Elvis’ Austin Butler Went To Great Lengths To Become The King, Including Not Seeing His Family For Months

Austin Butler as Elvis
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

When Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis found its king in Austin Butler, this was not going to be an impersonation; it would be the real deal. As soon as the trailer for the new biopic came out, it got us all shaken up at the fantastic performance of this former Nickelodeon star portraying The King with his voice and movements. However, the 31-year-old star spoke about the great lengths he took to play Elvis, including not seeing his family for months.

Embodying such a prolific American icon like Elvis Presley was not something that Austin Butler took lightly. In Variety’s Actors on Actors, he spoke with pop diva/actress Janelle Monáe about the sacrifices he made in order to play The King.

During Elvis, I didn’t see my family for about three years. I was prepping with Baz, and then I went to Australia. 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.

Now that’s true method acting if you feel like you have to lose your own identity to portray another person’s. I could understand the amount of pressure he must have been feeling to be able to tell Elvis’ story right and make sure Presley's family was happy with his portrayal. According to EW, Austin Butler studied every piece of Elvis footage he could find on YouTube. He would fall asleep listening to Elvis’ voice and even take long walks in Australia where he would continue listening to these recordings to establish this musician’s voice. 

Butler worked with a movement coach to nail those signature moves and even took tap dancing to accomplish Presley’s motion of perching on his toes. But those efforts were not without risks, as The Carrie Diaries actor was hospitalized after wrapping up the movie. The day after principal photography was completed, he experienced excruciating stomach pain and was rushed to the hospital. Apparently, he had some kind of stomach virus that resembled appendicitis, all from the result of giving so much of himself physically in his new role. After being stuck in bed for a week, he was in good spirits after. 

While guitar and piano came naturally to Austin Butler, singing was very new to him. All of the vocal recordings of Elvis when he was younger came from Butler himself. He was fortunate enough to receive advice from another biopic actor, Rami Malek, to relieve his fear of performance. Malek told him the energy of the audience will make those days his favorite on set. And he was right!

If you would like to see more of Austin Butler’s performance of Elvis in contrast to what you saw in the movie, Luhrmann said at the 2022 Gotham Awards that he will eventually put together a “concert cut” that would run for four hours. Originally, the idea of putting this four-hour footage together didn’t thrill the Australian film director because it would be more months of assembling another version of a movie. As Butler did all of Elvis’ numbers, Luhrmann has footage of all of it. On the other hand, The Great Gatsby director pointed out this would be “a directors’ assembly” instead of a cut, and that it may not be released in the near future. Eventually though, we’ll get the chance to see a concert performance of Butler relieving all of Elvis’ memorable tracks that he performed in concert.

Austin Butler kept himself away from his family and other loved ones in order to embody the full persona of Elvis Presley. It’s unbelievable when you hear of the sacrifices some actors make in order to be committed to the role. But those efforts seemingly paid off, as Butler's been nominated for major accolades, like the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards, as well as winning the People’s Choice Award this year. You can watch Butler’s unbelievable performance as The King in Elvis with your HBO Max subscription.

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.