When Austin Butler landed the lead role in “Elvis,” he knew he was officially entering the Hollywood stratosphere. Not only had he beaten out the likes of Harry Styles and Miles Teller for the coveted part, but he would also be working with the famously extravagant Baz Luhrmann for his first lead role. To prepare for the career-altering event, he reached out to Leonardo DiCaprio, who saw his career explode after starring in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and later collaborated with him on “The Great Gatsby.”
In an interview with EW, Butler revealed the advice that DiCaprio gave him about working with the Australian director.
“Leo told me, ‘Baz is going to constantly keep you off balance, and it’s going to pull things out of you [that] you never knew you had inside you,'” Butler said. “That’s exactly the experience that I had.”
Luhrmann’s tendency to frequently change scenes at the last minute on set was a source of frustration for Butler, but the actor believes those open-minded tendencies led to some of the best moments of the film.
“There were days where I just thought, ‘Baz, why don’t we just do what we prepared?'” he said. “I realized that he would push me right to the edge of what I was capable of. You capture lightning in a bottle in a way — if you had just done the thing that you had prepared, it may have been more stale.”
But rather than spontaneous bouts of inspiration, Butler believes that those last-minute changes were a testament to Luhrmann’s diligent preparation.
“In order to play jazz, you have to know music theory,” he said. “You have to know the scales on that guitar inside and out, but at the end of the day, you’re improvising. You have all this knowledge and practice that is then going into this present moment and playing off whatever’s in front of you. That’s how Baz is because he works so hard at preparation. When it comes time to actually film, I’ll have been preparing a scene for a year, and suddenly, the day of, the entire scene changes.”