down on his chest, as if suddenly resigned to some reality and he nods and heads forward…
…suddenly the camera angle changes from following behind the entourage and now shoots from in front of Elvis as he emerges on stage with arms up and outstretched like the pope and the audience is on its feet displaying the many hopeful faces of common Americans…
The scene cuts abruptly ahead to Elvis seated at a piano near the end of his concert. One of the main entourage holds the mic for him as he plays “Unchained Medley” unaccompanied on the piano. He is sweating profusely, struggling in his white outfit with red and white cups of coke littering the piano. He finally finishes and the band breaks in, almost in relief from the vulnerability of his solo performance. He departs abruptly with his matching-jacketed entourage in tow with one hand raised in another pontifical salute. Elvis is being whisked back into the limo amidst flashbulbs, shouting and the band’s high energy closing number all which come to an abrupt and deadly quiet with the thud of the limo door closing behind Elvis. Elvis leans back; breathing heavy with a towel on his face and the hand banging the roof prompts the limo to remove Elvis from the building again in eerie silence
Camera cuts to Elvis alone that night with his doctor and his prescriptions putting him to bed… blurred visual of his photos near his bed…of his ex wife, daughter, mother… The Doctor (leaning over him) says something and Elvis murmurs in response. The scene is one of lonely regime. The Doctor leaves Elvis' bedroom in hushed tones and Elvis is alone staring at his prescription bottles littering his bedside table.
Scene(s) III etc.
The exposure of Elvis’ inner world continues with insights into how his manager, “The Colonel”, rules Elvis’ existence through drugs and head games that prey on Elvis’ weakness for his mother’s memory (“this is what your mama would have wanted”). His weak father remains on the scene but as little more than “hanger on in-chief”. You sense that Elvis desperately wished his father had been a stronger figure during his growing up, especially now that he is surrounded by those who may care but do not feel confident enough to intercede and consequently are complicit in The Colonel’s exploitative tendencies.
It’s Sunday morning and Elvis is being driven in the limo by one of the entourage. The driver has been with Elvis for a long time and sings background with Elvis on stage and in more intimate settings when Elvis wants to sing Gospel hymns with “the boys”. He was the man holding the mic in the concert scene. (He will be referred to as “#1” from now on.) Elvis is riding in back of the limo alone, sequestered from the glare of the late morning Memphis sun which is intense. He’s obviously had a rough night and is in no condition to meet the public lacking his full regalia and entourage. They are heading to an undisclosed location but the impression is from the scene that nothing too critical is scheduled that day for Elvis and he is daydreaming. They pass a church along the way that he has admired in the past and he mentions it to #1 who agrees speaking to the rear view mirror: “that’s one your favorites isn’t it sir”. But this time #1 is surprised when Elvis asks him to turn around and go back and pull over into the church’s parking lot. It’s an old white clapboard Baptist church with its spire rising high in the sky, white against blue and Elvis stares at it from inside the air conditioned limo. There’s a long pause as Elvis views the simple church from the back seat. Elvis remarks to #1 what he thinks would happen if he went in there. #1 responds almost automatically with a nervous laugh: “that’s probably not a good idea, boss”, as if Elvis can never leave his limo under any circumstances. Elvis makes a sound of acknowledgment knowing that it would be disruptive if he were to enter the sanctuary where he knows some local folks are deep in their private service… but then Elvis stops and speaks in a frustrated tone about how it seems he just can’t be a part of “anything simple and normal anymore” and – growing more contemplative – “maybe I don’t deserve to be part of what those people are doing in there”.
#1 asks nervously after a pause whether they “shouldn’t just get along” and waits for Elvis’ “go ahead” but instead, after a pause with #1 staring apprehensively into the rear view mirror, the camera shoots the door of the limo opening and Elvis’ boot landing in the hot dirt. Elvis gets out and leans against the car. He’s left the air-conditioned inner sanctum and is struggling with the heat and glare and does not appear well. He tries to put his sunglasses on but drops them and doesn’t pick them up. The hot air works up into a mild wind and Elvis is alone and confronting his truth and he starts to walk away from the limo towards the entrance to the church…#1 gets out of the limo with a concerned look on his face but doesn’t try to stop Elvis and instead leans down to pick up the glasses from the dirt.
(The camera angle changes to inside the church from the vantage of the pulpit looking towards the church entrance) Sounds of the choir are heard but this is a contemplative moment for the congregation and as Elvis enters the church from the front the congregation is turned away from him and no one in the front can see who is entering the church due to the glare. The preacher up front starts to sermonize and speaks to the congregation in preparation for Holy Communion. Elvis instinctively takes the communal thimble of grape juice and a wafer from a table near the front door and takes a position hiding in the shadows in the back of the pews pleased that he’s avoided detection.
The preacher speaks matter-of-factly: “Lord, we are here before you today as nothing more than a gang of sinners, pure and simple. (Murmured amen’s in the crowd)… We know we were born into this world with sin and evil … it’s there in our flesh and bones…can’t wash it out, can’t work it out, can’t excuse it or flee it …it’s in us...it’s who we are … and nothing but your grace can purge us of this ….this darkness that envelopes us (pause – the preacher focuses down on the congregation and lowers his chin in intensity and repeats the words) this dark condition…(Elvis’s is now kneeling in the shadows, his face bent low suddenly lifts as the sermon speaks these last words ...his hands begin to shake and the red communion juice begins to spill over his fingers as he listens intently, head still slightly bent and eyes wide open and getting wet… he lifts the thimble and wafer to his mouth and takes communion.
The Preacher continues with the church choir and organ humming in background: “God Almighty, by taking on your blood and flesh let us be released from this darkness…work it out of us before we are overwhelmed…take its grip from our very throats and let us breath again…let us see again, be again what you wish us to be…I ask only that…beg of you to deliver us from this place we have put ourselves …so that we might live again…that we might…(preacher stops as the camera shifts to the view from over the preacher’s shoulder as he notices Elvis approaching the front of the church though he’s only a silhouette due to the glare from the entrance. The preacher loses his train of thought and the congregation begins to murmur).
Elvis reaches the preacher who now realizes who he is and instinctively hands him the mic and Elvis for a moment is dumbfounded by his predicament of standing before a crowd that is slowly realizing who he is but doesn’t know why he has come before them. Elvis looks down and mumbles into the mic... “I’m sorry…I’ve interrupted your… um …I just…” (He pauses for a long moment and looks out over the hopeful faces of the common Americans standing in the pews and stares back at them as if to ask what should I do…then he looks down and collects himself enough to begin singing low and hesitantly a hymn. The preacher beckons to the choir to join in...But Elvis indicates with his hand that he has to do this all alone…
(Elvis sings “How Great Thou Art” entirely with his eyes close and unaccompanied mainly with his head slightly bent down in humility…his performance is not like any that he has done before live audiences; it is a study in vulnerability and grace.)
The camera pans over the congregation’s hopeful stare and when he is done, he looks up and tears are washing down his face and the church is exuberant and the choir and organ join in. #1 has entered the church and is approaching Elvis with his hands in his face crying with joy and they hug and depart together as silhouettes through the church entrance back into the glare of the light outside…the camera follows them from behind until the shot is overwhelmed with light.
Back at Graceland, The Colonel confronts #1 after hearing about what apparently happened that morning at the church. He’s angry that Elvis had any sort of experience, good or bad, that The Colonel didn’t know about or somehow help orchestrate. Not satisfied with #1’s explanation, the Colonel storms upstairs to Elvis’ room to confront him about his experience at the church. Elvis has been alone in his room thumbing the pages of his Bible, deep in contemplation of the words and solemnly jubilant. It’s clear he has had a transformation. But when he sees The Colonel barge into his room he has a scared look in his face as a child who had done something wrong. The Colonel immediately confronts him and demands to know in a loud voice what he intends to do “now that he’s had this so called ‘experience’?” The Colonel sneers in contempt: “What are we to make of this little free ‘hallelujah’ concert you gave at the East Memphis Church of the Living Water this morning?” Elvis tries to explain that he has had “a change” and he is not going to go on doing the same things he’s been doing. This clearly disturbs The Colonel who reminds him that he The Colonel and Elvis’ mother “were very close” and she would not have wanted this to happen. (Elvis looks up at The Colonel with surprise at this remark and begins to see him for who he is for the first time.) The Colonel reminds Elvis that his mother was also close to many of those who support him in putting on his concerts and whose livelihoods depend on Elvis’ consistent willingness to “be out there, performing for the fans who love him”. Elvis for a moment grows angry and says that “if anyone truly cared about me they would let me stop awhile and get a handle on who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing.” The Colonel is taken aback for a moment. Elvis seems surprised he’d said these things to The Colonel’s face or even that he’s said them at all. Finally, The Colonel collects himself and reminds Elvis that “we all already know who you are and what you’re gonna be today and all the tomorrows: and that’s E.L.V.I.S.” (He spells it out in bold capital letters in front of Elvis’s face), “nothing less, and nothing more”. With these words Elvis’ heads slumps down.
The Colonel leaves Elvis in turmoil. Elvis goes downstairs and finds his father watching television in the game room. He tries to talk to his father about what happened in church and how “for the first time in a long time how he feels like a man who is really alive.” He asks his father for guidance on what to do but he is no help and Elvis asks him what would his momma say and his father can’t answer except to say “she was an angel and thought the world of her boy”. Elvis smiles halfheartedly and says he’s going to bed but it’s obvious he’s not satisfied with his father’s counsel.
When Elvis returns to his room he has to face his demons as he ponders the host of pill bottles sitting by his bedside and as he sits down on the bed he begins shaking uncontrollably. Suddenly he phones #1 who comes to his door and Elvis whispers through the crack in the door “I need to leave this place right now”. #1 instinctively responds that he’ll bring the limo around and Elvis says “no” and asks that a less conspicuous car be brought out and waiting for him down the street. #1 pauses while it sinks in what Elvis is asking but then he smiles as he remembers the church episode and realizes where his loyalty rests. He nods in approval and leaves hurriedly.
Elvis tries to pack for his abrupt departure but nothing makes sense to bring with him. His room is full of trappings that seem inappropriate for wherever he’s now going. He laughs at his predicament and for the first time we see a carefree/joyful side of Elvis. In a moment he gets focused and picks up a bedside picture of his mom and begins digging into the depths of his large walk-in closet where he finds an old guitar buried. At the last minute he pauses and looks at his vast array of pills and with frustrated resignation grabs a few of the bottles and stuffs them in his pants pockets and races out of the room.
He’s dressed only in a pair of slacks and simple dress shirt. Lights and voices begin to respond to Elvis’ movements as he travels the grounds struggling to find a way out of the large fence that surrounds the compound that is Graceland. In a scene oddly similar to that of a prison breakout he ultimately reaches the car down the street just as the house fully becomes aware of his departure and he and #1 are forced to drive off quickly into the night. #1 turns to Elvis flush with excitement from the moment and asks “where the hell do you think we’re exactly going Elvis?” Elvis looks at #1 with child like excitement and replies simply: “West”…then he clarifies “the southwest …you know where they shot all those westerns…with John Wayne”. #1 says incredulously, “you mean Monument Valley…that’s gotta be couple days driving”. Elvis smiles as he rolls down the window and feels the breeze and looks out into the night like he’s a free man for the first time in a long time and says “well we better get started then…”
(What follows are a series of vignettes indicating the passage of time. The Nielson version of “Everybody’s Talking at Me” plays in the background while they drive for many miles through the flyover states of America)
#1 mentions the need to buy gas and Elvis pats himself down and blurts out “we’ve got no damn money”. #1 says “that’s right boss, you haven’t carried a wallet in I don’t know how many years…relax, I grabbed some cash on the way out – figured you wouldn’t be thinking to clearly on that front”. Elvis grows somber and says with an air of serious commitment that he’s “gonna have to buy me a wallet then”. They look at each other and laugh at Elvis' seriousness.
Elvis has to attempt driving after so many years of being chaffered (“I used to drive a truck for a living all day for god’s sake …how hard can it be”) He puts the car in gear and hits the accelerator too abruptly and the car lurches forward and the two fellow travelers giggle in bemusement.
They have a hard time getting food and staying on the run. Elvis starts exercising by the car when they’ve stopped to take a break and remarks he’s reminded of boot camp when he did his stint in the army. To avoid detection they come up with a makeshift disguise which leaves Elvis looking rather foolish while he tries to order something at a quick stop. #1 jokes with him that “if you keep losing weight nobody’s gonna recognize you anyway”.
He sits in the desert while #1 is fixing a flat in the background. He is reading the bible and looking off into the distance with the sun setting and there’s a confident youthful look returning to his face.
(There could also be some more significant scene here. Perhaps a transformative scene depicted in the dessert. For example, they run out of gas and begin walking and Elvis sees a vision.)
Eventually they reach the desert. They are in awe of its beauty having never left The Strip while performing in Las Vegas and otherwise staying in their home town of Memphis. They pull into a classic gas station and café in the middle nowhere but in a setting that indicates Monument Valley. Elvis begins to put on the makeshift disguise he’s been using to avoid detection. #1 says “this living out of car has got to end. Now that they’ve arrived where Elvis wanted to run to, nobody knows where you are so we should stop running”. Elvis points out that as soon as he “goes public” everyone will descend on him and he’ll be right back to where he was and “I’m not ready to go back just yet – haven’t got things sorted out…”. #1 is sympathetic but can’t help but laugh in Elvis’ face as he’s wearing this ridiculous disguise while they’ve been having this serious discussion. (It’s now become clear to the audience that they are no longer “the star” and a member of his entourage. They’ve been made equals in each other’s eyes by their travels together. #1 proposes they disclose his identify to one more person who they can trust so they can get some help in settling down somewhere to figure out their next step. Elvis hesitantly agrees.
The walk into the café and see a newspaper that reveals what The Colonel has been up to: spreading rumors to the press that Elvis is imbalanced and “may be a danger to himself or others”. This further confirms for both travelers that The Colonel is still a threat and that they need help. They have to disclose Elvis’ identity to a third person who can help them secure a place to stay, meals and so on. #1 is watching the café’s waitress talk with customers while they’re talking and sees something simple and honest in her. He quietly, confidently tells Elvis to go into the bathroom and remove his disguise at wait there. Elvis does so: “I hope you know what you’re doing”. #1 calls the waitress over and tells her his friend wants to talk to her in the bathroom and she gets upset thinking this is some weird sexual overture. #1 tries to make it clear his friend needs her help and that’s all it is. In the end, the waitress, being spirited and confident enough to handle anything, and out of pure intrigue, heads to the back of the café with the camera following her as she pushes the door open only to find Elvis sitting on the toilet fully clothed but humble and apprehensive without any disguise. They just stare at each other is this surreal scene until Elvis remarks politely “did you all know you all are out of toilet paper”. The waitress without missing a beat turns and yells over her shoulder with some tension in her voice to the cook, “I’m taking a break, Hal” and the cook hollers “ok”. The waitress turns her gaze back to Elvis still sitting on the toilet and the scene cuts.
The waitress is walking with Elvis and #1 out behind the café in the desert. Elvis has his disguise back on and it’s a droll scene as he and #1 are both babbling about their predicament and the waitress has a dazed look on her face. Abruptly they cut to the chase and ask her if she’s willing to go along with their little adventure and without a lot of thought she responds “sure” but the look on her face is that of someone who hasn’t fully apprehended what just happened.
At some point later when she is alone with #1, the waitress remarks how her parents used to played “his stuff” but Elvis’ music “was never really part of her world …it’s like seeing a ghost from another era.” This gives #1 pause and he feels it necessary to give her some insight. He reminds the waitress what made Elvis so truly remarkable on a host of levels: how his personal creativity and vision launched a whole new sound. How the Beatles stood in silent awe when they first met him and Lennon said that before Elvis “there was nothing”. How he was also just a man of simple integrity who had the same manager his entire career who advised him to go into the army at the peak of his career. At some point the waitress asks, “but what happened” alluding to the last few years and Elvis’ decline. #1 pauses and then begins to explain that when his mama died Elvis lost his moral compass and stabilizing influence she’d always had on him. The Colonel stepped in and started to milk the cash cow not caring about Elvis the person. “We all went along with it”, thinking The Colonel knew best until it was too late and Elvis was just being trotted out in Las Vegas “like some circus freak”. #1 turns away in disgust at the part he may have played in this bastardization of what was once a pure and powerful creative force. The waitress comforts him and appears to now understand Elvis better than most his fans.
Elvis is alone in the room above the café where they are staying. The room is spare and Elvis is looking svelte for his age in a white tee-shirt and simple black pants. He’s strumming his old guitar while he sits on the bed and the sound of gas station activity is off in the distance below. He’s strumming “Love me Tender” and humming a little and he peers over at the picture of his mom that he still has by his bed and he stare at it and asks “are you still proud of me, momma?” Then he sighs and puts his chin on his guitar and looks off and asks with apprehension and lack of confidence, “I sure hope so.” At that point the waitress knocks and peaks in to ask if he needs anything. She’s brought a sandwich which she hands him and he looks at the simple meal and chuckles about some of the “god awful stuff I’ve been eating back at Graceland”. The moment between them grows awkward for a moment and then she, obviously having had her eyes opened a lot by her conversation with #1, earnestly remarks that she’s really impressed with what he’s doing. She too has been trying to turn her life around though not quite on the same scale. She continues “but it’s hard, one day bleeds into the next and nothing seems to happen and you wonder whether you’re dreams were just that. Elvis remarks “be afraid of what you dream for” and they both laugh thinking of how Elvis’ showbiz “dream” got a bit out of hand. He asks what she’s working towards and she laughs again and shakes her head: “you’re not going to believe it but” … (hesitating)…”I got this band…more like a couple of local idiots who think they can play and better yet think I can sing and we’ve been practicing and practicing and someday we might get the nerve to actually have somebody hear it.” Elvis smiles and nods knowingly then remarks thoughtfully: “I never had a band when I was starting out…oh, I played with different guys and they were my backup but I was always out there on my own really…I would have liked to have had a little band when I was younger. A couple of yahoos and me sitting around in my dad’s garage talking about how cool it would be to get big…never had that…think that’s where half the fun is…dreaming with a bunch of guys and playing for the pure hell of it…I truly missed out on that”. The waitress laughs and says he’s welcome to come jam with her band “anytime you’d like to blow an afternoon getting nowhere. We rehearse at the gas station garage every Tuesday and Thursday after the station closes as 6:00”. Elvis looks down and grows serious: “I don’t think I’m ready for that quite yet”. She now realizes he’s still in turmoil about what he’s done and the wisdom of it and they both grow silent. Elvis appears comforted by her presence.
The Colonel is sitting in his office and appears to be hot on Elvis’ path, talking excitedly with his minions on the phone. Behind him is a map of America with pins in different spots and it's titled "Elvis Sightings". He is more determined than ever to keep the remaining dates he’d booked for Elvis. He’s talking to The Palace in Las Vegas and yelling to the booking agent “You better believe it, that boy is still mine and I will get that prize bull to market”. He hangs up and stuffs a cold cigar in his mouth and looks off in frustrated determination.
Elvis is lying on bed staring at the ceiling and you can tell it’s a hot night with the windows open and the dessert stretching off into the distance and the highway silent without any traffic. (Camera angles capture the “Route 66” retro Americana feeling of the location). Elvis has the bible and some paperbacks sprawled open on his chest (maybe Jack Kerouac) and he puts it down to stare at the ceiling again. He hears the Waitress’ band practicing in the garage next door and smiles. He rolls over on his side and looks at his mother’s picture on the bed stand. He looks down and smiles as if he’s made a decision.
The scene cuts to the band in the midst of rehearsal in the back of the garage where old gas station relics clutter the space. It’s hot and the big garage doors are open to the deserted highway. They’ve all put in a long day at their regular jobs. They love what they’re doing but are a little too cavalier for the Waitress’ taste and she’s obviously growing exasperated with them: “Look guys, we’re never going anywhere if we can’t get serious”. Suddenly she catches out of the corner of her eye that Elvis is standing in the dark office of the garage peering at the band from the shadows. She stops and thinks for a moment: “listen up” and the band stops it’s grab-assing for a moment and begrudgingly gives her attention. The Waitress pauses and then says apprehensively, “I know this guy…who can sing”. The band responds immediately with dismissive laughter and snide remarks:”What do we need with another singer”; “we need a roadie before we get another singer”. (The camera shoots to Elvis standing in the shadows with a close up that shows his apprehension at where the Waitress is going with this.) She takes control again: (clearly she wears the pants in the band): “I’m serious...I think we should give him a shot”. The band responds: “Where’s he work…it isn’t that guy who works at the video store is it, ‘cause I swear to god he can’t sing a lick”. The band keeps talking about which local denizen it might be while the Waitress tries to speak over them: ”He used to drive truck a long time ago…and well, he’s kinda (pause as the band listens) older…”(band groans loudly)…she yells over them …”but I think we should give him a chance”….and (pause…band grows quiet)… I sort of invited him over tonight…(more groans)….she uses her hands to stop the guys from grousing anymore and they sense she’s very serious…”and there’s something else I’ve got to tell you about this guy…she glances over to where Elvis is standing and the band grows quiet again sensing something in how the Waitress is preparing them. (The shot becomes a close up with Elvis hiding in the dark. The audience can hear the Waitress telling the now quiet band members the rest of the story but it’s not discernable exactly what she is saying. The audience can see from his face that he is growing evermore apprehensive, wondering why he came to rehearsal if he was not ready to face a return to the stage.)
The camera cuts back into the garage and the band is speechless and staring at the Waitress who has finished talking and is waiting nervously for the band’s reaction. There’s a long pause and then the drummer, who is the biggest goof-off, busts out guffawing and pointing at the waitress: “You got us good that time, sister! Elvis my ass!” The rest of the band chimes in, getting the joke they think she’s played on them: “Yeah, Elvis, righhtttt…” “Yeah good one”. “Isn’t he kinda fat now, we don’t need any more fat guys”, says the bassist who is heavyset…“no really, who is this jerk” etc. The Waitress looks over to where Elvis is still hiding during this outburst and indicates that she “gives up” and the balls in his court. Elvis turns to leave and the Waitress’s shoulders drop in despair but something suddenly stops Elvis and he turns back to the Waitress who is still focusing on him with an earnest and comforting look. The band realizes the Waitress is staring off into the dark office and they turn their attention there as well. (The camera views the dark office and slowly hesitantly Elvis begins to emerge from the shadows. The camera stays on Elvis’ face as he comes slowly forward and confronts the band members as well as his own fears. All that can be heard is the sound of a drum stick dropping.)
The scene cuts ahead to later that evening. The Waitress and Elvis are standing apart, facing the band who has heard the whole story by now. Though they are still somewhat in a state of disbelief they are somehow ready to play. The drummer shrugs his shoulders and nonchalantly asks, “Well, what should we play then”. The Waitress sensing the critical moment, asks Elvis if he knows an Emmylou Harris number “Making Believe”. Elvis indicates he’s not sure so she half whispers a little of the song into the mic, coaxing Elvis who ultimately indicates he recalls the number enough to sing along. Then, out of respect for the band, Elvis sheepishly asks, “if that’s all right with you guys”. The drummer dumbly responds “sure….ah….Mr. Presley”. He pushes the beers away from his drum kit and a few bottles drop as he tries to straighten up things, now realizing he’s going to back a living legend. The Waitress says “here” and hands Elvis a copy of the lyrics scrawled in her handwriting. He comments that it won’t be the first time he’s needed “lyrics in front of me when I sing”. She pauses a moment and then starts to sing sweetly with just her acoustic guitar and the band begins to join in and Elvis ultimately begins to harmonize. The song builds slowly and ends beautifully with the Waitress and Elvis locked in harmony and each other’s gaze. The moment is both tender and tense until one of the band members remarks “I think I mighta been out of tune… want to do it again?” and with that the tension is released. Elvis and the Waitress look down and smile and the rest of the band members begin to talk excitedly about what other songs they’ll do and the future in general. (The camera backs out slowly through the big garage doors until it sits across the street with the sounds of the desert at night and the scene is of a perfect little innocent and simple American gas station aglow.)
Cuts back to The Colonel in harsh juxtaposition to the scene in the garage where Elvis has been reborn. The Colonel sits with his feet on his office desk and behind him is a map of America with many red pushpins. He is relentless and agitated as he drops his feet from the desk and leans into his minions directing them to beat the bushes for any “Elvis sightings” (he pauses and reflects on the phrase he’s just invented). He grows pensive and tells them he is “just worried about our boy. I mean he’s an indoor cat don’t you all understand …a domesticated animal…not use to the wilds …god only knows what’s happened to him…I just want our boy back…don’t you see? His minions nod “yeah boss” but they look nervous like they hope Elvis won’t be found.
The waitress is sitting down with #1 in the café. She tells #1 about the grand reopening of a local theater that the town had rallied around to save from demolition. #1 is half listening. She tells him coyly that the band that was originally booked for the gala “broke up or something” and she pauses and gestures to #1, “Don’t you see, this is our big chance!” #1 looks off with concern, “do you think Elvis is ready?” The waitress sighs, “I don’t know…rehearsals have been going real good don’t you think? (#1 who was a member of Elvis’ act has started to sit in with the band). He responds, ”I guess he could wear some sort of disguise…don’t know what he’ll do for sure when he gets in front of a real audience…what do you think…?” The waitress answers in exasperation, “I don’t know either but I know in my heart he wants to get back on stage …you’ve told everybody in the band to keep their mouths shut, right?” #1 answers firmly: “absolutely” but both stop talking and look away with concerned looks on their faces.
The drummer in the band is working at his day job and the guys he works with start ribbing him about his “so called” band and how they never develop to the point where they’re gonna do an actual show. The drummer is getting upset and starts to imply they have a “real big singer” working with them now. Most of the workmates dismiss this as bunk and leave the scene but one cute female co-worker who the drummer wants to impress stays behind and the camera pans out as they start talking ….
Café phone rings and waitress picks it up. The voice of The Colonel is on the line asking if she knows the whereabouts of Elvis: “heard some things and just thought you might be able to help me find this lost soul…it could mean a lot of money for you”. The waitress senses danger and acts dumb, but after she hangs up she has a worried look.
That night Elvis and the waitress are talking and she asks him about the Colonel and he explains that he was a young man when he met The Colonel and needed help with his music career which was just starting to take off. “Momma didn’t always trust The Colonel but Dad thought he was a good guy to have in our corner.” (Elvis stops to contemplate what he’s saying) In The Colonel’s defense Elvis explains that after his momma passed he “was still in the thick of it and needed a lot of support and advice and he wasn’t getting it from Daddy and well, the Colonel was the only one around who could keep answering all the questions coming at him from the press, the record label, movie studio, fan clubs you name. It was a real circus and The Colonel was the ringleader and I guess I needed one at the time…” (Elvis pauses again thinking about his words and what they reveal about his history with The Colonel.) The waitress tells Elvis apprehensively about the phone call and Elvis grows agitated. “Oh, he’s definitely coming then…somebody in the band talked sure as hell…how else would he have found me”. The waitress tries to calm him and assure him that nobody in the band talked but Elvis knows better and can’t be calmed. The waitress tries to change the subject and bring up the movie house reopening gig but this is the first he’s heard of it and he starts to get even more agitated. She explains that this is “just a little show to a bunch of nobodies” compared to what he’s done but Elvis can see it’s much bigger than that. She admits the show is in two days and Elvis stares off and she realizes it may have been a mistake booking it. “Let’s just call it a night, ok Honey.” She leaves the room after kissing him. Elvis opens his bags and pulls out bottle of pills and stares at their labels. He decides to down some and ends up taking the rest of the bottle and wrapping the pillow around his head. The scene cuts to The Colonel driving in the desert in the middle of the night with a look of steely determination on his face…
The waitress confronts the drummer as she suspects someone spilled the beans and the drummer with his head down nods confirming her suspicions. She forgives him and he apologizes profusely and says he doesn’t want anything more in the world then “to just play this gig with Elvis. We’re sounding better than ever and I just hope to God I didn’t screw this up.” The waitress comforts him and assures him she’ll take care of everything, “just make the show and don’t be late”.
The Colonel arrives in town and quickly locates Elvis in bed nursing a drug induced hangover. He surprises Elvis and they have a fast hard talk like nothing either of them has ever experienced with each other. Elvis is weak but yet somehow more confident than he’s ever been in the face of The Colonel. The Colonel pulls out all the stops – “I’ve devoted pretty much my entire career in music to you and you think you can just walk away from me…from your fans…is that what your momma…” Upon hearing mention of his momma again Elvis has an outburst and grabs The Colonel to stop him mid sentence. It’s obviously the first time. The Colonel looks at Elvis in shock and Elvis says slowly into the Colonel’s face, “I want you to stop ever bringing up my momma in these conversations”. The Colonel storms out having failed to convince Elvis to come back to the fold but leaves knowing that Elvis is struggling with his demons and is back on the pills.
The waitress arrives to pick Elvis up for the show and finds him in a state of distress. He explains that The Colonel just found him and “it was a bad scene” there’s no telling what he’ll try to pull next. She tells Elvis about the drummer talking and that by the time they go on stage tonight who knows how many folks in the audience will be looking for Elvis to appear. “The running is over Elvis, you’ve got nothing to fear.” This gives pause to Elvis who thinks about what’s been happening to him now that this could be his “coming out”. Elvis grows contemplative now that the chase is over. He speaks in sad tired tones as he sits on the bed, “I’ve spent so long being what other folks want me to be…I mean I knew what I wanted out of the music but pretty soon something else took over, something a whole lot bigger than me and my dreams and well, once that crazy beast took off that was all she wrote. He pauses. I’ve been playing with you and the guys and it sounds good…sounds real good and I finally thought I’d figured out what I wanted to be from now on, but I’m not too sure anyone’s gonna let me be it. I mean this audience tonight is gonna want the “real deal”, the “original” Elvis and I’m not one for disappointing a whole bunch of descent folks with some head trip about what I really wanna be now that I’ve discovered myself or something…” (He buries is head in his hands)
The waitress puts her arms around his neck: “Listen, your right. It is good what we’ve been doing and that’s worth a whole lot…so let’s go take it to the people.” (They embrace and now it becomes obvious they are both in this together). The waitress takes a serious tone and looks Elvis in the eyes as she continues: “But don’t go blaming it on the fans or The Colonel if it doesn’t work out. They didn’t make you sell out cheap in the past… that’s a decision you had to make…so this time we’re not going to cop out. Sure they want the “original” but which “original’ are we talking about. ‘Cause I’m talking about the guy who turned music upside down in his head and then made sure you got it to the people because that’s what you had a mind to do. And in the end that’s what the people wanted. Now isn’t that the same “original” standing right in front of me? In the end it’s one in the same guy, a guy who came out of nowhere and surprised everybody. Do it again Elvis and they’ll follow…they’re ready to follow that guy again…they’re ready to follow you, Honey. Now are you ready to go? Elvis smiles sheepishly and slips his arm around her waist and picks up his guitar case and they head to the door to leave for the show.
Scene cuts to Elvis going on stage with the Waitress and their band. The stage is part of an old movie theater lovingly restored by the community. He looks out at the auditorium filled with the locals with hopeful looks on their faces applauding and cheering and he realizes he’s come home to America and he has nothing to fear. The Colonel is watching from the back of the theater and sees the same thing and looks down for moment thinking. When he looks up again there’s a funny look on his face as if he’s perhaps realized Elvis is no longer “his boy” and turns and walks out of the theater. Elvis raises both arms to the audience and yells with genuine exuberance…”thanks for welcoming me home tonight folks!” The crowd cheers, the music starts and the scene fades.