A Star Is Born - A Lost Opportunity or Con?

(by Nigel Patterson, 2002)

In Elvis lore there considerable attention is given to the lost opportunities during Elvis's lifetime. Notable examples are the Colonel turning down huge offers for Elvis to tour England, Europe, Japan and Australasia.

Another incident is Barbra Streisand (and her boyfriend manager, Jon Peters) offering Elvis the co-starring role in her movie, A Star Is Born, a movie the eventual lead, country singer-songwriter, Kris Kristofferson went on to garner an Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor.

Did the Colonel stymie this offer or was there another reason or reasons that also stymied Elvis ever appearing in A Star Is Born?

In his absorbing book, The Agency (William Morris and the Hidden Story of Show Business), Frank Rose, recounts what occurred when Barbra Streisand met Elvis backstage in his Vegas dressing room:

'It was the perfect role for him - a defeated rock idol, victim of the machinery - but most important it was a real role, with a real costar in a real movie, not just an excuse to sing lame songs while some floozy jiggled her assets. Elvis was so excited, he accepted on the spot. For a short while it all came back to him, the freshness and the enthusiasm, almost like he was a kid and starting over. But Streisand went away shocked by his appearance, and Colonel Parker wasn't happy at the idea of anyone approaching his boy directly. When he demanded $1 million - Elvis's customary fee - and Elvis's name alone above the title, the project went away.'

However there is another, quite different slant on the 'A Star Is Born' saga, one given by Elvis's friend and prominent Memphis Mafia member, Joe Esposito. In his entertaining book, Good Rockin' Tonight, Joe suggests that Barbra Steisand may never have been serious about offering Elvis the part.

A possibility is that she was getting back at Elvis for 'constructive' criticism he had made about her show several months earlier. Joe states: Then Elvis proceeded to offer Barbra "constructive" criticism on her show. Her hand movements were obscuring her face, he told her. It was a sincere but tactless effort to help make her show even greater. Barbra just stood there; she didn't utter a word. Joe then says in reference to Elvis not co-starring with Streisand:

At the time we figured that Barbra never intended to use Elvis anyway, that she was really getting back at him for the incident that had taken place at Caesar's. Joe adds: But now I think she and Peters had come up with an inspired casting choice, and that the role might have been the one to showcase Elvis's talent.

So there we have it, three quite different explanations of why Elvis never co-starred with Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born. Which one of these provides the real answer? We will probably never really know and in reality it may well have been a combination of all three factors that meant Elvis was never destined to realise his ambition to be a dramatic actor.

Click to comment on this article