Tom Hanks Admits He Thought 'What Have I Done?' After Agreeing to Play Elvis' 'Mercurial' Manager

"When he showed me a picture of the Colonel I thought, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' " joked Tom Hanks at the Cannes Film Festival

Tom Hanks attends the photocall for "Elvis" during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 26, 2022 in Cannes, France.
Tom Hanks. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty

Tom Hanks was ready to take the plunge into an unlikeable character.

During the Elvis panel at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, the Oscar winner, 65, shared what it was like to go against type to play an unlikeable character like Colonel Tom Parker, who discovered Elvis Presley and launched his career. Parker died in 1997 at age 87.

"I'm not interested in playing a bad guy just for the sake of, 'Before I kill you Mr. Bond, perhaps you'd like a tour of my installations.' That's okay, I get it, but that's for other stuff," said Hanks. "What [director] Baz [Luhrmann] tantalized me with was, here was a guy who saw an opportunity to manifest a once-in-a-lifetime talent into a cultural force."

The star described Parker as a "mercurial and brilliant man who at the same time made sure he lined his own pockets."

"He knew that about Elvis the first time he saw Elvis' effect on an audience. There is a moment, very much taken from fact, where the Colonel sees some guy onstage, doing something he never heard before, wiggling like crazy, without a doubt a powerful voice," he continued. "But he wasn't paying attention to what the guy was doing onstage, he was paying attention to the effect on the audience. He realized that guy was forbidden fruit, and you can make an awful lot of money on forbidden fruit."

Hanks said he gives Parker "credit for doing that very thing" and added that "the amount of ways Tom Parker cheated people out of nickels and dimes is extraordinary." He also said Parker "was a man who brought joy into everything he did with just a little bit of larceny."

"By the way I've incorporated some of those into my own life now," he joked. "You learn a little something from every role, you know."

RELATED GALLERY: See the Elvis Cast Compared to the Real-Life People They Play

Tom Hanks Admits He Thought 'What Have I Done' After Agreeing to Play Elvis' Manager
Warner Bros. Pictures

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The actor said Luhrmann convinced him to do the part when he said, "There would have been no Elvis without Colonel Tom Parker; there would have been no Colonel Tom Parker without Elvis. A symbiotic relationship."

Hanks — who wore heavy makeup and prosthetics to transform into the character — admitted he "did not know what Colonel Tom Parker looked like," and when he found out his appearance, it gave him pause.

"Baz talked about the Colonel as this great carney. Knowing that, the carney's job is to bring people to the glittering lights on the outside of town, promise them something they've never experienced before, and then, almost giving it to them, at a cost," he said. "When he said that, I said, 'I'm your man, now please show me a picture.' When he showed me a picture of the Colonel I thought, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' "

Elvis, which stars Austin Butler as the rock legend, is in theaters June 24.

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