When Baz Luhrmann announced he was looking for an actor to play Elvis Presley in a forthcoming film, there was a lot of excitement and speculation as to who might slip on the blue suede shoes.
You might think a 23-year-old Townsville law student would be a longshot — except Brody Finlay is also one of Australia’s top Elvis tribute artists.
Despite wins at the Parkes Elvis Music Festival and Viva Surfers Paradise tribute competitions, Mr Finlay said a call from Luhrmann’s office was unexpected.
“I got a call about the Baz Luhrmann film,” Mr Finlay said.
“I was surprised as I didn’t audition for it or anything.
“They just said they thought I might be good for the young years of Elvis’ life part, and it is something they would like to consider.”
Brody Finlay researches Elvis’ costumes and performances to get details accurate, he even buys his stage wear from Elvis’ tailor. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)
Hooked on Elvis at age seven
Rock and roll is in the Finlay blood — Mr Finlay’s father is a musician and his mother moonlights as a rock and roll dance instructor.
Brody Finlay was hooked on Elvis after watching King Creole at a friend’s house. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)
Leanne Finlay said her son became hooked on the King after watching the Elvis movie, King Creole, when he was seven.
Then, when he was 10, Ms Finlay took her son to see an Elvis tribute artist.
“Brody actually said then, ‘I am going to be an Elvis impersonator,'” Ms Finlay said.
“I didn’t think it would happen as he really couldn’t sing.
“But he put all the hard work in — he used to sit in his room and sing and sing and sing.”
As a child, Mr Finlay won national titles in rock and roll dance competitions before trying out a few Elvis songs as the vocalist with a band.
“I started singing and my voice developed to be a bit more like Elvis” Mr Finlay said.
“I sort of fell into [the tribute performances].”
Brody Finlay distinguishes himself from the many jumpsuit-era Elvii with his focus on Elvis’ younger years. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)
An act tailored in time
In a realm filled with jumpsuit-era Elvis tribute artists, Mr Finlay intentionally distinguishes his performances with a focus on Elvis in the 1950s.
“Everyone knows Elvis in a jumpsuit, but people aren’t very familiar with Elvis in his younger years,” Mr Finlay said.
“So I like to do that just to open people’s eyes to what else is out there with his music.”
He is also committed to getting the details of his performances exact — he even uses the same tailoring firm that Elvis did.
“If I stuff up, I am giving people the wrong information,” Mr Finlay said.
“So I always do my research and make sure it is historically correct.”
Brody Finlay’s biggest fan? Leanne Finlay said her son would spend hours in his bedroom rehearsing Elvis songs. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)
Wearing Elvis’ pants can be an expensive business for a university student and Mr Finlay said live performances take a toll on his costumes.
“For people that know Elvis in the 1950s, they know he was very charismatic and very raw and moved a lot on stage,” Mr Finlay said.
“From sliding across the floor on his knees to doing all the moves — quite often you are doing a move and something happens and you need to replace your pants.”
Connecting with the King at Graceland
This weekend, Brody Finlay will perform at Viva Surfers Paradise and has been told Luhrmann will be in the audience.
Brody Finlay will represent Australia at Elvis Week in Memphis in August 2019. (ABC North Queensland: Nathalie Fernbach)
He will join the world’s top Elvis tribute artists in Memphis in August, where he will represent Australia at the Elvis Week competition.
Mr Finlay lets his cool drop for a moment as he talks about the prospect of returning to Elvis’ hometown.
“I learn a lot in the competition, but competition aside, I just love being in Memphis,” he said.
“Going to Graceland for the first time, I went up to the grave and I got chills.
“I sort of said to myself ‘this is the closest I can get to Elvis Presley right here’ … and I cried.”