Elvis actor Shonka Dukureh dies one month after big screen debut

The 44-year-old singer, who portrayed Big Mama Thornton in Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, was found unresponsive in her Nashville home

The actor Shonka Dukureh, who recently made her big screen debut as Big Mama Thornton in Baz Luhrmann’s new film Elvis, had died at the age of 44.

Dukureh was found dead on Thursday in a bedroom at her home in Nashville, which she shared with her two young children, the Metro Nashville Police Department said.

One of the children found her unresponsive and went to the apartment of a neighbour, who called 911. Police said there were no signs of foul play. Autopsy results are pending from the medical examiner.

Dukureh portrayed the blues singer Big Mama Thornton in the Elvis Presley biopic, which was released around the world in June.

Dukureh’s performance of the song Hound Dog, which Thornton recorded in 1952, four years before Presley, went viral online after the film was released.

The actor and singer, who also shared the stage at Coachella this year with Doja Cat, had a theatre degree from Fisk University and an education degree from Trevecca Nazarene, radio station WPLN-FM reported.

In an interview with the station last month, Dukureh said she had previously worked as a second grade teacher and worked with inner-city youth through after-school and summer programs.

She said those students reached out after seeing her in Elvis.


Sian Cain and Associated Press

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Elvis Presley lives: Austin Butler cast as the King in biopic
Actor beats Ansel Elgort, Harry Styles and Miles Teller to role in Baz Luhrmann movie

Steph Harmon and agencies

16, Jul, 2019 @3:40 AM

Article image
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
Presley was rushed to hospital on Thursday night after suffering a suspected cardiac arrest

Sian Cain

13, Jan, 2023 @6:34 AM

Article image
What links Elvis to LA Galaxy, via Mr Oizo?
With Baz Luhrmann’s Presley biopic in cinemas this week, dive down the rabbit hole with a one-hit wonder turned film-maker and a pair of Shues

Larry Ryan

18, Jun, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
Elvis review – Baz Luhrmann’s squeaky-clean King is shaking no one up
Incurious yet frantic, Luhrmann’s spangly epic is off-key – and Austin Butler flounders in those blue suede shoes

Peter Bradshaw

22, Jun, 2022 @8:56 AM

Article image
Elvis review – blistering, turbocharged chronicle of the King
With electrifying performances from Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker, Baz Luhrmann’s whirlwind biopic is cinematic dynamite

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

26, Jun, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
All shook up: how accurate is Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic?
The director faced a colossal task in condensing the King’s two-decade-plus career into a single feature. So how did he fare?

Mark Duffett

27, Jun, 2022 @9:16 AM

Article image
Pink suits and manbags: Elvis rips up stereotypes in Baz Luhrmann biopic
Upcoming film explores how Memphis upbringing shaped king of rock’n’roll’s music and style

Jess Cartner-Morley

03, Jun, 2022 @9:24 AM

Article image
Elvis Presley as Willy Wonka? The films the King of Rock’n’Roll almost made
West Side Story, Midnight Cowboy and The Godfather would all have been very different if Elvis had got his way – or if his manager Col Tom Parker hadn’t turned down so many roles on his behalf

Matthew Turner

20, Jun, 2022 @2:12 PM

Article image
Baz Luhrmann, flamboyant director of Moulin Rouge! and Romeo and Juliet, turns focus to Elvis
Australian director’s biopic about the singing legend to be unveiled at Cannes film festival next week

Vanessa Thorpe

15, May, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
A little more conversation: Baz Luhrmann set for Elvis Presley movie

Warner Bros has reportedly secured the rights to Elvis songs for use in a production based on a script by Saving Mr Banks writer Kelly Marcel

Ben Child

01, May, 2014 @11:29 AM