Baz Luhrmann was four days away from shooting his Elvis Presley biopic when production shut down after Tom Hanks tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.
The Oscar-winning actor was in Australia with his wife Rita Wilson preparing to start filming Elvis, in which he plays the rock ‘n’ roll star’s longtime manager Colonel Tom Parker, when they both tested positive for the virus in March and were quarantined in hospital.
In an interview with Deadline, Elvis director Luhrmann revealed that the team, including Austin Butler as Presley, had been in rehearsals when the tests came back positive and they shut down immediately that day, only four days away from shooting.
“I was four days out from shooting. I had built the Vegas showroom, the International which became the Hilton, and you know that famous scene where Elvis is playing that showroom?” he explained, referring to when Presley was mobbed and kissed by dozens of fans. “We were rehearsing camera positioning, everything, and I’d done all the tests, Austin, Tom, and the whole cast was on fire. We were that close.”
The Moulin Rouge! filmmaker revealed they were in the middle of rehearsing that scene when his producer came in to tell him about Hanks.
“So, I’m getting ready to begin shooting on a Monday, and I’m rehearsing the scene where we’ve built the Vegas showroom, and Tom guides in Austin as Elvis, and it’s a scene where basically hundreds of girls are kissing Elvis, in a ’70s show,” Luhrmann recalled. “Tom guides him through the crowd. All of a sudden, I see my producer, Patrick McCormick on the set… You and the world knows what happened next.”
The crew used the footage to help track down anyone who had been in contact with Hanks and they all had to quarantine for 14 days. They were tested and it turned out “we never had one more infection in the entire crew”.
Hanks and Wilson are now recovered from the virus and are back home in the U.S. They have donated some blood to help create a vaccine.
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