Who Is Austin Butler, And Can He Play Elvis In A Movie?
Left: Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler attend Sony Pictures' 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Los Angeles Premiere on July 22, 2019. Right: Elvis Presley. Sources: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; biography.com
How good is Austin Butler's Elvis Presley impression? We'll find out, as Butler has been cast to star alongside Tom Hanks in a biopic to be directed by Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge). The Presley film doesn't have a title yet, and will begin filming in 2020.
Recently, several biopics of musicians have made their way to the big screen, including Bohemian Rhapsody (about Freddie Mercury), Rocketman (about Elton John) and the upcoming Judy, in which Renee Zellweger will play Judy Garland.
“I am just profoundly honored that Baz has invited me on this journey with him,” Butler told Entertainment Tonight. “It’s an extraordinary privilege. And I just feel so blessed to be working with such singular directors like him and Quentin Tarantino.”
Filling Those Blue Suede Shoes
This is, of course, not the first time a film has been made about Elvis Presley. The director and co-writer, Luhrmann, has a distinct cinematic style, fusing high and low culture. Luhrmann is Australia’s most commercially successful director and has won much acclaim for his films, from Moulin Rouge to The Great Gatsby, adapted from the novel of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s granddaughter even praised the film.
Luhrmann had a list of actors to choose from to cast the titular role, including Harry Styles and Ansel Elgort. The actors had to go through extensive screen tests as well as music and performance workshops. In casting the role, Luhrmann did not want to make the film if he couldn’t find the right actor to play Elvis, so he wanted an actor who could capture the sound and movements, as well as the spirit of the late singer. In the end, Luhrmann decided to cast Austin Butler, who is still relatively unknown, but that has started to change
Austin Butler’s Brief Acting Career, So Far
The 27-year old has already had an impressive career, starting with television appearances in 2005. Since then, he has also appeared in film and on Broadway. In 2018, he had the role of Don Parritt, opposite Denzel Washington, in The Iceman Cometh. It was this exposure in Eugene O'Neill's 1939 play that brought Butler to Luhrmann's attention.
In 2019, he has appeared in two films, directed by noteworthy directors. He played the role of Jack in Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, alongside Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi, and Tom Waits. He was also cast in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Movie’s Plot
The movie, which will begin filming in 2020, will focus on Elvis’ rise to fame, and on his relationship with his manager, Col. Tom Parker, who reportedly took 50% of Elvis’ earnings. Parker will be played by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. The story itself will be set against the backdrop of cultural change that Elvis was part of. Elvis challenged the social and racial barriers of the time period. His music, with its integration of rhythm and blues, energized the youth, while his hips shocked the nation. He faced controversy for the first time in 1956 when he appeared on Milton Berle’s show. His performance incited concerns about America’s changing morality.
Acting As The King
Butler is not the first actor to try to capture Elvis on screen. There is quite an extensive list of actors who have portrayed the singer, from Bruce Campbell and Harvey Keitel to Kurt Russell and Jonathan Rhys Myers. And, of course, there are all of those Elvis impersonators.
Filling The Role
Butler does have some of Elvis’ physical attributes, specifically blue eyes like Elvis, and he's already wearing his hair in a Presley-esque coiffure. Butler will be doing his own singing in the film, and he has sung and played guitar for roles on television shows.
Tags: Austin Butler | Baz Luhrmann | Biographical Movies | Elvis Presley | Tom Hanks
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