Triple threat talent Austin Butler rightfully put the music first when portraying the King of Rock ‘n Roll.
The “Elvis” star worked with dialect coaches to perfect the sound of Elvis Presley’s voice and “sang every day” to prepare for the role. But “Elvis” director Baz Luhrmann revealed to Entertainment Weekly that Butler was so hyper-aware of his presence as Presley that Butler stopped Luhrmann from filming a “corny” performance for the film, in theaters June 24.
“The scene where Elvis has to inspire his new big band in Vegas to do this modern version of ‘That’s Alright (Mama)’ — this big concept in his mind,” Luhrmann explained. “We rehearsed for three months to a playback tape that we had. But when I was shooting, Austin looked at me and was like, ‘This just is corny. This is not working. It’s fake.'”
Luhrmann then instructed the musicians to play the notes wrong so Butler as Elvis would have to work with them to get the sound he wanted. “That’s the thing with Elvis: Elvis singing the lines, being the conductor, being the music. Elvis became the music,” Luhrmann added. “That’s how he created. He was the music.”
Butler’s dedication to the role later resulted in him being hospitalized and confined to bed rest after production wrapped. And Butler still hasn’t shaken off the Presley accent after changing his own voice into different time periods of Presley’s life.
“At this point, I keep asking people, ‘Is this my voice?’ because this feels like my real [voice],” Butler previously said. “It’s one of those things where certain things trigger it and other times as well it’s, I don’t know. When you live with something for two years, and you do nothing else, I think that you can’t help it. It becomes a fiber of your being.”
He continued about Presley’s minute mannerisms, “There’s so many things out there that have become these caricatures, so even talking about him curling his lip, it’s something he didn’t do as much as we think he did. It was finding how subtle can you go with things and still have the essence. It was this constant back and forth, and that’s the tricky thing, going back and forth between incredibly technical things and then never losing the humanity. That was the goal, always have his soul in there.”
Read IndieWire’s Cannes sit-down with Luhrmann here.