This article is part of Greenlight — The Latch’s commitment to the Australian film industry. For more content in this series, click here.
There are approximately 400,000 Elvis Presley impersonators around the world who devote their time to keeping the King of Rock and Roll’s legacy alive. However, none of them compare to Austin Butler, whose performance in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis takes the audience back in time to when the artist was in his prime.
30-year-old Butler is quickly becoming a household name. Previously appearing in teen shows like Switched At Birth and The Carrie Diaries, the role of Elvis is a breakthrough, and Butler shines onscreen. From Elvis’s famous voice to his signature southern drawl, the young actor nails his performance, which comes as no surprise.
Having spent two years of his life immersed in Presley’s life, Butler devoted everything he had to this role. His hard work paid off when the film received a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, which was also the first time Butler watched the movie.
“It was three years since the time that I started, and you feel so much pressure the whole time,” Butler told The Latch. “So, I was really nervous when I sat down in the theatre.”
For Butler, and the whole Elvis team, there was one review that mattered more than everyone else combined, though, and “thankfully”, Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, approved.
“I already knew the way Priscilla felt about it, so that relieved a lot of the pressure,” Butler said, adding: “That kind of gave me the extra boost of confidence that I could wait [to watch the film], and I had never been to Cannes before, so it was a really special moment.”
Watching the film for the first time with the Cannes audience, Butler said that he was “actually so happy that [he] waited, because during the course of the film people would break out into applause”.
“It just felt so exciting,” he said. “I was really happy.”
The movie has yet to be released, but speculation over whether he’ll nab an Oscar for his performance is already generating. Butler, who is new to experiencing such heightened levels of fame, is trying not to think about it.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time. I hardly know what day it is,” he said with a laugh. Sitting in the Sydney Park Hyatt, it’s clear that behind the brooding confidence is a man who can’t quite wrap his head around how he got here.
At the Sydney premiere of the film, Baz Luhrmann said he wouldn’t have made the movie if he couldn’t find the right Elvis, and he couldn’t have gone with a better choice. Butler is aware that the role comes with enormous expectations, and the weight of it felt heavy on his shoulders.
It wasn’t just the audience that he had to impress, though. Again, Priscilla’s reaction was one that the whole team valued more than anything.
“I was more nervous than ever when I found out she was going to sit down in the theatre and finally see it,” Butler recalled.
“While she was involved from the beginning, at a certain point she was in Australia and wasn’t getting to see things,” he explained. “At the time there were so many things that Baz was balancing, one of them was trying to get the movie made during COVID. So, when it finally came down it, we have never been more nervous.”
Thankfully, Priscilla loved Butler’s performance as her late husband, saying his portrayal of Elvis was “mesmerising”.
I’m just returning from the Cannes Film Festival. Baz Luhrmann’s Film, Elvis received a 12 minute standing ovation. There was not an empty seat in the large theatre. It was the longest ovation ever received for a film. Actor Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis was mesmerizing. pic.twitter.com/SpNx2AERv6
— Priscilla Presley (@Cilla_Presley) May 30, 2022
“Baz said, ‘I got something for you’, and I picked him up from his hotel in LA, and as I was driving he read me her message,” Butler said. “I had to pinch myself — it hardly felt real, I couldn’t be happier.”
After watching the movie one thing is certain, this won’t be the last we hear from Austin Butler. This is just the beginning.
Elvis will be released in HOYTS Cinemas nationwide on June 23.