Austin Butler by no means deliberate to play Elvis Presley in a film. The “Elvis” star hadn’t even been advised he resembled the late Rock ‘n’ Roll singer till a month earlier than he discovered about director Baz Luhrmann’s bold movie — a dramatic never-before-told Presley story (which premiered on June 24) starring an ensemble solid comprised of Tom Hanks, Olivia Dejonge, Kelvin Harrison Jr. Alton Mason, and Yola. Nonetheless, as destiny would have it, a sequence of likelihood occasions finally helped Butler land the position of a lifetime — one which landed him his first-ever Golden Globe win.
“The weird factor was I by no means had anyone say, ‘You seem like Elvis, it is best to play Elvis,’ or any of that.”
“It was destiny,” Butler beforehand advised POPSUGAR. “The weird factor was I by no means had anyone say, ‘You seem like Elvis, it is best to play Elvis,’ or any of that. Then [there were] two moments that this pal (ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens) mentioned, ‘You bought to play Elvis’ . . . I bought the decision that Baz was making [the movie], and the hairs on my arm stood up. And I simply thought, ‘That is it, it seems like the celebs aligning.'”
In Butler’s thoughts, tackling such a monumental position was an extended shot. Earlier than commencing his Presley transformation, the actor had little religion in his potential to do the position justice, a lot much less snag the half. Whereas looking for his “Elvis” star, Luhrmann acquired a videotape of Butler tearfully singing Presley’s cowl of “Unchained Melody” — an off-the-cuff audition that instantly caught his consideration. The “chilly name” Luhrmann acquired from Denzel Washington finally helped seal Butler’s future.
The very first thing Butler did when he was solid for “Elvis” in 2019 was name up dialect coach Tim Monich. “I mentioned, ‘We bought to get to work,'” Butler mentioned. The actor was all set to start his “Elvis” journey, even spending time at Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, TN, whereas getting ready for the movie. Nonetheless, manufacturing on the movie stalled in March 2020 because of the pandemic, leaving Butler alone for roughly six months in his residence/Presley-decorated shrine to replicate on what his efficiency would look and sound like. He practically psyched himself out of the chance, however leaning on recommendation from fellow actor Rami Malek helped Butler shake his nerves.
“There was this factor the place I had an unrealistic expectation that I might one way or the other contort my face to look precisely like Elvis.”
“[Malek] was very useful after I was going by means of a close to panic assault earlier than beginning,” Butler jokingly revealed. “We really spoke earlier than COVID. So I used to be about to start out taking pictures, and I did not really feel prepared. I used to be on the verge of an anxiousness assault, [and] I simply did not really feel prepared at the moment — then I spoke to Rami, and he actually helped me.”
Butler initially struggled together with his bodily look in relation to Presley — he nonetheless did not really feel like he seemed the half. He revealed, “There was this factor the place I had an unrealistic expectation that I might one way or the other contort my face to look precisely like Elvis. Or I checked out different individuals, and I’m going, ‘They appear extra like him,’ that type of factor — you begin judging your self. So for me, Rami was like, ‘On the finish of the day, it is not about that. You do not need to go to the Wax Museum and simply see that. You need to see your soul and his soul colliding and creating one thing we have by no means seen earlier than.'”
The liberating recommendation inspired Butler on his mission to nail Presley’s accent, mannerisms, actions, and the way they modified by means of his energetic years — a “sluggish course of” that took the actor a 12 months and a half to finish. “It is like making an attempt to study a whole orchestra piece, the place you are making an attempt to study each notice and each instrument,” Butler famous. “You possibly can solely study one factor at a time, so I might obsess about what his eyes had been doing at a sure second, what his palms had been doing, or the way in which that his voice modified as a result of it wasn’t only one voice.”
The problem to completely embody Presley was “fascinating” for Butler. However what mattered most to him wasn’t turning into an actual duplicate of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, however honoring his humanity. That goal grew to become his North Star in each “Elvis” scene he shot — one that will assist him mildew his model of Presley.
“I used to be making an attempt to do what I had ready and the homework that I would been doing for eight months.”
Butler mentioned “Elvis” introduced “tons of problem” all through the filmmaking course of. The toughest scene he filmed referred to as for him to instruct a band on carry out a music throughout a rehearsal for Presley’s Vegas present. Luhrmann wasn’t happy with the preliminary takes, so he requested Butler and the band to “play the music uncooked.” “We did it one take, and it was terrible,” Butler mentioned. “It was that factor the place you are feeling all of the air within the room simply suck out, and it is as a result of I used to be making an attempt to do it completely. I used to be making an attempt to do what I had ready and the homework that I would been doing for eight months, or nevertheless lengthy I would had this observe in my thoughts . . . I used to be considering, ‘It is a nightmare — I am not going to get by means of right this moment.'”
A pep speak with himself finally gave Butler the motivation he wanted to let go of what was anticipated of him and as a substitute do what felt proper. “I mentioned, ‘This is not about taking part in completely. That is about listening to the music and getting them to play the music that is in your thoughts,'” he mentioned. “So I went again on the market, and immediately, I felt free. It grew to become one of the thrilling moments that I’ve had, as a result of it felt so truthful. . . . Getting all people to play [the song] the way in which that it was in my thoughts — it was so liberating, and immediately, you are feeling such as you’re out of your physique. That was a fantastic second for me.”
It isn’t stunning that there are nonetheless traces of his newfound Southern twang in his voice, contemplating how lengthy he spent with a personality like Presley. The expertise of depicting Presley on the large display screen won’t ever depart Butler, and he appears content material with that. He nonetheless perks up at any likelihood to revisit his portrayal in actual life.