Austin Butler spent two years relentlessly preparing for his starring role as the King of Rock & Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Ahead of the film’s theater debut, Butler shares that once production on the feature ended in March 2021, he landed in the hospital with a virus that simulates appendicitis.
“The next day [after filming wrapped] I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to hospital,” Butler says in an interview with GQ. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis.”
Butler snagged the role in 2019, beating out the likes of Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller with his cover of “Unchained Melody.” Over the next couple of years he intensely prepared for the role by scouring Graceland archives, working with a movement coach to ace that signature hip swivel, listening to a lot of Elvis, and covering his apartment walls with Elvis images, quotes, and a chronology of his life.
“I want everybody to love the film, obviously, but the pressure I have really felt is doing justice to Elvis,” Butler says in another interview with New York Times. “Humanizing him. Adding to his legacy and maybe, hopefully, even reclaiming some of his legacy.”
“There were times when I was afraid,” Butler continues. “Can I even do this? Am I going to fall flat on my face? Be discovered as a fraud? But then I started to kind of get comfortable with the fear, to the point that I could say, ‘I see you, fear, and you’re not going to stop me.’”
However, according to director Luhrmann, you’d never know that Butler was enduring so much internal panic.
“Look, I’ve worked with every kind of actor and every kind of performer,” Luhrmann tells GQ. “And I accept that they have freak-outs, that’s okay. But Austin, he doesn’t freak out. He has the most polite panic of anyone I’ve ever met.”
Elvis enters the building (theaters) on June 24.