Riley Keough on Growing Up Presley, Losing Lisa Marie, and Inheriting Graceland (2024)


September 2023 Issue

Daisy Jones & the Six propelled her to stardom even as she navigated tragedies, new motherhood, and a legal struggle with Priscilla.

By Britt Hennemuth

Photography by Mario Sorrenti

Styled by Nicola Formichetti

Riley Keough on Growing Up Presley, Losing Lisa Marie, and Inheriting Graceland (1)

Riley Keough photographed in Brooklyn on June 14. Dress by Miu Miu; bracelet and ring (right ring finger) by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Her grandfather died before she was born, but his house in Memphis stayed in the family. Graceland. Years ago, Riley Keough and her mom, Lisa Marie Presley, would visit for Thanksgiving with Keough’s brother and sisters. They would stay at the official hotel, and when the tourists departed the legendary home for the day, they’d go over and hang out, drive golf carts around the grounds, and celebrate the season together. “When Elvis’s chefs were alive, they used to still cook dinner for us, which was really special,” she tells me. “It was very Southern: greens and fried catfish and fried chicken and hush puppies. Cornbread and beans. Banana pudding.”

It’s an early evening in May—Keough’s 34th birthday, as it happens—and we’re in a hotel lobby outside St. Gallen, Switzerland, hoping a waiter will materialize. The place is nearly empty. An elderly woman sleeps in a wheelchair. A bartender swats flies away from a sweating cheese plate. A pianist is attempting to enliven happy hour with a classical rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” The chords reverberate around the vast, sterile rotunda.

Top by Emporio Armani; leggings by Giorgio Armani; shoes by Jimmy Choo; bracelet and ring (right ring finger) by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

“There were a few times that we slept there,” Keough says of Graceland, “but I don’t know if I should say that.” She pauses. The second floor has always been closed to the public out of respect for Elvis Presley’s family because the singer had a fatal heart attack there. Then again, Keough’s family was Presley’s family. Who had the right to be there if not them? “The tours would start in the morning, and we would hide upstairs until they were over,” she continues. “The security would bring us breakfast. It’s actually such a great memory. We would order sausage and biscuits, and hide until the tourists finished.”

In the coming weeks, I’ll hear Keough’s unselfconscious laugh and see the spitfire side of her that her friends adore. But today, she speaks softly and carefully, with her knees pulled up to her chest. Life has thrown a lot at her in short order, some of it joyous, some of it obliterating: the death of her brother, by suicide, in 2020. The birth of her and her husband’s daughter in 2022. The death of her mother, following complications of prior weight-loss surgery, early this year. The debut of her star-making ’70s rock series, Daisy Jones & the Six, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. A surprising legal fight with her grandmother, Priscilla Presley, over Lisa Marie’s estate and hence Graceland, as well as the family’s interest in Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Keough and I will talk about all of this. She will introduce me to her baby and tell me the girl’s name, which she’s never made public before. She’ll say, of the losses she’s suffered, that there were times it felt like something fundamental had broken inside her. But now, in the hotel lobby, she says simply, “This is not my best birthday.” It’s her first without her mother, for one thing. “Last year, I was in Greece wrapping Daisy Jones. I found out that I won the Camera d’Or, I was on the beach, and it all happened at the same time. It was very beautiful. I feel like that’ll ride me through this one.”

Trench coat and necklace by Chanel; bralette and briefs by Araks.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Trench coat and necklace by Chanel; bralette and briefs by Araks.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Keough is now the sole custodian of Graceland and the family shares of Elvis Presley Enterprises, all of which were worth just $5 million at the time of Elvis’s death and are now reportedly in the neighborhood of $500 million. She’s also a rising star, producer, and director: The award at Cannes was for the drama War Pony, which she codirected with Gina Gammell, about two Lakota boys on a reservation in South Dakota. Everything that happened to Keough this year, good and bad, happened in full public view—and will continue to.

“There’s the Kennedys and there’s the Presleys,” says the director Baz Luhrmann, who got to know Keough and her mother while working on Elvis. “They are the royal families of America. And in different ways, they both were, as Shakespeare says, ‘wedded to calamity.’ Is it genetic? Is it because they have such high standards? Is it because the world watches them? Maybe. Because to be American royalty is not just to have your country watch you. To be American royalty is to have the whole world watch you.”

The waiter never shows up. Keough smiles politely at the pianist’s efforts. “Let’s go for a walk,” she says. “The guy’s over there playing The Little Mermaid with Bono glasses on.” Her husband and daughter, who are as jet-lagged as she is, are sleeping upstairs.

Efficient glass doors snap open and shut, and we pass a placard about the history of the hotel: It’s a former Swiss sanatorium. I see why Keough prefers to be outside as often as possible. The Alps in one direction, Lake Constance in the other.

I ask the obvious question: Why are we in Switzerland?

“I have Lyme disease,” Keough says. She pulls her long hair, still damp from the shower, away from her bare face. “I used this little break that I have to come and try and see if I can alleviate it a bit. It’s a holistic treatment center and offers all kinds of things that you can’t really do in America yet, like cleaning your blood.”

She’s never addressed Lyme in detail before. Later, I will ask her Daisy Jones costar, Sam Claflin, if he saw Keough struggle with pain during production. “Once she told me, there were moments where I’d catch it,” he says. “I’d noticed that she’d disengage in fleeting moments between scenes. The fact that she has all that underlying her day-to-day routine and is battling that on top of everything else—it’s nothing short of miraculous.” Keough herself doesn’t discuss the debilitating symptoms she’s lived with. She’s conscious that people may write her off as a poor little rich girl, though her mother was reportedly millions in debt when she died.

Gown by Nili Lotan; ring (right ring finger) by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

We look for a place to sit on the lawn.

“This is my first break in a lot of years,” she says as we claim a patch of grass. “I’m a workaholic.”

This past week, Keough wrapped production in Vancouver on a miniseries she’s producing and starring in for Hulu (Under the Bridge), appeared in Mexico City at Dior’s 2024 cruise show, and celebrated the launch of a new Cartier jewelry collection in Florence. She’s also been shepherding new projects at her and Gammell’s production company, Felix Culpa. And here she is in Switzerland, doing an interview with me after eight hours of uncomfortable treatment—on her birthday.

I ask where she thinks she got her work ethic from.

“Not from my parents,” she says. Her father is the musician Danny Keough. “Not from anyone in my family. I came out of the womb like that.” Keough’s wearing a smocked shirt, blue jeans, and Charvet slippers. She takes off the slippers and digs her toes into the grass. “I think we’re half nature, half nurture. I was naturally somebody that was very punctual and hardworking and wanted to do things. My upbringing was very different to that. It was very no-schedule: Sometimes we go to school, sometimes we don’t. That was what I was used to, so I was living out my teen and childhood years as though that was what I wanted. I’m definitely an adventurous and spontaneous person, but I thrive on routine. My parents said when I was little, I was very much trying to organize things and make things happen.”

Reese Witherspoon, an executive producer on Daisy Jones, puts Keough’s career in context nimbly: “Despite all the money and the trappings that seem to facilitate an easier life, that is a very, very challenging life. To be under constant scrutiny and still rise to the top and still perform at the highest level…. I’m really in awe of her in how much she challenged herself.” And don’t sleep on this undeniable truth: “Because she didn’t have to.”

Dress by Emporio Armani; shoes by Jimmy Choo; bracelets and ring (right index finger) by Cartier.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Keough made the cover of People when there was still a pacifier in her mouth. She was born in 1989 in Santa Monica, and her mom posed with her alongside the cover line: “Elvis’s first grandchild. HERE SHE IS!” The magazine reportedly paid $300,000 for the exclusive. Keough’s father is Irish and Ashkenazi Jewish. Her mother was Scottish, Irish, Norwegian, Indigenous, and “very hillbilly.” As for herself, Keough says, “I’m an American girl.”

This particular American girl’s parents met while mom was living at the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre in LA. (Lisa Marie and Priscilla joined after Elvis’s death.) Keough was raised in the church, but the family reportedly left it in 2014. “I grew up with my dad reading tarot card books and metaphysics,” she tells me. “He’s very spiritual. I’m very spiritual. ‘Faith’ is a loaded word for people, but I think faith is faith in anything—faith in love, humanity, the universe, whatever it is. I don’t go to church, but I was always able to identify that spirituality was something that I really needed in my life.” Her family split their time between California, Florida, and Hawaii. Keough’s late brother, Benjamin Storm Keough, was born in 1992. Around this time, Keough’s already unusual childhood sloughed off any remaining resemblance to normality.

In 1993, Michael Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy. He turned to his close friend Lisa Marie for support. A year later, after Jackson had settled with the boy’s family for a reported $20 million, he proposed to her. She separated from Danny Keough, and 20 days later, she and Jackson eloped to the Dominican Republic. The media suspected the marriage was a publicity stunt to rehabilitate Jackson’s reputation, but Lisa Marie denied it: “I am very much in love with Michael. I dedicate my life to being his wife.” Jackson’s addiction to pills has since been cited as the reason the marriage dissolved a year and a half later.

“My whole childhood was probably very extreme,” Keough says. She breaks the tension with one of her big, guttural laughs. “In hindsight, I can see how crazy these things would be to somebody from the outside. But when you’re living in them, it’s just your life and your family. You just remember the love, and I had real love for Michael.” Keough was obviously too young to be aware of the accusations swirling around Jackson, so her memories are often idyllic, like the time the singer shut down a toy store in Paris—maybe it was London?—when she needed a teddy bear. “I think he really got a kick out of being able to make people happy, in the most epic way possible, which I think he and my grandfather had in common.”

I point out the surreal fact that Keough has called both Graceland and Neverland home.

“Which one did I like better?” she wonders aloud. “I spent more time at Neverland than Graceland, to be honest. That was a real home, whereas Graceland was a museum in my lifetime.”

After Lisa Marie and Jackson split, she married Nicolas Cage. Four months later, they separated. Keough doesn’t keep in touch with Cage, but says she’d be game to do a movie with him. “He’s a great actor,” she says. “I’ve had some wild stepfathers. Famous and not famous.” She steers the conversation back to Danny Keough, whose humble lifestyle had a grounding effect when she was young. “Her life was so fragmented,” says Gammell, a close friend as well as Keough’s producing partner. “He’s someone who had no money, and she had this incredibly regular life with him—and then eras with her mom that were extraordinary. That’s why she’s so comfortable in any place.”

Lisa Marie’s base was Calabasas, California, a town now globally known thanks to the Kardashians. The gated community, Hidden Hills, has been home to Madonna, Will Smith, Drake, Miley Cyrus, and more. “I think when we lived there, it was just us and Melissa Etheridge—it was horse country,” says Keough. “I’m an OG Calabasas girl.” The Kardashians were there too, but this was long before the show. “My grandma dated their dad, I think?” Keough says. “Fact-check that.”

She’s right. Priscilla dated Robert Kardashian after her divorce from Elvis in 1973. She refused to marry him while Elvis was still alive, so they parted ways.

In 2014, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West bought the property where Keough’s childhood home once stood. The original house had been demolished and a bigger one built. West enlisted Axel Vervoordt to design the family compound where Kim lives now.

Clothing and shoes by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello; necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

As a teenager, Keough’s family traveled so much that it was hard to get traction at school. “I was always at a loss,” she says. “My father really cared about my education. My mom was like, ‘You’re an artist. Go be an artist.’ ” Keough didn’t graduate from high school, though she still wants to someday. She turned to books, as well as museums, films, and anything else she could use to educate herself. “I like math,” she says, “and my grammar isn’t as bad as you’d think given the circ*mstances.”

At 14, Keough began modeling. She was a catwalk mainstay for a few seasons and notched a Vogue cover with Mom and Grandma, as well as a Miss Dior campaign. Through it all, her friend group has remained consistent, with Dakota Johnson, Zoë Kravitz, and Kristen Stewart among her nearest and dearest. All three describe Keough as graceful, humble, and fearless—and, for the record, they don’t seem to have strategized in a group text beforehand. They’re incredulous at the strength she’s displayed over the past three years (“I would do anything to take her pain away,” says Johnson). And they note that Keough’s quietness makes you lean in and pay attention, both onscreen and off. She’s delicate, they say, not to be confused with weak.

Kravitz and Keough were breast-fed in close proximity because their moms were friends, and somewhere there’s VHS tape of them running around a three-year-old’s birthday party together, but it was a chance New Year’s bash at 16 that bonded them for life. “I think consistency is the thing that I’ve always appreciated about Riley,” Kravitz says. “No matter what situation we’re in, no matter what crowd we’re in, she’s the same person. I’ve never questioned her integrity.” Then a laugh. “She’s definitely got this crazy little demon inside of her that likes to just…I mean, give her a couple tequilas, and she is rowdy!”

I relay all this to Keough, and she erupts with laughter. “I don’t think the wildness exists in the same way now,” she says. “I don’t really drink anymore, but definitely in my late teens into my mid-20s, I was an adventurer. Now I’m a bit of a granny.”

Johnson met Keough in an In-N-Out parking lot when they were 16. “It was like finding a soulmate,” Johnson tells me. Her own parents, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, were on the cover of People when she was newly conceived, the cover line blaring, THEY’RE PREGGERS! “When I met her, I felt this thing that is so impossible to articulate, growing up in a famous family,” Johnson continues. “There was this solidarity. Understanding. We would just smoke cigarettes with our moms. And they’d call each other and be like, ‘I guess she’s going to stay with you for the next four days. Call me if she needs a ride.’ I’d go to Riley’s and then leave a week later. I don’t know if that’s normal, but, yeah, just running around LA, sharing clothes, smelling like Nag Champa. Most of it involved music festivals and dating musicians, of course.” Seeing her old friend in Daisy Jones & the Six? “It all tracks.”

Since the Emmy-nominated series debuted this year, Keough has been almost frustratingly humble about her singing voice, saying she sang softly here and there when she was growing up but not much more. Johnson, it turns out, has a better memory. “When we were 19, we started a joke band called Folky p*rn,” she says. “Riley and I both had blond hair. We were hiding out in New York after breakups. We would do three-part harmonies with my brother, Alexander, on Hank Williams songs and John Prine songs, and we’d film them on Photo Booth. Thousands and thousands of takes.”

I relay all this to Keough too, and she’s thrilled to be reminded of her teenage pipe dream.

“Oh my goodness, Dakota did discover me,” she says. “I’ve been lying to the world! I was in a band!”

I ask Keough if she’d rather go on tour with The Six or Folky p*rn.

“Don’t ask me those kinds of questions,” she protests, laughing. “It’s very controversial—but I would rather go on tour with Folky p*rn.”

Dress, bra, and briefs by Gucci; shoes by Gianvito Rossi; ring by Bulgari.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Keough snagged her first professional acting job in The Runaways, a biopic about the ’70s band with Stewart as Joan Jett. “She was kind of this elusive figure on set because she was with us so briefly, but she comes with a baked-in, unavoidable gravitas,” Stewart tells me. “She’s Elvis’s grandkid, so obviously we were curious about her. Do you know what I mean? And she was really, really—and I mean this affectionately—painfully shy.”

In her early 20s, Keough self-taped an audition for a scene-stealing role as a stripper in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike. The director not only cast her but worked with her on two subsequent projects as well, Logan Lucky and The Girlfriend Experience, the latter earning her a Golden Globe nomination. “The most surprising thing about Riley is her complete fearlessness in performing,” Soderbergh says. “She protects nothing. Whatever her process is—and she must have a process, you don’t just roll up with stuff this great—she wouldn’t dream of burdening anyone with it. I mean, I can’t find anything wrong with her.” Stewart seconds this: “She’s the best thing in everything she’s done. Because she’s not acting. She’s a solid sender. She’s always being honest, and that’s a vulnerable place to put yourself. And I don’t mean that to belittle any project, but there are some actors that just can’t do anything uninteresting.”

Keough met the Australian stuntman and actor Ben Smith-Petersen in 2013 while making Mad Max: Fury Road, and later they road-tripped to Byron Bay. “I remember it so vividly, I just knew that we were going to have kids,” Keough says. “It was, in hindsight, very strange. I didn’t know how we’d get there, but we did.”

The couple married in 2015. Both Keough and Stewart still light up at the memory of the bachelorette trip to central California’s oasis of kitsch, the Madonna Inn.

“We’re really good at hotel-room hangs,” Stewart tells me. “We’ve never been kicked out of a hotel, though. That’s saying something.”

“We were listening to Spice Girls, the Backstreet Boys, and TLC,” says Keough. “The rooms were pink and glittery. We wore penis headbands.”

“We ate dinner in the weird little restaurant and were too loud,” says Stewart.

“There’s a really unflattering paparazzi picture of us hungover the next morning, forever on the internet,” says Keough. “It’s my most fun memory.” (Google her name and “bachelorette party”: The photo looks like a poster for a heist film.)

Bracelet by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Back in Switzerland, the sun is setting, and Keough has wrapped herself in a sweater. We’re so many hours ahead of LA that, when we started talking inside, the only birthday wishes she’d gotten were automatic emails from her doctor’s and dentist’s offices. Ever since we sat in the grass, though, her phone has been singing with alerts from friends.

Keough smiles. “Oh my God, so many texts, I must be special,” she jokes.

We say goodbye for the day in the lobby. As Keough slips away to join her husband and daughter, the pianist, in all seriousness, starts playing “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

Too late. Riley has left the building.

The world first discovered that Keough and her husband had welcomed a daughter at Lisa Marie’s funeral at Graceland in January. Keough wrote a eulogy but was too overcome to deliver it, so her husband read it for her. It included these lines: “I hope I can love my daughter the way you loved me, the way you loved my brother and my sisters. Thank you for giving me strength, my heart, my empathy, my courage, my sense of humor, my manners, my temper, my wildness, my tenacity. I’m a product of your heart.”

On a hot June afternoon, Keough hugs me hello outside the unassuming ’70s tract house that she and Smith-Petersen have been renting at the end of a cul-de-sac in Calabasas. “Don’t judge, this isn’t my aesthetic,” she says. “After my mom died, I needed to be close to my sisters. There were only three houses available out here, so we just moved in. We were stuck.”

The family’s moving to a more private place tomorrow—even now, there’s a paparazzo parked at the end of the street—and Smith-Petersen is packing boxes in the garage. The family will still be close to Keough’s 14-year-old half sisters, Harper and Finley Lockwood, which is imperative: Luhrmann remembers Keough at Lisa Marie’s funeral “physically holding the twins as people filed past in the garden.”

I ask if the new place is her ideal home.

“No, but I love suburbia,” she says. “This is my dream: normalcy. I’m happy out here.”

Keough ushers me inside and, over the barking of the family’s dogs, Zushi and Grubs, I hear an infant’s cry.

“Hi, baby,” she says. Then to me: “This is Tupelo.”

Tupelo Storm Smith-Petersen arrived via surrogate in August 2022. Keough says of surrogacy, “I think it’s a very cool, selfless, and incredible act that these women do to help other people. I can carry children, but it felt like the best choice for what I had going on physically with the autoimmune stuff.” As for her daughter’s name: Tupelo, of course, was the King of Rock and Roll’s birthplace in Mississippi. “It’s funny because we picked her name before the Elvis movie,” Keough says. “I was like, ‘This is great because it’s not really a well-known word or name in relation to my family—it’s not like Memphis or something.” A big laugh at her naivete. “Then when the Elvis movie came out, it was like, Tupelo this and Tupelo that. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But it’s fine.”

Her daughter’s middle name is a tribute to her late brother, Benjamin Storm Keough, who died when he was 27.

Gown by Nili Lotan; ring (right ring finger) by Van Cleef & Arpels.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

Keough reaches into a playpen and picks up her 10-month-old girl. There’s no question who the father is. “She’s literally like someone shrunk my husband and that’s our baby,” Keough says. Then softly, she lets me in on a secret: “I’ll show you where I am.” She turns Tupelo so the back of her head faces me. “This curl right here.” Keough smiles and tugs gently on a blond tendril at the nape of the baby’s neck. I also see Keough in Tupelo’s eyes and smile.

Keough tries to hand the baby to her sitter, but Tupelo wants Mama, so the three of us make our way to the backyard, where a wooden bench overlooks a man-made lake. Tupelo coos in her mother’s lap and plays with my sunglasses.

“This is the thing in my life so far that I have really wanted to, quote-unquote, get right,” Keough says. “I don’t think you ever can be a perfect parent, but I would like to be the best mom for her that I can be. That’s.…” Keough pauses for a long, long time. “Very important to me.” I hear echoes in this of her eulogy for her mom: “I’m certain I chose the best mother for me in this world, and I knew that as far back as I can remember you.”

Later, when Tupelo is napping and the California sun is bearing down, Keough sits in a lounge chair in a white tank top, yellow bikini bottom, and straw sun hat. She has sunglasses perched on the tip of her nose, and she’s eating a red apple. After 15 days of treatment in Switzerland, she’s feeling better. It’s the first thing she’s tried that’s worked.

Since we last met, Keough’s settlement with her grandmother has been made public. In return for becoming the sole trustee of Lisa Marie’s estate, Keough will reportedly pay Priscilla a million dollars and cover $400,000 in legal fees.

Her lawyer has said Keough wouldn’t have settled if she wasn’t happy.

“Mm-hmm,” she says. She knew these questions were coming. She takes a breath. “When my mom passed, there was a lot of chaos in every aspect of our lives. Everything felt like the carpet had been ripped out and the floor had melted from under us. Everyone was in a bit of a panic to understand how we move forward, and it just took a minute to understand the details of the situation, because it’s complicated. We are a family, but there’s also a huge business side of our family. So I think that there was clarity that needed to be had.”

And clarity’s been had?

She smiles: “Clarity has been had.”

Are things with Grandma happy?

“Things with Grandma will be happy,” Keough says. “They’ve never not been happy.” She pauses to assemble her thoughts. “I’m trying to think of a way to answer it that’s not a 20-minute conversation.” Another long pause. “There was a bit of upheaval, but now everything’s going to be how it was. She’s a beautiful woman, and she was a huge part of creating my grandfather’s legacy and Graceland. It’s very important to her. He was the love of her life. Anything that would suggest otherwise in the press makes me sad because, at the end of the day, all she wants is to love and protect Graceland and the Presley family and the legacy. That’s her whole life. So it’s a big responsibility she has tried to take on. None of that stuff has really ever been a part of our relationship prior. She’s just been my grandma.”

There have been conflicting reports online about whether Priscilla will be allowed to be buried at Graceland one day.

“I don’t know why she wouldn’t be buried at Graceland,” says Keough. “I don’t understand what the drama in the news was about. Yeah. If she wants to be, of course. Sharing Graceland with the world was her idea from the start.” She pauses and swallows. “I always had positive and beautiful memories and association with Graceland. Now, a lot of my family’s buried there, so it’s a place of great sadness at this point in my life.”

One of those people is her younger brother.

“He, in a lot of ways, felt like my twin,” Keough says. “We were very connected and very similar. He was much quicker and wittier and a little smarter than me.” She musters a laugh. “He was a very special soul.” After Benjamin’s death, Riley moved in with her mother for six months. “After that, I would still sleep at her house like two or three times a week. She wanted us there. If it was up to her, I would have lived there full-time.”

Keough saw her mother at a party for Elvis a day after the Golden Globes this year. “We had dinner,” she says. “That was the last time I saw her. I remember thinking about how beautiful she looked, and that was my strongest memory of the dinner.”

When Keough addresses the accumulated tragedies head-on, the sentences come in pieces: “I have been through a great deal of pain and I’ve had my.… Parts of me have died and I’ve felt like my heart has exploded, but I also feel.… I’m trying to think of how to phrase this.… I have strengthened the qualities that have come about through adversity.”

I ask her what she wants people to remember about her mother.

She sighs, then smiles.

“Oh my gosh,” she says, “I think it would take hours and hours to summarize her, but she was really one of a kind.” She lets out another of those booming laughs that seem too big for her body. “She was just so unapologetically herself in every circ*mstance, and so strong.” Here, the sentences start coming in pieces again. “The life she had was not easy, and the treachery she endured and the lack of real love and real friends.… She definitely had some great friends and relationships in her life, but I don’t think she really ever had.… People were just coming for her since she was born—wanting something from her and not being totally authentic. She had to develop very thick skin. She was a very powerful presence and extremely loving and extremely loyal and sort of a lioness—a fierce woman, and a really wonderful mother. I think that would be my summary because I’m her daughter. She was the best mom.”

She stops for a moment. “When I lost my brother, there was no road map whatsoever, and it was a lot of big emotions that I didn’t know what to do with,” she says. “When I lost my mom, I was familiar with the process a little bit more, and I found working to be really helpful. I find it triggering when people say happiness is a choice, but in that moment, I did feel like there was a choice in front of me to give up and let this event take me out or have the courage to work through it. I started trying to move through it and not let it take me out.”

Keough clearly poured a lot of herself into Daisy Jones. “This was one of those career-making moments and it was in her,” Witherspoon says. “She was willing to go there and really share a lot of her deep personal experiences with an audience. Especially if you get to episodes 8, 9, 10, you start to see this woman unraveling in a way that is so real and visceral and terrifying. She went there, despite everything that’s been going on in her life.”

Skirt by Prada; necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. Throughout: hair products by Oribe; makeup products by Clé de Peau Beauté and Loveseen; nail enamel by Chanel Le Vernis.Photograph by Mario Sorrenti; Styled by Nicola Formichetti.

The last time I see Keough is a Thursday night in downtown LA, at a concert by her friend Blake Mills, the singer-songwriter responsible for most of the music on Daisy Jones. Ever the workaholic, Keough is carrying a tote bag with the dress, heels, and jewelry she just wore to a Jaeger-LeCoultre store opening across town. She changed into jeans and a white T-shirt in the car. I ask how her family’s move went, and she tells me it’s been postponed because the new place is still being painted. She’s upbeat nonetheless. “I like moving,” she says. “You can get rid of stuff.”

Seats have been reserved for Keough, but she’d rather be close to the front, so we thread through the crowd, and soon her husband joins us. It’s a small venue—a former Presbyterian church—and the AC is broken. Still, Keough is the concertgoer I wish I could be: hanging on every word, swaying with the music, totally present. Every so often a lyric seems to hit home and she shares a loving glance with her husband.

By 9 p.m., Keough is starving, so she times a Postmates delivery to eat outside during intermission. (My parents said when I was little, I was very much trying to organize things and make things happen.) Keough had hoped for Goop Kitchen but it was closed, so—there’s no pretending this isn’t an LA story—she went with Erewhon. Unfortunately, they forgot utensils. Keough laughs: “I guess I’m eating vegan lasagna with my hands.” The three of us sit on the steps outside the former church, and she does. A night out is rare for the new parents. They’re morning people who are usually in bed at nine. Neither can remember their last concert.

Back inside, we listen to Mills until close to midnight. We’re all fading, but Keough isn’t ready to leave. “One more song,” she tells me, eyeing the clock. She leans into her husband’s body, her eyes never leaving the stage, the smile never leaving her face. Mills introduces “By Myself” from Daisy Jones. “This song was sung by Riley Keough,” he says. It’s a ballad about turbulence and self-reliance, among other things, comparing life to a “wind rough sea.” When it’s over, Keough says, “I think that’s a good one to end on.”

Outside, she hugs me goodbye and takes her husband’s hand. They walk off into the night toward their car, which they’ve parked on the street like everybody else.

There’s a line at the end of Daisy Jones: “The chosen ones never know they are chosen.” At her home in Calabasas, I asked Keough what she thought of it, and she joked about how she knew some chosen ones who definitely think they deserved to be chosen. Then she stopped deflecting. “I think I’ve certainly been chosen for some wonderful things and chosen for some horrible things too,” she said. “I am aware that I have been through a lot of very crazy things, but I don’t feel like a victim. I don’t feel like poor Riley.”

Keough said this next part offhandedly, but it says a lot about her humility and her quest for normalcy even as the world watches.

“I also don’t really feel chosen.”

SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and TV projects. The interviews and photoshoot for thispiece were conducted prior to the strike.


More Great Stories From Vanity Fair

  • Cover StarAyo EdebiriIs Making Hollywood Her Playground

  • 23 Summer Movies You Can’t Miss This Year

  • Royal Sources Reveal the Latest on Kate Middleton

  • The Scary Skinny on Counterfeit Ozempic

  • Inside Trump’s “F--king Crazy” Apprentice Negotiations

  • The Baby Reindeer Dilemma: When “True Story” TV Goes Too Far

  • What Is Cinema? Filmmaking Masters Share Their Secrets

Riley Keough on Growing Up Presley, Losing Lisa Marie, and Inheriting Graceland (2)

West Coast Director

Britt Hennemuth is Vanity Fair’s West Coast director. He profiles rising talent for the Vanities section each month, helps produce and cast the annual Hollywood Issue, and oversees VF’s relations with the West Coast market as well as content at the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, and Sundance film festivals. He is... Read more

See More By Britt Hennemuth »

Read More


The Graceland Foreclosure Lawsuit Appears to Have Ended in the Most Bizarre Way Possible

The mysterious Naussany Investments appears to have relinquished its claims on Elvis Presley’s former home after a swift and puzzling sequence of legal events.

By Kase Wickman


Where’s Melania? Not at Trump’s Post-Verdict Press Conference

Nothing says love like RSVP’ing I’ve got better things to do.

By Bess Levin


Trump Adviser Stephen Bannon Has Till July 1 to Surrender for 4-Month Prison Sentence

Bannon is the eighth (8th!) Trump ally to receive prison time.

By Bess Levin


Outlander Star Sam Heughan Has a Pitch for Taylor Swift: Let’s Fall In Love

He said that he and his castmates plan to attend the Eras Tour in Scotland this weekend.

By Kase Wickman


Inside Trump’s “F--king Crazy” Apprentice Negotiations With His Arch Frenemy Jeff Zucker

An excerpt from a new book explores the twisted alliances, nutty gambles, and reality TV distortions that—for better or much, much worse—brought Donald Trump roaring back into the public eye.

By Ramin Setoodeh

Award Season

Will Anything About This Year’s Emmys Surprise Us?

With Shōgun now ruling the drama races, Baby Reindeer has the limited-series field all to itself. But TV’s biggest night may offer up some big twists elsewhere.

By David Canfield


King Charles and Cynthia Erivo Share a Laugh at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts

The king, who recently became patron of the famous acting school, joined with a handful of alumni to celebrate RADA’s 120th anniversary.


Republicans Proudly Declare They’re Against Making Contraception a Federal Right

Senate Republicans blocked a bill on Wednesday that would have guaranteed the right to birth control.

By Bess Levin

Award Season

Inside the “Mind f*ck” of David Cronenberg’s Grief Drama The Shrouds

Inspired by the death of Cronenberg’s wife, the film is rooted in the director’s experience of loss. For actors Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger, that made for an uncanny, emotional, and at times plain bizarre experience.

By David Canfield


Why Congress’s AI Plan Was Doomed From the Start

Lawmakers took a year of study to avoid repeating the same mistakes they made with social media. But their report suggests they've once again fallen behind the industry they say they want to regulate.

By Eric Lutz

Riley Keough on Growing Up Presley, Losing Lisa Marie, and Inheriting Graceland (2024)


Why did Riley Keough inherit Graceland? ›

Presley purchased the property in 1957 for $102,500. Following the January death of his only child, Lisa Marie Presley, and subsequent legal proceedings regarding the estate's custody, Elvis's granddaughter Riley Keough was granted sole ownership of Graceland.

How much did Riley Keough get paid for Daisy Jones? ›

What Did Riley Keough Make for Daisy Jones & the Six? Riley's paycheck rudely hasn't been confirmed by Amazon Prime Video, but there's an unsubstantiated claim that she made $1.5 million for the series, which would break down to about $150,000 per episode.

Did Riley Keough have a baby? ›

Amid the heartache of saying goodbye to her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, in January, Riley Keough and her husband, Ben Smith-Petersen, revealed that they have a daughter. Smith-Petersen first shared the news while reading a speech his wife wrote in tribute to her mother during Lisa Marie's Jan.

Who inherits Lisa Marie Presley's fortune? ›

Lisa Marie's oldest daughter, Riley Keough, is the beneficiary of her late mother's estate. Priscilla Presley had questioned the validity of her daughter's will, but a settlement agreement over her petition was reached on May 16.

Was Riley Keough close to Lisa Marie? ›

In 2014, Lisa Marie opened up about her life with her children, calling her family “just very normal” despite their fame. Lisa Marie explained that she was “very close” with Riley and her other three children and considered them best friends.

Who has custody of Lisa Marie's twins? ›

Lisa Marie Presley's ex-husband has won full custody of their two win daughters following her sudden death in January. Lisa Marie Presley's ex-husband has won full custody of their two twin daughters following her sudden death in January.

Does Riley Keough wear a wig in Daisy Jones? ›

Believe it or not, Riley Keough (who plays Daisy Jones) did not use any wigs or extensions during filming. That's right: IT'S ALL HER NATURAL HAIR. So, it was super important to MaryAnn to keep Riley's hair as healthy as possible in between filming.

What was the settlement agreement between Priscilla and Riley Keough? ›

According to a copy of the settlement acquired by CNN, 78-year-old Priscilla will receive a one-time payment of $1 million “in exchange” for her resignation as a trustee of Lisa's Irrevocable Trust, a fiduciary entity Lisa Marie created in 1993.

Does Riley Keough do her own singing in Daisy Jones? ›

“But in terms of actually using my voice, I'd never done that before.” After some time with a vocal coach and months preparing to play the role of Daisy, Keough felt she finally had the musical chops to pull off the performance.

What did Riley Keough call her daughter? ›

The choice of "Tupelo" was a nod to Elvis Presley's birthplace in Mississippi, adding a meaningful connection to the family's heritage. Additionally, the name "Storm" was a tribute to Keough's late brother, Benjamin, incorporating his middle name into their daughter's name.

Has Riley Keough locked Priscilla out of Graceland? ›

A representative for Graceland has since denied this, telling Entertainment Tonight: “These reports are entirely untrue. No locks at Graceland have been changed since Lisa Marie's passing.

What is the tattoo on Riley Keough's neck? ›

Benjamin Storm” on Her Right Collarbone

Riley had a strong bond with her brother before his passing and she even gave her daughter his middle name in his honor.

How much is Lisa Marie Presley's kids going to inherit? ›

Lisa-Marie Presley's three daughters to inherit Graceland estate worth $718 million. Lisa Marie Presley's three daughters will inherit the $718 million estate once owned by Elvis after her sudden death last week. Lisa Marie Presley and daughters Riley Keough and Harper and Finley Lockwood. Picture: Instagram.

Did Priscilla Presley get any of Elvis' money? ›

Priscilla Presley inherited a significant portion of Elvis Presley's fortune upon his passing in 1977. As his ex-wife, Priscilla was entitled to a share of his estate, which was estimated to be around $10 million at the time of his death.

Did Priscilla inherit Elvis's estate? ›

At just nine years old, Priscilla Presley became one of three heirs to her father's estate when Elvis Presley passed away in 1977. Three years later, after the passing of her grandfather, Vernon, and great-grandmother, Minnie, she became the sole heir.

Did Priscilla Presley inherit anything from Elvis? ›

Just to name a few. Priscilla Presley inherited a significant portion of Elvis Presley's fortune upon his passing in 1977. As his ex-wife, Priscilla was entitled to a share of his estate, which was estimated to be around $10 million at the time of his death.

Who gets Elvis Presley's royalties? ›

As a result, Lisa Marie does not own the artist's royalties on sales of recordings made before March 1973, however the Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) does own his artist's royalties on sales of recordings made after that date, which still earns them a hefty sum.

What did Riley Keough say about her mom? ›

As for what she wants the world to remember about her mom, she said it would be that "she was really one of a kind" and -- despite not having an easy life -- she was a "fierce woman, and a really wonderful mother." Riley Keough on the cover of Vanity Fair's September 2023 issue, on newsstands Aug.

What does Riley Keough say about Michael Jackson? ›

"I had real love for Michael," Keough said of the "Thriller" singer. She recalled that "he really got a kick out of being able to make people happy, in the most epic way possible," like how Jackson once had a toy store in Europe shut down so that she could buy a teddy bear.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Last Updated:

Views: 5430

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dr. Pierre Goyette

Birthday: 1998-01-29

Address: Apt. 611 3357 Yong Plain, West Audra, IL 70053

Phone: +5819954278378

Job: Construction Director

Hobby: Embroidery, Creative writing, Shopping, Driving, Stand-up comedy, Coffee roasting, Scrapbooking

Introduction: My name is Dr. Pierre Goyette, I am a enchanting, powerful, jolly, rich, graceful, colorful, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.