Steve Binder and Elvis Presley on the set of the singer’s well-known 1968 comeback particular. (Picture: Getty Photographs)
He has directed a few of the largest names within the music historical past — from Petula Clark to Diana Ross — however Steve Binder is aware of there’s just one musician that everybody needs to speak to him about. “Any person mentioned to me years in the past, ‘Steve, regardless of what number of exhibits you do, you will all the time be remembered for Elvis Presley’s present,'” Binder tells Yahoo Leisure with a understanding snort. “They usually have been proper! Ninety-nine p.c of the time, all people who approaches me needs to listen to about Elvis.”
Think about it each the blessing and the curse of helming what’s not solely the best televised live performance that the late singer ever shot, but in addition one of many best televised concert events of all time. That may be 1968’s Singer Presents… Elvis, higher often known as the ’68 Comeback Particular, which revived Presley’s then-moribund singing profession after a prolonged stint cranking out more and more foolish Hollywood films.
With the particular poised to have a good time its fifty fifth anniversary this December, Binder lends his firsthand data of the way it all got here collectively to the brand new documentary Reinventing Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Particular. Directed by John Scheinfeld and produced by Spencer Proffer’s Meteor 17, the movie will play in theaters on July 30, after which stream solely on Paramount+ within the U.S. and Canada on Aug. 15, adopted by a world streaming launch within the U.Okay., Latin America, Brazil, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy on Aug. 16. (Binder and Bruce Gillmer are additionally government producers.)
Reinventing Elvis premieres August 15 on Paramount+ (Picture: Courtesy Paramount+)
Contemplating the plethora of Elvis tasks working their method via Hollywood within the wake of Baz Luhrmann’s Oscar-nominated film, the director admits that he required slightly additional convincing to take part in Reinventing Elvis. (Binder was a inventive advisor on Luhrmann’s Elvis, with breakout Stranger Issues star Dacre Montgomery enjoying Binder within the movie’s recreation of the ’68 particular) “I used to be approached by Spencer and John and informed them, ‘Look, guys, why ought to I do one other [project] about this particular?'” Binder remembers. “They usually mentioned, ‘Since you’re the one man that was there from the very starting to the very finish.’ That was their pitch and I liked it, so I mentioned, ‘I am in.'”
Talking with Yahoo Leisure in 2018 for the particular’s fiftieth anniversary, Binder shared the broad define for the way this system got here collectively. Initially pitched to NBC by Presley’s notoriously controlling supervisor, Col. Tom Parker, as a Christmas particular, the telecast as a substitute morphed right into a celebration of the singer’s influences and early years as a rock ‘n’ roll firebrand. Though that shift in course made Parker livid, Binder and Presley remained true to their shared imaginative and prescient and efficiently sidelined the supervisor throughout the months-long manufacturing course of.
Binder attends a Paley Heart occasion in 2008. (Picture: Courtesy Getty Photographs)
“We have been mirrors of one another,” Binder muses now. “We had the identical inside fireplace, and have been keen to place within the work. My complete expertise with Elvis was constructive, from the very first day I met him to the final day we mentioned goodbye, and I by no means noticed or talked with him once more. You are always listening to this yin and yang about him — that he was an important man and he was additionally a womanizer. However I simply wish to stay with my expertise from ’68 the place I actually liked the man.”
Reinventing Elvis takes a deeper dive into the making of the Comeback Particular, that includes interviews from a few of the surviving performers and viewers members, in addition to Presley specialists inserting it within the context of the instances and the singer’s profession. However because the filmmakers knew, Binder stays the ultimate authority on this specific slice of rock historical past. The now-90-year-old director shares some new tales from his one-on-one collaboration with Presley, and why he thinks that Tom Hanks ought to have gotten an Oscar nomination for his divisive portrayal of Parker in Elvis.
Ladies, Ladies, Ladies
Presley works his magic within the ’68 Comeback Particular. (Picture: Courtesy Steve Binder Archives)
By his personal admission, Presley had a gentle string of on-set affairs together with his main girls. (The one exception? Mary Tyler Moore.) And there have been definitely loads of ladies on the set of the Comeback Particular, each within the viewers and sharing the stage with Elvis, who Binder says lived on the NBC studio lot throughout the shoot whereas his spouse, Priscilla Presley, and their then-newborn daughter, Lisa Marie, have been residing elsewhere. “Elvis had rented a house for Priscilla and the child in Beverly Hills, and did not wish to waste time touring backwards and forwards,” the director remembers, including that he wasn’t personally privy to whether or not or not his star received as much as any hanky-panky on set.
“I am essentially the most naive individual on the earth,” Binder says, chuckling. “If he was doing something, I used to be oblivious of it! I used to be targeted on doing the most effective particular I presumably may. However I am positive someone in his sneakers — and there aren’t very many — have been magnets to ladies.”
Binder additionally would not recall any private set visits from Presley’s spouse and daughter throughout the months-long shoot. The truth is, he did not have his first assembly with Lisa Marie — who handed away in January — till a long time later and even then it was over the telephone. “Lisa referred to as me up in the future and mentioned she was very disturbed with all these rumors going round that Elvis should be alive,” he says. “This was when she was nonetheless married to Michael Jackson. She wished to tackle the press, however I suggested her not to try this. I mentioned, ‘That is what they need you to do. Simply let it occur and it will ultimately burn out.’ Which it did.”
That decision was Binder’s solely contact with Presley’s daughter, however he says that he is a giant fan of the singer’s granddaughter, Riley Keough. “She’s sensational: I’ve by no means met her, however she’s a terrific actress. I believe it would nearly be a detriment that she’s so tied to her grandfather, as a result of she will be able to make it on her personal. She’s that proficient.”
Too scorching to deal with
Susan Henning and Presley within the well-known “bordello scene” that was lower from the unique broadcast of the ’68 Comeback Particular (Picture by: Frank Carroll/Gary Null/NBCU Picture Financial institution/NBCUniversal through Getty Photographs)
One of many ladies who received additional near Elvis on the set of the Comeback Particular was Susan Henning — a 20-year-old dancer and actress who landed the position of a virginal harmless that Presley’s “Guitar Man” persona encounters in what’s develop into often known as the “bordello scene,” though that is not how Binder thinks of it. “It was NBC executives who labeled it the ‘bordello scene,'” he says now. “For me, it was meant to be a part of the journey of a child who goes to hunt fame and fortune and turns into Guitar Man.”
Henning, now 76, is interviewed in Revisiting Elvis and remembers her “chemistry” with Presley, which continues to be felt within the duo’s sensual dance. It proved too sensual for NBC, which reneged on its promise to Binder that the sequence would stay within the particular. “I had demanded that from all people related with the present that the scene would air,” he remembers, including that he even made changes to the costumes worn by the feminine dancers to maintain the sponsors — together with Singer Stitching Machines and Normal Electrical — glad. “Any person mentioned that an excessive amount of cleavage was displaying, so I had the costuming division cowl up their chests with black netting.”
In the end, a GE government pushed the community to excise the scene, regardless of giving a cross to a equally risqué second on The Dean Martin Present. “There was a scene on that present with a 6-foot blonde in a bikini and he was laughing his head off,” Binder says. “I am considering, ‘This’ll be a bit of cake.’ However then he comes over to our monitor and goes, ‘This will by no means air.’ I used to be so pissed off that they lied to me.”
However this story has a cheerful ending: Binder made a 90-minute lower of the ’68 Comeback Particular — which initially aired as an hour-long program — that ended up preserved in NBC’s archives. Following Presley’s loss of life in 1977, the community rushed to re-air the particular and the tape that was pulled occurred to be the longer lower with the bordello scene intact. “From that day ahead, they by no means performed the 60-minute model once more,” Binder says, fortunately. “Nevertheless it was a complete fluke! I by no means anticipated that to occur.”
Bonding with Baz
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 biopic. (Picture: Warner Bros. Footage)
Binder had the marginally surreal expertise of watching his personal historical past repeat itself as drama throughout the manufacturing of Luhrmann’s movie, which incorporates a stellar recreation of the Comeback Particular. “Baz and I turned very shut throughout the making of the movie,” he says, whereas additionally acknowledging that Elvis takes some “inventive license” with how issues went down.
“For example, I used to be by no means on the Hollywood signal,” he says, referring to the scene within the movie the place Montgomery’s Steve pitches Butler’s Elvis on taking part within the particular. “The one instances I ever noticed Elvis throughout all the manufacturing was at my workplaces on the Sundown Strip, at NBC and at United Western Recorders the place we did the orchestra soundtracks. However that was it — in any other case we by no means went wherever.”
Regardless of these liberties, Binder counts himself as a giant fan of Luhrmann’s movie and has nothing however reward for each Montgomery and Butler. “Austin was good, and Dacre goes to be a serious star. General, I used to be actually happy with it, and I assumed it served its goal. Folks have seen it time and again, and those that have been by no means uncovered to Elvis earlier than received to see him.”
Whereas Butler’s Oscar-nominated efficiency was universally acclaimed, not everybody liked how Tom Hanks approached the position of Col. Tom Parker — who comes throughout as a comic book e-book supervillain with an outrageous accent straight out of a James Bond film. However as somebody who personally tangled with Presley’s bully of a supervisor, Binder says that the Forged Away star did the position justice.
“I believe folks have been form of shocked that Tom did not play him as a colonel from the South,” Binder says. “Parker was really born within the Netherlands and had a Dutch title [Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk] initially. Tom wished to be genuine, and went to that speech sample. I believe he took a giant hit from followers due to that, however I assumed he was glorious and was upset that he did not get nominated together with all people else.”
The celebrity sport
Presley sings his coronary heart out within the ’68 Comeback Particular. (Picture: Courtesy Steve Binder Archives)
It could sound unusual, however Binder initially gained Presley’s belief by telling the singer that his profession was all however over. “He sensed this was a make-or-break scenario,” the director says. “One of many first issues he requested me was, ‘What do you suppose occurs if I do that particular and it bombs?’ And I mentioned, ‘They’re going to nonetheless keep in mind your films and your early hits, however that’ll be the tip of your profession in in rock ‘n’ roll.'”
And Binder was later in a position to show to Presley simply how far he had fallen within the fame rankings. At some point, he occurred upon the singer staring out an workplace window at passersbys strolling up and down Sundown Boulevard, clearly considering how they could react if he have been to all of the sudden step out on the road. “I mentioned to him, ‘What do you suppose will occur when you go on the market?'” Binder remembers — his not-so-subtle suggestion to Presley that his look won’t generate Beatlemania ranges of cheers and screams.
Naturally, the singer appeared reluctant to acknowledge the dimming of his star energy. However just a few days later, Presley took Binder up on his problem. “He and I went on the market alone,” Binder remembers. “He was making an attempt to get seen, however no person was operating as much as him making an attempt to tear his garments off or something. It was form of embarrassing! After 5 minutes of making an attempt to get consideration, he mentioned, ‘OK, you’ve got proved your level.'”
Reflecting on that second now, Binder thinks that the dearth of Elvis-mania had extra to do with the truth that loads of Presley imitators have been already on the Sundown Strip. “So many guys tried to emulate Elvis, so folks most likely did not notice it was really him,” he says, chuckling. And whereas it is by no means enjoyable to be publicly humiliated, Presley took it in stride and it additional cemented his bond with Binder.
“It is laborious to place a finger on, however after we went again upstairs, he appeared to belief me extra,” the director says. “He was assured that I used to be on his facet, whereas nearly all people else in his life was on Col. Parker’s payroll. I’ve all the time felt strongly that everybody wants a Jiminy Cricket on their shoulder — and I used to be that for Elvis.”
Reinventing Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Particular will play in theaters on July 30 and premieres Aug. 15 on Paramount+.https://hactic.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/index.html