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Elvis Presley grew famous for his music career, but he also had a successful run as an actor. He starred in a number of high-earning films and took top billing in all but one of his movies. Many people, Elvis himself included, believed he showed great potential as an actor. Unfortunately, he never had the chance to grow in the way he wanted. One of his greatest career regrets had to do with the stunted growth of his acting career.

Elvis wished he could have made more out of his film career

In 1975, Elvis had the opportunity to act in A Star Is Born alongside Barbra Streisand. He hadn’t been in a movie since 1969, but this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for. It was a serious, dramatic role about a washed-up musician, a part Elvis could understand a little too well at this point in his career. Ultimately, though, his manager Colonel Tom Parker encouraged him to turn down the part.

While Parker insisted this had been Elvis’ idea, the singer worried A Star Is Born had been his last shot to make a dramatic film.

Elvis wears white swim trunks and stands on a surfboard for a publicity shot.
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

“People aren’t going to remember me because I’ve never done anything lasting,” he told his on-and-off-again girlfriend, Kathy Westmoreland, per the book The Colonel by Alanna Nash. “I’ve never made a classic film to show what I can do.”

While confiding in his barber, Larry Geller, Elvis revealed that his one lasting career regret was that he’d never won an Oscar.

Elvis’ collaborators believe he could have had a stronger acting career

Elvis may have been able to achieve this if Parker hadn’t kept him trapped in light, musical roles. Gene Nelson, who directed Elvis in Kissin’ Cousins, didn’t think the singer ever reached his full potential as an actor.

“I don’t think he was ever involved to his full potential as an actor, but I could see moments when he would get involved in a scene,” Nelson said, per the book Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick. “I think he could have been a very good actor, but mostly he would just be his charming self and get away with it — because he was Elvis Presley.”

Many people believe Elvis did his best acting work in the 1958 film King Creole.

He felt embarrassed he couldn’t get better roles

Elvis wanted better for himself as an actor and he grew both frustrated and embarrassed that he couldn’t get it. Even as early as 1961, he seemed disgusted by his movies.

Elvis dances on a poster for the film 'King Creole.' The poster is blue and orange.
‘King Creole’ | Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

Elvis’ Entourage Had to ‘Con Him’ Into Bathing

“He was obviously uncomfortable with what he was doing, he was frustrated and disgusted — it was all in his face,” publicity director Anne Fulchino said of Elvis on the set of Blue Hawaii. “The emotion I respected most was that he was ashamed of it, which meant that he knew better — but you could see that he was trapped.”

His frustration was even clear to people who didn’t know him all that well. Still, Elvis did not demand better films. He followed Parker’s guidance, even when it hurt his career.