Baz Luhrmann Pays Tribute to Elvis Star Shonka Dukureh

The actress, who was known for her critically acclaimed role as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis Presley biopic, was found dead in her apartment on Thursday, July 21.

AceShowbiz -Baz Luhrmann says he and the cast of “Elvis” are devastated by the sudden death of cast member Shonka Dukureh. The actress, who was known for her critically acclaimed role as blues singer Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis Presley biopic, was tragically found dead in her apartment by one of her young children on Thursday, July 21.

In the wake of her death, the director has said the cast and crew are “heartbroken” as he hailed the 44-year-old star for her “tremendous talent” and ability to “uplift” a room. He wrote on Instagram, “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,” Baz added.

Shonka was also known to Doja Cat fans after she appeared as Big Mama Thornton in the singer’s music video for the soundtrack song “Vegas”. She also joined the 26-year-old rapper on stage earlier this year to sing the tune at Coachella.

The filmmaker added, “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.”

Signing off the touching post, “We send all our love and support to Shonka’s children and family at this time.”

TMZ reported she was found dead in the bedroom of her apartment in Nashville, Tennessee. The child who found her is said by the Metro Nashville Police Department to have ran to get help from a neighbour, who called 911 around 9.30 A.M. local time. Investigators are currently waiting for autopsy results to determine her cause of death but no foul play is suspected by police.

Big Mama Thornton had a huge impact on the young Elvis, who made her song “Hound Dog” world famous with his 1956 cover. Shonka was renowned as a gospel singer in her hometown of Nashville before acting, and taught local kids. Her role in “Elvis” was initially set to be off-screen, but she was later asked to appear in front of the camera.

Of the role, she said, “I knew to really pay tribute to her, I had to tap into myself, my own self-confidence, my own voice. Big Mama Thornton was very adamant that she only had her voice – no one could sing like her and she sang like no one. So I had to also embrace that as our approach to music.”

She last month added she felt like she was “on cloud nine” amid acclaim for “Elvis”.

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