Director of Elvis biopic ‘heartbroken’ after death of actress Shonka Dukureh

The singer starred as Big Mama Thornton in the film about Elvis Presley.

22 July 2022

Director Baz Luhrmann has said he felt “truly blessed” to have had time with Shonka Dukureh, who starred in his Elvis biopic, before her death aged 44.

The actress, who played Big Mama Thornton in the film about superstar Elvis Presley, was found dead in a bedroom at her home in Nashville.

It was one of her children who found her unresponsive and went to the apartment of a neighbour, who called emergency services.

There were no signs of foul play following the death of the singer, who shared the apartment with her two young children, police said.

Post-mortem results are pending from the medical examiner.

After hearing the news, Luhrmann shared a series of pictures which included an image of him kissing Dukureh on the forehead while on the set of Elvis.

He said: “A special light went out today and all of the Elvis movie family are heartbroken by the loss of Shonka Dukureh.

“From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music.

“Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted.

“Shonka was just starting to find a larger audience for her tremendous talent, and I got to see her uplift whole crowds of people at Coachella and beyond.

“A favorite word of Shonka’s, in daily use, was “blessings,” and I, along with the entire Elvis cast, crew and musical collaborators, feel truly blessed to have had time with her.”

The 59-year-old added that the cast and crew of Elvis were sending their “love and support” to her children and family.

The actress, who also shared the stage at Coachella this year with Doja Cat, had a theatre degree from Fisk University in Nashville and graduated from Trevecca Nazarene with an education degree, WPLN-FM reported.

In an interview with the station last month, Dukureh said she taught year two pupils for a while and then worked with inner city youths through after-school and summer programmes.

She said those students reached out after seeing her in Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic.

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