Austin Butler 'Went Home In Tears' After Baz Luhrmann Asked For Him To Be Humiliated While Making Elvis
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Butler, who is 30 years old, has been widely praised for the performance he gave as the 'king of rock and roll' in Elvis, which was released last month after the actor was first cast in 2019.
In a bid to stay true to their inspiration, Luhrmann accompanied Butler about a month after casting him to the historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee, where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs.
Speaking in a new interview with VMAN, Butler described being 'so nervous' to be recording on the same equipment Elvis had used, adding: "We were recording old school, where all the musicians—and these are the best musicians in the world; our guitar player had actually played guitar with Scotty Moore, who was Elvis’s guitar player."
According to Butler, it seems simply using the same equipment as Elvis wasn't enough for Luhrmann; the director also wanted the actor to feel the things Elvis might have felt while singing.
He explained: "When I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible.
"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."
Butler remembered having the execs make fun of him while he was singing - no doubt a tough experience for any artist - but the situation made Butler appreciate what Elvis himself would have been going through when faced with tough crowds.
Butler said: "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. I went home in tears that night. I really did.”
Butler learned this kind of behaviour from Luhrmann was not unusual after he sought advice from Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with the director on Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby.
Recalling his conversation with the Titanic star to Entertainment Weekly, Butler said: “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's deep-dive into the world of Elvis became even more intense when the coronavirus outbreak prompted the film to shut down.
During the break, Butler 'wallpapered the entire apartment with images and a timeline of Elvis’s life', and consumed every bit of related material he could get his hands on.
Remembering the isolated time, he said: “I’m extremely grateful I had the film and the, for lack of a better word, obsession with Elvis to occupy my days. It gave me the feeling that there was a reason to get up every morning.”
Though Butler's work behind the scenes was undoubtedly gruelling, it paid off in his epic performance, which even earned praise even from Elvis' daughter.