The life and death of Elvis Presley has always been shrouded in mythology. But the reality behind the stories is sometimes just as strange. British director Jeanie Finlay sheds light on the story of Jimmy Ellis, a singer with the voice of Elvis, who was propelled into the spotlight by the death of The King.
While this uncanny similarity prevented Jimmy from achieving success in his own right, the executives at Sun Records spotted a unique opportunity when Presley died. Ellis became Orion, a mysterious masked performer believed by many fans to be Elvis himself. First appearing in 1979, Orion recorded 11 albums and performed live to fans around the world.
While the scheme gave Ellis the success he’d always craved, it came at the cost of his identity. Banned by the record company from revealing himself or appearing in public without his mask, Ellis quickly felt imprisoned by the ‘Orion’ persona; aware that his devoted fans were "clapping for a ghost".
This odd tale therefore becomes a very human story about the desire for recognition and the nature of success. While Ellis knows he owes his career to Elvis fans, a resentment of Presley grows as he struggles for recognition on his own terms. This sense of unfulfilled fate is echoed by his friends and family: “there was no way he could have failed if Elvis had never lived”.
While the film is sadly unable to feature the man himself, Finlay's narrative is brought to life by an Ellis soundtrack and clips of performance, creating a vivid sense of 80s Nashville. Ellis’ charisma shines through, and the interviews with the people in his life are funny and often poignant, offering perceptive insights into the man’s inner life and frustrations.
A moving reflection on identity, fame and fate, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King is a touching film which, like its subject, deserves recognition beyond the Elvis fan base.
|What||Orion: The Man Who Would Be King review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
25 Sep 15 – 01 Nov 15, Various times
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here to go to the Orion film site|