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Monday, September 25, 2006
Elvis had a Book of Mormon PDF | Print | E-mail
MICHAEL RIGERT - North County Staff
The King may be gone, but his spirit -- and thoughts on his spirituality -- will live on, in part, through a new film shot in Orem.
Questions about Elvis Presley's personal beliefs and his reported exposure to the LDS faith are the topic of a new feature film shot in the last couple weeks on an Orem sound stage.
Rob Diamond, a Salt Lake-based actor/writer/director, said he wasn't a fan of Presley one way or another. Yet when the husband of one of his acting students invited him on a tour of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints office building in Salt Lake a couple of years ago, he stumbled upon a story he found extraordinary.
"Early in the tour he sat me down, put on white gloves and handed me a copy of The Book of Mormon," Diamond said. "He said 'Elvis read this.' I was like 'What?' "
The book was filled with hand-written notations that are believed to have been made by Presley. Diamond said that with pen and pad in hand, he spent the next three to four hours scribbling down every single note.
According to Diamond, Presley read a lot on spiritual topics and was given the copy of The Book of Mormon by a fan named Cricket who had joined the LDS Church. After the musician's death, the book was returned to the woman who later gave it to musician/celebrity Alan Osmond who passed it on to an LDS official who placed it in the church archives.
Though the handwriting has yet to be authenticated, Diamond said he plans to have a handwriting expert analyze and verify that the notes are Presley's.
"I do have my personal beliefs" about the legitimacy of the handwriting, he said. "I wouldn't have made the film unless I felt strongly about it."
Diamond served an LDS mission and said The Book of Mormon "changed my life." To know that Presley had also read the book and considered its teachings was an epiphany for him. Diamond said he heavily researched every aspect of Presley's life during a six-month period prior to filming.
That was the genesis for "Tears of a King," a new film for which Diamond wrote the screenplay and directed with the assistance of several other film partners. He was already making a short film titled "Propensity," yet the idea for the Presley film kept tugging at him.
"I said 'If we don't do it, it will never be done,' " Diamond said.
He said the movie is about Presley the man, not the musician.
"As a storyteller and filmmaker ... I'm very drawn to stories about people who struggle and reach out to their maker," he said. "I've made mistakes in my life and I felt I was the right guy to make it from a non-judgmental perspective."
Bob Conder, a producer and first assistant director for "Tears of a King," said the film centers around Presley on the night before his death in 1977, looking back over his life and the choices he had made.
"It's about a man, a good man who struggled and searched for redemption," Diamond said. "He's reflecting on the things that were important in his life," including thoughts he apparently put down in writing in The Book of Mormon.
Scriptures Presley allegedly underlined in the copy of the book were used in the film, he said.
Ninety percent of the movie, which cost less than $1 million to make, was filmed in late August and early September at Creative Media Group in Orem.
"It was an 11-day wonder," Conder said.
The remaining portion will be filmed on location in Memphis, Tenn.
Diamond and Conder said though there's definitely an LDS twist to "Tears of a King," they believe it's a film that will find general appeal with all audiences.
"Whether you're Mormon or not, you're going to want to see it. It's a man's spiritual quest and the mistakes he made," Diamond said.
The film's producers considered getting big-name talent for the movie, but ultimately decided it would detract from the independent film's impact and message. Actors Brian Wimmer, Jeff Olsen, and Jerry Hobin appear in the film. A Utah native based in Los Angeles, Erin Chambers, portrays Priscilla Presley.
"Tears of a King" is scheduled to be released sometime in 2007, the 30th anniversary of Presley's death. Diamond plans to show the film at several film festivals prior to its theatrical release.
More information and multimedia about the film will be at http://www.tearsofaking.com
within the next few weeks.