Throughout the years, Elvis Presley was offered a variety of movie roles that were turned down by his manager, Col. Tom Parker. These include: The Rainmaker, Thunder Road, West Side Story, Bye-Bye Birdie, Walk on the Wild Side and Midnight Cowboy.
In 1975, Barbra Streisand and Jon Peters would offer the lead role of John Norman Howard in her remake of “A Star is Born”. Elvis agreed to do it. What happened?
Col. Tom Parker never wanted Elvis to outgrow him. That is why he deliberately put him Grade-B musicals with Grade-B actors. Maximum profit, low cost hamburger.
To kill the “Star is Born” deal, Col. Parker made outrageous demands… $1 million upfront, $100,000 in expenses, star billing and the right to choose the songs and change the script. The Colonel wanted all drug references removed. He didn’t want Elvis’s character seen taking dope. “The death of irony.” The character of John Norman Howard is basically Elvis himself. A mega-star whose career is on the decline because of drugs, booze and self-indulgence. Just prop Elvis up in front of the cameras and let him be himself. Did Elvis recognize this fact?
The producers offered the Colonel a percentage of the profits which would have made him and Elvis many millions of dollars. Parker, of course, turned them down.
Furthermore, the Parker would put it in Elvis’s head that Streisand-Peters went to him first (instead of the Colonel), to take advantage of him. This played on Elvis’s worst fears, to be thought of as a “hillbilly rube”. The Colonel had spent twenty years controlling “his boy”. He knew how to push his buttons. It’s especially sad considering the King was already forty years old.
Ego had everything to do with it. Col. Tom Parker was offended beyond belief that Barbra Streisand would offer a movie deal to Elvis without consulting him. This, above all else, destroyed it.
Kris Kristofferson replaced Elvis. The movie went on to be #2 at the box officer for 1976, winning an Oscar for “Best Song” (“Evergreen”) and Golden Globes for Kristofferson and Streisand.
If the Colonel had been any kind of a manager, he would have encouraged, even forced, Elvis to do this role. It would have presented the challenge he needed. Instead, Elvis would return to his Howard Hughes-style of existence. In those last two years, he did a few more records and a disastrous TV-special shown posthumously of a crumbling rock star who blew it.
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