An Audience with the King: Elvis Presley's Longtime Confidant Shares His Favorite Memory of the Music Legend

Elvis & Nixon: Presley Confidante Jerry Schilling Shares Favorite Memory
Elvis Presley (right) meets with President Richard Nixon (left) at the White House on Dec. 21, 1970, along with Sonny West and Jerry Schilling
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

04/19/2016 AT 03:15 PM EDT

The most requested photo in the U.S. National Archives is one of Elvis Presley shaking the hand of President Richard Nixon in December of 1970.

Presley and his longtime friend Jerry Schilling visited the White House for a meeting that would go down in history: The King of Rock 'n' Roll sat in the Oval Office and asked President Nixon if he could have a badge from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Priscilla Presley would later explain Elvis' request in her memoir Elvis & Me: "The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him."

Fast-forward nearly 50 years and that historic moment is the centerpiece of the new film Elvis & Nixon, a comedy directed by Liza Johnson and executive-produced by Schilling himself. It stars Kevin Spacey as Nixon and Michael Shannon as Presley, and also includes Colin Hanks, Johnny Knoxville, Sky Ferreira and Alex Pettyfer, who plays Schilling.

An Audience with the King: Elvis Presley's Longtime Confidant Shares His Favorite Memory of the Music Legend| Movie News, Music News, Elvis Presley, Jerry Schilling

Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon in Elvis & Nixon

Steve Dietl / Bleecker Street Media / Everett


On Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the film screened, Schilling opened up to PEOPLE about finally bringing his passion project to life.

"It took years," Schilling, 74, said of how long he mulled things over before finally committing to doing the film. "It's the hardest project I've ever tackled, [but] I owe it to my friend to stick in."

He added that he was told "a lot of the people close to Elvis agree" that the King himself "would feel better if you were involved" in the film.


As for his favorite memory with the King? "I miss the late-night talks," said Shilling, who met Presley when he was 12 years old and remained a lifelong friend until the music icon's death in 1977.

"My favorite time with Elvis was when it was just the two of us," said Schilling. "Staying up all night, maybe at Graceland, just talking – about girls, then politics, religion, astrology, numerology. He was so interesting. I've had a lot of special moments with him publicly, but that's what I really miss."

So what did Schilling think of Pettyfer's performance? "He got me," Schilling said of Pettyfer, whom he describes as being "so easy" to work with.

"He's a better Jerry Schilling than I am!"

Elvis & Nixon hits theaters April 22.
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