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Film explores Elvis-LDS link

"Elvis" - as played by Matt Lewis
"Elvis" - as played by Matt Lewis
Robert Starling

OREM — Even the King had a spiritual side.

And that's the side writer/director Rob Diamond explores in his new film about Elvis Presley's sojourn into the Book of Mormon. "Tears of a King" may hit theaters in August, the 30th anniversary of Presley's death of an overdose of prescription drugs. But at the 6th annual LDS Film Festival last week, film executives showed just the trailer, then spent about an hour discussing Presley's search for spirituality and the loss of his wife and daughter.

"It was a spiritual experience making it," said Kels Goodman, director of photography.

The entire crew felt the experience — "it was the most I've ever seen," Goodman said. "We were all tired but we were carried from one place to another."

Diamond said he gave respect to both Elvis and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in making the film. Presley's well-marked copy of the Book of Mormon, now kept in the LDS Church archives, is used in the film, but filmmakers had to film those scenes in the church historical department.

Cricket Butler, a fan of both Elvis and The Osmonds, gave Presley a copy of the Book of Mormon, Presley read it and when he died, Butler received the copy back, complete with Presley's notes, Alan Osmond told the Deseret Morning News. Butler, in turn, gave it to Osmond, who had her sign that it was authentic. He then gave it to Elder Rex Pinegar, then a church general authority and a relative by marriage, who put it in the archives in 1989.

Osmond said Pinegar made a copy of the book, which Osmond sent to Presley's daughter.

"I don't have a copy," Osmond said.

However, he is building a Web site with some of Presley's quotes: They include:

"Gold Records . . . Real ones!"

"I know this in my heart to be true."

"Me too!" (to a passage about no more kings).

"My Daughter Lisa is 9 years old. She needs this church. Please help her."

Presley and the Osmonds worked at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas and developed a relationship, Osmond said.

As Diamond researched the film, he embarked on his own spiritual journey, he said.

Las Vegas impersonator Matt Lewis plays Elvis.

The film has global appeal because "we see the heart of the man," Diamond said. "This was a man who suffered."

In one scene Presley realizes what he has done to his family. His daughter was standing around the corner during that emotional moment, said film executive Bob Condor.

"When you film Elvis in tears you know you have something," he said.

LDS people are fascinated with who is LDS among celebrities, Goodman said. "It's a silly little game — but this was one that had facts. He never joined but he was close."

The film doesn't force-feed religion, but may be controversial, Diamond said.

"It's not a big film — it's the spirit and the story that makes it big," Goodman said.