Loose brown hair, loose clothing, precise words, sparkling eyes, Cailee Spaeny offers, at 25, a smiling and confident mirror to American women of her generation. However, it was by lending her features to an icon from another age, Priscilla Presley, that she revealed her talents as an actress, winning the prize for best actress at the Venice Film Festival in September. . In Priscilla , by Sofia Coppola, it reveals all the strength of character of this woman long reduced to her status as Elvis’ wife, whose emancipation resonates, beyond the apparent obsolescence of her preparations, with many current struggles. In a videoconference interview, from her apartment overlooking Central Park, in New York, the actress returns to this role for which she seemed cut out.
Before playing the title character in “Priscilla,” what did Sofia Coppola mean to you?
She was quite simply my favorite filmmaker. I come from a blue-collar family, of Italian origin. My father is a construction worker, my mother did a whole bunch of jobs to raise my eight brothers and sisters and me. We grew up in a small town in the state of Missouri, middle America at its best. We watched Top Gun or Titanic , big budget films. One day I came across Virgin Suicides . It was the first time I asked myself, “Who is behind the camera?” » It turns out it was a woman. From then on, I devoured Sofia’s entire filmography. The calm and intimacy of his cinema, his look at the solitude of young girls moved me.
Was it Sofia Coppola who contacted you?
When I was still living in Missouri, I tried out for a draft adaptation of The Little Mermaid , which Sofia was supposed to direct and ultimately dropped out of. I had driven twenty-five hours to meet her in Los Angeles! Later, I auditioned for Megalopolis , by his father, Francis Ford. Even though it didn’t happen, I stayed in touch with the Coppolas. Sofia enjoyed my performance in the series Mare of Easttown . Then her friend, the actress Kirsten Dunst, who I star in Civil War , by Alex Garland, told her good things about me. Until Sofia called me to ask me out for coffee in New York.
What did you talk about?
Everything and nothing. At the end, Sofia brought out a photo of Priscilla Presley, Elvis’s wife. I saw there another sign of destiny: since my early childhood, Elvis had been part of my life, I had visited his house, at Graceland… On the last day of filming Civil War , I learned that I had been offered the role of Priscilla. Kirsten hugged me and we burst into tears.
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