Elvis Presley has been regarded by many as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and his legacy as a musician continues to live on to this day. In 2022, his life was the subject of a biopic starring Austin Butler and directed by the prolific Baz Luhrmann. When it was time for Butler to step into Presley’s (blue suede) shoes, he already had a strong connection to the “Jailhouse Rock” singer.
Austin Butler played Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’
Butler first rose to fame as a child actor before transitioning into adult roles. Getting to play the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll as a breakout role was a daunting dream come true for Butler.
“When you look at Elvis as this iconic superhuman figure, it’s hard not to feel small. And so for me, my task was finding as much humanity and similarity and the realness as I could,” he told CBS Mornings.
Both Elvis and Austin Butler lost their moms at age 23
Butler spoke more about he and Elvis’ deeper connection in a 2022 interview with Vogue. He spoke about his experience losing his mother to cancer in 2014 when he was 23 years old.
“I’d been watching all these documentaries and learned a couple of days prior that Elvis’s mom had died when he was 23, the same as me,” Butler said. “I thought he probably had nights where he woke up from nightmares. So what can I do with that?”
He decided to record himself at his piano playing an Elvis Presley classic. “I sat down at the piano in my bathrobe and just started fiddling,” he said. “I’d been practicing ‘Unchained Melody’ for a while, but I’d always been singing it to a lover. That night, I sang it to my mom. I wasn’t trying to look and sound like Elvis. I wasn’t trying to do anything but take that emotion and pour it into the song.”
He told CBS mornings that the song spoke to him differently when he was thinking about his mother. “I thought, ‘Well, it’s really about missing somebody and needing love.’ So I sang it to my mom and that’s what got Baz’s attention,” he said.
“His mother passed away when he was 23, and my mom passed away when I was 23,” Butler told GQ of their connection. “So when I learned that, it was one of those things where I got chills, and I just thought, ‘Okay, I can connect to that.’”
Elvis and Austin Butler share a ‘spiritual’ bond
According to Elvis director Baz Luhrmann, Butler and Presley share a deeper connection than many realize.
“Elvis was an intensely spiritual person,” he said. “And I think Austin has a real spiritual quality to him. He has a very sensitive and big inner life. He’s very lovely on the outside, but you know there’s deep thinking going on on the inside.”