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Jacob Elordi‘s come a long way with his Elvis Presley accent. In an Oct. 23 interview on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Elordi explained that, prior to his casting in Sofia Coppola’s upcoming A24 film “Priscilla”, most of what he knew about the music icon came from Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch.” His polarizing accent was born only after Coppola asked him to read for the iconic role. “It wasn’t on my list of people to play,” Elordi said. “It was a little bit terrifying.”

Per Coppola’s request, he read a few lines of the script, but kept expectations low. “I kind of just was like, ‘There’s just no chance that this is happening,'” Elordi said. To get into character, he watched a clip of Presley in Germany, reading the lines for a mere 15 minutes before moving forward with his own takes, apparently “not thinking that it would go anywhere.” In the late night clip, Elordi imitated the voice he initially used in the audition, mumbling gibberish in a deep Elvis grumble.

Elordi certainly got to work after being cast, and when the trailer was released on Oct. 3, the actor received early praise for his performance. There were also, of course, many comparisons to Austin Butler’s award-winning portrayal in 2022’s “Elvis.” “Jacob Elordi looks and sounds like Elvis Presley; much more so than Austin Butler did,” one commenter wrote below the video, directly referencing Butler’s turn as the singer, along with the unshakeable southern twang he used.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, another person noted that the “goofiness” of Elordi’s accent might detract from the suspenseful nature of the film, which focuses primarily on Elvis’s wife, Priscilla Presley. Some also compared Elordi’s dialect to that of his hot-headed “Euphoria” character, Nate Jacobs. “Looks good but he sounds a little like the giraffe from the ‘Madagascar’ movie,” a particularly candid viewer wrote, referencing David Schwimmer’s lovable Melman.

However, at the New York Film Festival on Oct. 6, during a press conference that POPSUGAR was on hand for, Elordi explained that he wasn’t going for the exact Elvis accent that fans are most used to hearing. “If you want to see an Elvis impersonator, you can go to Vegas,” he said. “I think it was about capturing the essence of this person. And the biggest thing for me was trying to identify and find where the human being was under all the glitz and the gold and the voice and the caricatures and all these things. It was a search to find a real-life element.”

The thing he and the rest of the creative team focused on, he said, was what life in Graceland was really like, when the public was gone and the cameras were off. “Now, when I speak in front of people, I have a performing voice. That’s not how I speak when I’m at home. And so it’s not always this deep thing, is it?” he said, mimicking a deeper, more classic Elvis voice. “I was just trying to figure out how to make him the normal person that he was.”

Of course, Butler, in his portrayal of the icon, was not immune from accent-centric criticism either. Throughout his reign as the King of Rock & Roll, the rigorous schedule for Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” seemed to take a toll on his Southern California vocals. His movie accent intercepted speeches, popped up in daily conversations, and even became the subject of interviews, forcing him to evaluate just how immersed he really was. “I don’t think I sound like him still, but I guess [it must be] because I hear it a lot,” he told Variety in the press room at the 2023 Golden Globes. “I had three years where [Elvis] was my only focus in life, so I’m sure there’s just pieces of my DNA that will always be linked in that way.”

Now Elordi gets to take a turn in the proverbial hot seat, portraying a darker side to Elvis and Priscilla’s relationship with a deep, gravelly accent to match. Elordi is used to playing the villain, and maybe that’s why his take on the elusive accent already seems somewhat familiar. At this point, though, we’re not convinced any actor will completely nail it. Ultimately, both versions are artistic portrayals and should be treated as such. No matter what, the Elvis accent has reentered the cultural zeitgeist, and that’s what counts.

Additional reporting by Victoria Edel