Actor’s Extreme Sacrifice for Elvis Role: The Real Reason Austin Butler Shuns Family and Friends for 3 Years
Austin Butler took his preparation for the role of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, “Elvis,” extremely seriously. In an interview with Janelle Monáe published by Variety Actors on Actors, Butler revealed that he didn’t see his family for about three years while he immersed himself in the character of the King of Rock ‘n Roll.
He explained that he spent months in preparation and wouldn’t talk to anyone, speaking only in Elvis’ voice. This level of commitment left a lasting impression, with Monae applauding the lengths Butler went to in order to embody the role.
Butler’s dedication to the role was not limited to his preparation. He revealed in a recent interview that he was hospitalized and bedridden for a week after completing filming. Additionally, Luhrmann, the film’s director, asked RCA executives to “heckle” Butler while he was recording music for the film, in order to get him as close to performing as possible. Despite this intense pressure, Butler performed all the musical numbers in the movie.
Luhrmann has hinted that he may release a “concert cut” of the biopic that will run four hours in total, featuring Butler’s full performances of Elvis’ musical numbers. While the release date is still uncertain, fans of the King of Rock ‘n Roll and Butler’s acting should be on the lookout for this extended version of the film.
During 31-year-old Butler’s Variety Actors on Actors conversation with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery star Janelle Monáe published Sunday, the actor told Monae that he did not see his family for “about three years” while he got into character as the King of Rock ‘n Roll.
“I went, I was off, we were prepping with Baz, and then I went to Australia,” Butler told Monae during the conversation. “I had months where I wouldn’t talk to anybody. And when I did, the only thing I was ever thinking about was Elvis.”
“I was speaking in his voice the whole time,” Butler explained, referencing his tendency to slip back into speaking like Elvis long after he wrapped filming on the project. “So then I’d talk to my sister, and she’s gotta listen to that.”
“You had to say, ‘This is who I am. This is what it takes,’ ” Monae said, applauding the lengths Butler went to to get into the role.
Butler has previously nodded toward going to extreme lengths for Elvis when he told British GQ in May that he was hospitalized and bedridden for a week after completing filming and that he “went home in tears” after director Luhrmann, 59, told people to “heckle” Butler while he was recording music for the film.
“When I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” Butler said in a recent cover interview with VMAN. “He had all the executives and everybody from RCA, who were back in the offices, he brought them into the recording studio and he goes, ‘I want you all to sit facing Austin’ … and he told them to heckle me.”
At the 2022 Gotham Awards in New York City in November, Luhrmann told IndieWire that he will eventually put together a “concert cut” of the biopic that will run four hours in total.
“It’s a directors’ assembly. It’s not a cut,” Luhrmann, 60, told the outlet. “There’s a whole lot of material that adds up to four hours, but I have gone on record now to say not today, not tomorrow, but at some point I would do [it].”
Luhrmann clarified during the interview that Butler “did his concerts full out” during production on Elvis, which runs for two hours and 39 minutes in its theatrical release format.
“He did all the numbers. Austin just did it and it was an out of body experience to watch him do those full concerts, so one day I will cut those full concerts together,” the director said.