Austin Butler’s process for becoming Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s latest was so intense he has struggled to shake the King of Rock’n’Roll’s signature baritone, but how did the star of ‘Aliens in the Attic’ prepare for his latest role?
Interviews conducted with Austin Butler during the latter stages of the production cycle for Baz Lurhmann’s new biopic Elvis have elicited some confusion in some corners of the internet. The root of this puzzlement en masse is Butler’s bizarre vocal inflection which remains heavily influenced by the King of Rock’n’Roll. Many have chosen to poke fun at Butler but it’s indicative of the actor’s commitment and the strenuous and no doubt complex process that went into his recreating Elvis Presley for audiences on-screen.
The actor has spoken at length about preparing for the role and it makes for interesting reading to hear him delve into the challenges of bringing an American icon to the big screen, for Baz Lurhmann’s polarizing new film. For example, to capture the essence of Elvis’ signature dulcet tones, the actor insisted upon trawling through hours upon hours of footage, from any source he could find, ranging from YouTube videos to online archives. The actor also enlisted the help of a dialect coach and made sure to cut clips of Elvis using specific words, just to ensure that he had a record of the King using it. As the process developed, the actor became enveloped by the role, choosing to listen to recordings of the singer’s voice when he went to bed at night.
The actor’s intense preparation didn’t stop with the rock’n’roll legend’s voice, however. It was equally important to Butler that he managed to adequately portray Elvis’ manic physicality and sensuously rhythmic movement on stage. To do this the film’s leading man took up lessons in a variety of styles of dance, ranging from tap to swing. When he wasn’t doing this, the actor was working through grueling workouts with the film’s dedicated movement coach. The young star was willing to wait patiently for hours upon hours through some hectic costume fitting sessions, so much so that those working in the department had to encourage the star to take a break.
Going For Elvis’ Soul
Clearly, incredible attention to detail was key to Butler’s performance, but the actor placed greater emphasis on something else: connecting with Elvis Presley’s soul. Indeed, the actor has discussed his having an emotional connection with the King and said that he feels that this was key to ensuring that his performance conveyed the real Elvis. He wanted to avoid a simplistic, superficial caricature. Baz Lurhmann has suggested that the former child star understood this from the start, with his audition tape apparently teeming with emotion and passion. This, the actor has suggested, was at the forefront of his mind when performing and he’s admitted that this was essential for him because, ultimately, he wanted to do Presley’s family proud – including the deceased star’s wife Priscilla.
There have been discussions about whether Butler deserves an Oscar for his performance in the film and there can be no doubt that the young star is highly impressive in the role. One thing that is for sure, however, is that the actor worked extensively to bring Elvis to life for a modern audience. The evidence is there for us all to see, in Butler’s peculiar but endearing Elvis-inflected voice.