Sofia Coppola Explains the Poignant Conclusion of ‘Priscilla’ with Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’
In a thought-provoking revelation, celebrated director Sofia Coppola provides insight into her latest film, ‘Priscilla,’ and the poignant choice of using Dolly Parton’s iconic ballad, ‘I Will Always Love You,’ in the movie’s concluding moments. The film, a poignant portrayal of Priscilla Presley’s relationship with Elvis Presley, takes the audience on an emotional journey from their first meeting to their tumultuous marriage. A central theme explored in the film is the power dynamic in their relationship due to Priscilla’s age and Elvis’ immense stardom, a subject that still resonates today.
Coppola, in an interview with Vogue, delved into the significance of the song choice at the movie’s conclusion. Faced with the challenge of securing rights to Elvis’s music, the director decided to use Dolly Parton’s iconic tune. “I Will Always Love You” plays as Priscilla (portrayed by Cailee Spaeny) listens to it after making the life-altering decision to ask Elvis for a divorce. Coppola shared the story of how Dolly Parton’s refusal to sell the song to Elvis became an integral part of the film’s narrative.
“When I first thought about telling her story, I wanted it to begin and end with her time at Graceland,” explained Coppola. She emphasized the importance of capturing the image of Priscilla driving away from Graceland to embark on a new chapter in her life. The director was insistent on featuring “I Will Always Love You” because it encapsulated the emotional turmoil Priscilla felt at that pivotal moment. Despite her enduring love for Elvis, Priscilla knew it was time to move forward.
Coppola also underscored the significance of ending the film with a woman’s voice, a deliberate choice that adds depth to Priscilla’s empowerment. Dolly Parton’s song, with its blend of pain, love, and heartache, perfectly encapsulated Priscilla’s emotions. The director was grateful to Dolly Parton for allowing the use of her song, noting that the lore surrounding it was an essential element of its appeal.
The use of “I Will Always Love You” in ‘Priscilla’ adds a layer of feminist symbolism to the film, given the song’s history. Dolly Parton originally wrote and recorded the song in 1973 as a declaration of her independence from her professional partner, Porter Wagoner, as she embarked on her solo career. It became a powerful anthem of self-determination.
The song’s connection to Elvis is particularly compelling. Elvis, impressed by the song’s success, expressed interest in recording a cover of it. However, Dolly Parton’s decision not to sell the song to him speaks volumes about her strength and independence as an artist. She refused to sign over half of her publishing rights to one of the biggest names in the music industry, an act that many considered a feminist statement.
Ultimately, Dolly Parton’s refusal to sell her song to Elvis drew a parallel to Priscilla’s decision in ‘Priscilla.’ Just as Parton stood her ground against a powerful male star, Priscilla refused to yield to Elvis’s desires and took control of her own life. This symbolic choice of song and its historical significance contribute to the film’s powerful conclusion, making ‘Priscilla’ not just a love story but a testament to the strength and resilience of women.