“You can lose touch with who you really are. And I definitely had that by the time I was done elvis – not knowing who I was.”
Baz Luhrmann’s epic biopic about the life and career of Elvis Presley has certainly been a long time coming.
filming for elvis was originally slated to begin in March 2020 in Lurhmann’s home country of Australia, but just days before filming began, one of the stars, Tom Hanks, was hospitalized with COVID-19.
As the severity of the pandemic became apparent, production was shut down indefinitely. But Austin Butler – who has taken on the title role in the film – declined an invitation to be flown back to his home in Los Angeles.
Instead, he decided to stay in Australia and use the lockdown as an opportunity to fully engage with Elvis. According to British GQ, the actor turned his apartment into a “detective scene” by delving as deeply as possible into the real-life character he was portraying.
“Just pictures of Elvis everywhere, from every era,” Austin told the publication. “I think the film would have been very different if we had started filming at that point, and I’m grateful I had the time to marinate.”
Filming finally began six months later, and by that time Austin had learned everything there was to know about Elvis’s dedication to the star’s music and only reading about his life.
Austin also found himself connecting with the music legend on a deeper and more personal level upon learning that both he and Elvis had lost their mothers when they were 23 years old.
In fact, Austin was so devoted to impersonating Elvis that Luhrmann was sometimes unable to distinguish when he was in character and when he was himself.
“I asked one of my assistants [about Butler’s accent], and the guy said, “Well, he’s not southern. He’s from Anaheim [California],'” Luhrmann told GQ. “I don’t think I really understood what Austin sounded like until recently.”
And Austin admitted that he was so intent on living up to the role that he ended up losing touch with his own identity.
“You can lose touch with who you really are. And I definitely had that by the time I was done elvis – not knowing who I was,” he explained.
But the ramifications of putting so much of himself into the role for so long were dire, and the day after the project concluded in March 2021, Austin was rushed to the hospital as his body began to “shut down.” ”
“The next day I woke up at 4am in excruciating pain and was taken to the hospital,” he said. “My body just started to shut down the day after training elvis.”
Austin was bedridden for a week after being diagnosed with a virus that simulates appendicitis. Despite the health crisis, Austin wasted no time taking it easy, instead flying to London as soon as he recovered to start work on his next project. master of the airwhich involved being put through a mock military boot camp.
Considering the incredibly short time between the two shoots, Austin confessed that he still felt like channeling Elvis after landing in London, even in his new role as a WWII Army Major.
In fact, its director, Cary Fukunaga, said he was aware Austin was “still very much Elvis” when he arrived to film.
“I thought, ‘That’s what Elvis felt when he got into the army,'” Austin said. “You know, hearing performances and the glamor of it and fans screaming and then all of a sudden you’re just dressed like everyone else in these suits.”
Though he struggled to shake the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, it was Austin’s dedication to his craft and impeccable work ethic that literally got him the part after impressing Denzel Washington when they starred together on a Broadway show in 2018. production had worked.
Austin recalled memorizing the entire script for the play’s first table reading and how he got to the theater ahead of Denzel at every single performance — two things that impressed his co-star.
The Hollywood legend eventually took Austin under his wing, with Austin Denzel calling his almost “acting coach” and “maybe even a life coach.” It was Denzel who personally brought Austin to Luhrmann’s attention when he was looking for his Elvis.
“I got a call out of the blue from Denzel Washington who I didn’t know. Denzel Washington just said in the most incredibly emotional and direct way, “Look, I was just on stage with this young actor. I’m telling you, his work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anyone devote every second of their life to perfecting a role,” the director told GQ.
And while watching Austin’s first-ever audition video, in which he sang “Unchained Melody” in just a robe, Luhrmann admitted he wasn’t sure if the young star “had a meltdown” or auditioned for the role.
The rest, as they say, is history and Austin’s hard work appears to have paid off in light of reports elvis received a 12-minute standing ovation following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.
It has also received the seal of approval from Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla Presley and his daughter Lisa Marie Presley.
Lisa Marie said Earlier this month: “You can feel and witness Baz’s pure love, care and respect for my father throughout this beautiful film. And it’s finally something that I and my kids and their kids can be forever proud of.”
She even requested that Austin receive an Oscar for his performance as her father, which she says was “FINALLY done accurately and respectfully.”
elvis will hit theaters worldwide on June 24th.