The Heart of ‘Priscilla’ Is for Sale


It is curious how some things never go out of style.

Throughout the first act of the new movie “Priscilla,” when the titular heroine is still living in Germany with her parents, she wears one thing almost every day: a heart-shaped locket tied around her neck on a black ribbon. At first it telegraphs innocence. Then, as she is courted by Elvis Presley, the necklace reflects her infatuation: She argues with her parents about him, doodles his name and writes him letters, waits for him to call.

That necklace really existed. In 1960, at age 14, Priscilla Presley wore it in a photograph while clutching an Elvis record. In her memoir, “Elvis and Me,” the basis for Sofia Coppola’s movie, Ms. Presley wrote of a gold locket that she cherished, originally given to her mother by her deceased biological father.

The style also exists in various iterations today, sold as a pendant choker to the teenagers and teenagers-at-heart who shop at Urban Outfitters ($9.99), Target ($8), PacSun ($5) and Shein ($1.60).

On Nov. 6, the necklace will exist in a new form: as a high-end movie tie-in. A24, the distributor of “Priscilla” in the United States, is selling a version made by J. Hannah, a Los Angeles designer.

A24 has become known for selling well-designed, zeitgeist-y merch. For horror titles, including “Hereditary” and “Pearl,” the studio has collaborated with Online Ceramics, which has a chaotic Grateful Dead aesthetic, on T-shirts and sweatpants that combine movie stills and vintage poster typography. After the release of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” A24 sold plot-related souvenirs: a pet rock, a bag of googly eyes, a pair of latex gloves with hot-dog fingers.

The rollout of “Priscilla” merch began in October with a winged eyeliner kit. The locket, sold in silver for $400 on the A24 website, or in solid gold for $1,280 on J. Hannah’s website, is A24’s first foray into fine jewelry. (There was once a gold-plated Furby pendant made for “Uncut Gems.”)

Jess Hannah Révész, the designer of J. Hannah, said she was approached by Zoe Beyer, the creative director of A24, in June through a direct message on Instagram. When they spoke over Zoom for the first time, Ms. Beyer was wearing a pair of J. Hannah earrings, Ms. Révész said.

A24 and J. Hannah aligning is not entirely surprising. J. Hannah’s clientele, like that of Online Ceramics, skews Ssense shopper: cool, creative, upwardly mobile. Ms. Révész, who has collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is best known for minimal pieces inspired by heirloom jewelry — including signet rings and sculptural hoops — as well as nail polish in esoteric shades. Himalayan Salt is based on her cat’s nose; Compost, described as “baroque mulch,” looks more like cat excrement — and is nonetheless desirable. Ms. Révész already has two lockets in her line, including her interpretation of a Victorian hair locket.

When it came to designing her version of the “Priscilla” locket, Ms. Révész looked at images of both the fictional and real Ms. Presley wearing it. “I think it’s important to know something’s origin in order to reinterpret it,” she said. “I wanted to retain the romance of the piece but simplify it a bit.”

She made the heart slightly smaller and more subtle in shape — not to diminish or hide it, she said, but to make it more intimate. The silk ribbon is finished with end caps instead of clasps, so the necklace can be tied in a bow (coquette style) or so the locket can be placed on another chain if desired. The front is blank, and the back is engraved with “Priscilla” in cursive and “JH” underneath that.

“As much as I wanted it to be this commemorative item of the film so that it can become a collectible in that way, I also wanted it to be wearable,” said Ms. Révész, who, like many 32-year-old women, has long been a fan of Sofia Coppola’s work.

Neither Ms. Coppola nor Stacey Battat, the costume designer, were involved in the development of A24’s J. Hannah locket. The lockets they used in the film were developed by the jewelry designer Gillian Steinhardt and incorporated heavily into the costumes of “Priscilla” during Ms. Presley’s early high school years.

The necklace — “cute and childlike,” as Ms. Battat put it — helps the actress Cailee Spaeny, now 25, to pass as 15. After moving to Memphis as a high school senior, the fictional Priscilla swaps the girlish locket for a more pious gold cross necklace. (Elvis had arranged for her to attend Catholic school.)

“When she moved to Graceland, she wanted to project an older image,” Ms. Battat said. “She wanted to please him.”

The real locket is said to have contained a photo of Ms. Presley’s biological father, whom she referred to in her memoir as her “guardian angel.” A representative for Ms. Presley did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Ms. Battat, who chose to emphasize the locket in part because of how contemporary it seemed — how relatable it could be to a modern audience — is supportive of A24 selling it.

“I want us to still be able to make great movies, and if we have to find other ways to finance them — i.e., by selling a heart locket — because they’re not going to generate as much money at the box office as they would because people would rather play Call of Duty, I mean, I say great,” Ms. Battat said. “It does feel like something people are wearing now.”


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