Austin Butler Is A Hot Revelation In Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’

“A reverend once said to me, ‘When things are too dangerous to say, sing,” Austin Butler said in the trailer for Elvis, premieres June 24. And in Butler’s portrayal of musical legend, audiences are sure to hear (and see) a side of Elvis that a lot of people have tried to censor, especially from the waist down. Butler said: “He was a punk before punk existed. “He was rolling around on stage, spitting. We have to show what you don’t see in [archival] scene. ”

The film, directed by Baz Luhrmann, also stars Tom Hanks as Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley. It explores the life and work of the singer and actor through his relationship with Parker in an age of social upheaval and “repressed 50s giving way to liberation,” as Butler said. speak.

A wave of unrest after the previous killing of George Floyd ElvisFilming in the fall of 2020, was halted for six months before Hanks contracted COVID-19. The parallels between the film’s time period and the chaos of today are not lost in Butler. And, in relation to the pandemic, he cherishes being able to provide a few moments of fun and normalcy for about 500 additional people during the concert scenes. “They weren’t allowed to go to a club for eight months — haven’t had a hug in a long time — and then suddenly, through all the safety and testing procedures, they were there,” he said. speak. “And we want to give them the best performance we can.”

More than a biopic, Luhrmann sees the film as an exploration of mid-century America, focusing on the relationship between business and the arts. “When that relationship goes awry, when it’s just about making a sale or putting your name on something, that’s when culture and society are out of balance,” he said. “That is why, for me, the relationship between Colonel Tom Parker, a genius in the field of advertising, and a purely spiritual and truly vulnerable artist like Elvis is winged. Great portal to explore these topics.”

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Luhrmann said he considered “pretty much any gifted artist” for the lead role, including Harry Styles and Miles Teller, but when he saw a video of Butler “in an emotional ball, playing and sang ‘Unchained Melody’ in his bathrobe by the piano,” he knew he had found his Elvis. “From that point on, and every second I got to know him through the audition process, he really lived the Elvis life,” he said. If Luhrmann had any hesitation, an unsolicited phone call from Denzel Washington marked the deal: “[Washington] just starred opposite [Butler] on Broadway in a production of Cometh the Icemanand said that he has never met a young actor with such a strong work ethic”.

Butler spent a lot of time with his grandmother as a child, and she always watched Elvis movies, he said. “He’s almost become the wallpaper of society, where everyone has this idea of ​​him.” The King’s quest for humanity is more complicated. At first, Butler didn’t think he had much in common with him. “I am a very shy person,” he said. “But then I heard stories about how he wanted to play guitar as a kid but was so worried he asked people to turn around and turn off the lights. And Elvis lost his mother at the age of 23. I lost my mother when I was 23 years old. That changes who you are. It makes me think, Okay, he’s human, and not as far away from me as he once seemed. ”

A version of this paper appears in the May 2022 issue of ELLE.

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