Examiner Dorri Olds met with Elvis Presley’s long-time close pal Jerry Schilling on Apr. 18 for an exclusive interview about Tribeca Film Festival’s movie, “Elvis & Nixon.” The five-star film is a hilarious send-up about a peculiar piece of 1970 Americana: Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) flew to our nation’s capital to persuade President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) to deputize him as a federal agent-at-large.
Presley showed up unannounced at the Northwest Gate of the White House with his buddy Jerry Schilling (Alex Pettyfer) and convinced awe-struck guards to hand-deliver Presley’s note to Nixon that requested a sit-down.
White House staffer Egil Krogh (Colin Hanks) is told that Nixon wants nothing to do with the entertainer and especially not during the Prez’s naptime. Shilling and Elvis’ bodyguard Sonny West (Johnny Knoxville) come up with plan B. Presley will sign an autograph for Nixon’s daughter if he will agree to the meeting.
Olds and Schilling met at Tribeca’s Conrad Hotel.
Dorri Olds: What is it like seeing your life reenacted all these years later?
Jerry Schilling: It’s pretty strange, you know. It still hasn’t really set in for me. It’s strange. But it’s something I’m very proud of. To be on-screen with my best friend, character-wise, is quite an honor for me. I loved and admired this guy since I was 12-years-old and he was 19. I’ve seen the whole gamut of his career and shared a lot with him. We had a 23-year friendship and a 10-year professional relationship, so it’s quite an honor.
DO: He seemed like a very complex man. What was the hard part about being his friend?
JS: Wow, that’s a great question. I think, for me, it was to be able to give back the friendship and the professional relationship on a level that he had given me the opportunity to do. I wasn’t satisfied just being one of the guys—which I was thrilled to be. I wanted to be involved in his films and his touring.
I quit working for him a couple of times to just [go pursue those types of things] then he would bring me back in. That was the hardest thing because I think I was the only guy that ever quit working for Elvis. Well, a couple guys got mad but then they came back. I quit for professional reasons. Normally, the relationship was over when that happened—the close relationship.
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“Elvis & Nixon” is now playing. Rated R. 100 min.