To Capture the Spirit of Elvis, One Must Bully Austin Butler



Photo: Warner Bros./YouTube

Baz Luhrmann’s film catalog seeks to write the obituary on the 20th century. Starting with its birth in Moulin Rouge, it’s stubborn teen years in The Great Gatsby and Australia, right to its post-modern death in Romeo + Juliet. But to capture one of the century’s great tragic stars, Luhrmann had to employ one of the darkest of the cinematic arts: bullying. In the latest issue of VMAN, Austin Butler explained how Luhrmann broke him down in order to build him back up as Elvis. Butler says he was told the recording sessions would be laid back, and they would be finding the Elvis voice slowly in the studio. Not true! “Well, when I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” he says. “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. So then they were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing.” Butler drew on this experience for the one (1) scene in Elvis when Presley is heckled. He is otherwise well-received by audiences in the movie.

Apparently, Butler was prepared for some shenanigans from his director by Leonardo DiCaprio. “I had spoken to Leo before and he said, ‘Baz is gonna push you in ways you didn’t know somebody could,’” Butler told VMAN. “‘He’s gonna push you off balance and keep you off balance.’” You gotta be off-balance if you want to get the wiggle right.

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