Why Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” Was Cut from Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ Biopic

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Director Baz Luhrmann has revealed why Dolly Parton‘s 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You” was cut from a very pivotal scene in his 2022 biopic Elvis.

The scene follows the break up of Elvis Presley and his wife Priscilla, and also foreshadows the singer’s own death, according to the director, as the couple is having a conversation in the back seat of a Pullman Mercedes at the airport after Elvis drops their daughter Lisa Marie.

“Austin sang ‘I Will Always Love You’ in the back of the car,” said Luhrmann in a recent interview, adding that the scene was a special moment toward the end of the shoot. “The scene begins with Priscilla saying, ‘It’s a beautiful song,’ and he says, ‘Yeah, Dolly wants me to sing it, but the Colonel…’ However, the moment wouldn’t work for the scene and the film, so it was cut. When Austin got out of the car, he looks across at Priscilla and says that line, so that’s where it comes from.”

Luhrmann added, “The script was pretty long, but I always wanted another moment where Priscilla came back into his life and that they were friends. In a way, when he walks on that plane and it takes off, we don’t need to see him die, he’s dead.”

Presley was initially set to record “I Will Always Love You” in the 1970s, which was derailed when his manager Colonel Tom Parker called Parton before they were going into the studio.

“Now, you know we have a rule that Elvis don’t record anything that we don’t take half the publishing,” said Parker, according to Parton. “And I was really quiet,” said Parton. “I said, ‘Well, now it’s already been a hit. I wrote it and I’ve already published it, and this is the stuff I’m leaving for my family when I’m dead and gone. That money goes in for stuff for my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, so I can’t give up half the publishing,’ and he said ‘Well then, we can’t record it.’”

Though Presley never recorded the song, it still held a special place in his heart. Priscilla Presley shared with Parton that he sang the song to her when they divorced. “Priscilla told me that when she and Elvis divorced, Elvis sang my song to her,” shared Parton. “That touched me so deeply.”

Originally written by Parton in 1973 as a farewell and tribute to her longtime business partner and mentor the late Porter Wagoner, as she started her solo career, “I Will Always Love You” was released in 1974 and immediately hit the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Nearly 20 years later, Whitney Houston’s rendition of the song for the 1992 drama The Bodyguard spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 and became the best-selling single by a female artist and the sixth biggest single of all time with more than 20 million sales.

Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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