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Elvis Director Baz Luhrmann's Casting Process To Find The Right Actor Sounds Intense

Austin Butler sits brooding on a bed in The Dead Don't Die.
(Image credit: Focus Features)

Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis biopic has a pretty impressive cast, including cinematic legend and two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks. Aside from the veteran actor, we’re looking at a lot of up-and-comers, including Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Power Of The Dog), and Austin Butler as the man himself, Elvis Presley. One could imagine that casting someone as iconic as Elvis would be quite tricky, and Baz Luhrmann recently gave us some insight as to how he landed on Butler. 

Austin Butler certainly has the look to play Elvis, but it seems that Luhrmann was less concerned with such factors as likeness. We recently spoke to the iconic director in honor of Moulin Rouge’s 20th anniversary when he delved into the casting process for his latest feature:

When I went through the process on Elvis, I had no prejudice. There's a difference between an impersonation, a big difference between an impersonation, and illuminating the soul and the inner life of a character who's unimaginably famous. What are they like in a private moment?

Baz Luhrmann definitely seems more interested in capturing the authentic emotion of a character than he does in delivering some sort of campy impression. This seems to be a common perspective amongst great filmmakers. It was just a few months ago that Aaron Sorkin was defending his casting of Nicole Kidman in Being The Ricardos, despite the fact that the actress isn’t known for doing a spot-on Lucille Ball impersonation. 

It shouldn’t be implied that Austin Butler is brand new to acting, however. He’s appeared in a number of TV shows over the years, starting with multiple gigs as a child actor on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. These days you probably know him best as Tex from Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, a character that’s rather memorable thanks to his pivotal scene in the film’s final moments.

Perhaps this is where Baz Luhrmann found him, because it seems that he really wanted Austin Butler for the role. Delving further into his casting process, he explained that he doesn’t really do auditions, and will make the actor right for the role through a series of workshops. The whole thing really sounds quite intense:

I mean, casting is something I'm always thorough about, and in fact, even people I love and adore, I go through a process because I don't do auditions. I do workshops. I actually bring someone in the room. And even if everyone else, including myself thinks it’s probably not right, I see it as my job to make sure that person gets the role.

We’ll see how the Austin Butler’s casting panned out when Elvis is released on June 24 of this year. In the meantime, you can see Baz Luhrmann post weekly Elvis updates on his Instagram. In case you want to know about what else is coming to theaters in 2022, we’ve got you covered here.

Jeff McCobb
Jeff McCobb

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he enjoys feeding his addiction to buying furniture on Amazon.