Celebrity biopics are always a long task for the actor playing the role—even more so if the subject is a beloved, iconic artist who probably became even more famous after his untimely death. So it’s no surprise that Austin Butler had more than a few nerves to play Elvis Presley in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann-directed biopic.
Butler admitted in behind-the-scenes footage, “I was too nervous and scared to go out there and perform in front of a lot of people, with lots of extras.” elvisWhich hits theaters on June 24. “I was filled with terror at that thought.”
Cleverly, Butler consulted a colleague about his nerves: Rami Malek, who won an Academy Award in 2019 for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Bohemian Rhapsody,
“He said, ‘You know what? Those days will probably become your favorite days,'” Butler recalls, sharing Malek’s take on his role. “He couldn’t be more right about it… I was scared every time before I went there… But Elvis said it too. Those first duet songs, once you do them and you know It’s okay, no one is going to throw stones at me, it’s all right.”
“Then you feel that connection and you think about how you can play with the audience,” he says. “There were days when I didn’t want that day to end.”
The performance attracted not only Presley’s real-life family, but also Butler’s Oscar-winning co-star Tom Hanks, who stars as Elvis’ longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
“He was electrifying when he came out on stage!” Hanks grumbles in the clip. “I think he had to do this 30 times, whatever was going on, and you couldn’t take your eyes off him every time.”
“You just wanted to see him do it over and over again,” he continues. “Part of that is definitely channeling, part of it is the drive that Austin has had, and has always had as an actor. But there’s also a huge amount of faith in the process and in myself that’s unlike Elvis. Not there.”
So how did Butler prepare for the part, which Luhrmann says was “born” to play—casting him on stars like Harry Styles, who was also rumored to be in contention for the part? He became obsessed.
“I said, ‘I’m just gonna drop everything and I obsess. I’m going to allow myself to obsess,'” he recalls. “And so I started reading and watching everything I could on his life and on his friends and his relationships and only listened to his music.”
Butler also revealed that he started studying for the part before auditioning! “I treated it like I already had a job,” he shares. “It was January two years ago, and then until about February, they hadn’t started auditioning yet, and I saw Baz in one of my videos. Sent playing piano and singing ‘Unwanted Melody.'”
After Parting Out, Butler Had to Go the Extra Mile Elvis’ Talented hair, makeup and prosthetics team, who helped her pull off the physical look of the role.
“It helps in a big way. When you look in the mirror and you start seeing changes,” he sighs. “It makes you feel different. It really does.”
Hanks also wears prosthetics to play Parker, a highly attractive character whom Hanks describes as “Carney’s charming amalgamation, wickedly smart businessman, dime-squeezing skin flint, but a larger type.” K. is also a pioneer in show business that didn’t even exist until Elvis Presley came along.”
“There was a standard kind of manager-artist type [relationship]: ‘Let me tell you what we’re going to do, kid, we’re going to go like this,’ and Colonel, Colonel wasn’t like that,” admits Hanks.
But while Parker left a complicated legacy, she did at least one thing very right in recognizing that Presley would be a superstar.
“It’s not just lightning in a bottle – it’s a comet slamming into planet Earth, and it’s changing the landscape and the climate,” he admires. “Elvis did it.”
“That was the American dream, really,” agrees Butler.
elvis In theaters on June 24. Watch the trailer below!
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