Austin Butler’s transformation into The King left him all shook up after production.
The “Elvis” star revealed that following after the Baz Luhrmann-helmed Elvis Presley biopic, in theaters June 24, he was left bedridden.
“The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to the hospital,” Butler told GQ. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished ‘Elvis’.”
The singer-actor was diagnosed with a virus that simulates appendicitis and spent a week confined to his bed. The exhausting illness came on the heels of Butler singing, dancing, and completely embodying the late King of Rock ‘n Roll.
Even Butler’s journey to be cast in “Elvis” took an emotional toll: the “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” alum dreamt of his deceased mother, which fueled his audition tape performing “Unchained Melody” and led director Luhrmann to ask, “Was it an audition? Or was he having a breakdown?”
Butler also held on to Presley’s Southern accent past filming, leading “Great Gatsby” director Luhrmann to wonder what parts of Butler were really him and which were wisps of the transformation into Presley. Even Presley’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley, daughter Lisa Marie Presley, and granddaughter Riley Keough were moved to tears seeing Butler in character. Lisa Marie said that Butler deserves an Academy Award for his moving take on the rock star, saying the former Disney star “embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully.”
As for Butler’s performance, Luhrmann explained, “Honestly, I put him through the ringer, but he lived Elvis. What he’s managed to do is not do an impersonation, but to live Elvis, to the extent that he’s humanized him.”
Luhrmann has deemed the Warner Bros. film, which premieres out of competition at Cannes, the “‘Apocalypse Now’ of musicals” in part due to Butler’s commitment onscreen.
“It’s a three-act pop-cultural opera,” the “Moulin Rouge!” director previously said. “His life fits beautifully into three acts. There’s Elvis the punk, if you like, the original punk rocker, the rebel. Then there’s Elvis the movie man, and that’s when he is pop and family-friendly. And then there’s ’70s Elvis, which is epic.”