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Austin Butler ‘Went Home in Tears’ After Baz Luhrmann Encouraged ‘Elvis’ Actors to ‘Heckle’ Him

"They were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing," Butler revealed, adding he left set in tears.

ELVIS, Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, 2022. © Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection

“Elvis”

Warner Bros./Courtesy Everett Collection

Austin Butler truly did everything to prepare to play Elvis Presley.

From taking on a Southern accent to doing karate to transform into the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Butler pushed himself to the limit for the role. Yet “Elvis” writer-director Baz Luhrmann added another layer to recreate the emotions behind Presley’s biggest performances.

“Well, when I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” Butler explained to VMAN. “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 noted Luhrmann wanted him to empathize with the criticism Presley endured over the course of his career.

“When we were filming this moment when Elvis first goes on stage and he’s getting heckled by the audience, I knew what that felt like,” Butler added, before admitting, “I went home in tears that night. I really did.”

Butler even sought advice from frequent Luhrmann collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in “Romeo + Juliet” and “The Great Gatsby.”

“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.’ That’s exactly the experience that I had,” Butler previously told Entertainment Weekly. “There were days where I just thought, ‘Baz, why don’t we just do what we prepared?’ 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.”

And even sometimes Butler would intervene on set if a scene was “not working.” Luhrmann shared that the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” alum stopped the scene where he sings “That’s Alright (Mama)” because it came across as “corny” and “fake” in the moment.

After production wrapped, Butler became bedridden, saying his “body just started shutting down” while shedding Presley’s persona.

No wonder Luhrmann has described his Cannes-premiere film the “‘Apocalypse Now’ of musicals.”

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