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Austin Butler will be Elvis for Baz Luhrmann

by Nathaniel R

Vanessa Hudgens with Austin ButlerBaz Luhrmann has ended his casting search for his forthcoming Elvis Presley biopic. Twenty-seven year-old Austin Butler, also known these days as Vanessa Hudgens' boyfriend, has won the role. Butler beat out bigger stars Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, and Harry Styles for the plum opportunity. It's rare these days to see a lesser known actor snag a big biopic, but we'd argue it's actual healthy; lesser known actors come with less baggage as performers and that's theoretically better for audiences who already have their collective hive mind filled up with one famous persona when they approach any movie about an icon.  

About his choice, Luhrmann says...

We searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist... through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.

We've personally only seen one of Butler's performances to date, his co-lead role as the elf Wil Ohmsford in the shortlived Shannara Chronicles on MTV.

Butler in The Shannara Chronicles (2016)

It wasn't an impressive performance, reading anachronistically modern and very broad at times, but then, nobody on that particular show was ever in danger of winning acting awards for it so perhaps it was a problem of script and direction.

Butler has been a professional actor for over a dozen years now starting off as a teen actor on Disney and Nickelodeon shows but he's been building for this major motion picture glow up for a while, winning altogether terrific reviews in the spring of 2018 for the Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh. The New Yorker gave him the entire lede in their review  ("there is only one actor, and his name is Austin Butler") and the New York Times called him "sensationally assured"). He followed that breakthrough up with two auteur films Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die and Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The Elvis film will pair Butler with Tom Hanks as Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker, and it sounds like a co-lead style narrative with Elvis's career being viewed through the spectrum of their relationship as well as the changing cultural landscape in America. 

Butler photographed by Caitlin McNaney in 2018

Elvis, and/or thinly veiled versions of him, have of course been the subject of multiple biopics or Elvis interested movies in the past. Various actors who've played Elvis or Elvis inspired figures onscreen include Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon), Rick Peters (Elvis Meets Nixon), Harvey Keitel (Finding Graceland), David Keith (Heartbreak Hotel), Joe Strummer (Mystery Train), and an Emmy-nominated Kurt Russell (Elvis). It's a big role to fill and well trod ground to step back over so wish Austin Butler luck and for Baz to be back on his best game.

Luhrmann tends to take years on every movie (his smallest gap between pictures is four years and the longest gap to date is seven years) so who knows when we'll ever see this Elvis picture but given that it's been six years since The Great Gatsby (2013) we're anxious for film number six to arrive. Start filming immediately, Baz! 

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Reader Comments (11)

Thank goodness it isn't Ansel Elgort.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Throw Blake Rayne on that pile too. For The Identical. And if you forgot that movie existed? No one should blame anyone over that.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I'm so glad it wasn't Miles Teller or Aaron Taylor Johnson. I know nothing of this guy, but I'm almost certain he was a better choice than either of these two.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I remember him from the tv show The Carrie Diaries. You know, that tv show about young Carrie Bradshaw.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentergoodbar

The Baz camera pan down his torso will be.... glorious.

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHoneybee


July 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

All day I’ve been confusing him with Chord Overstreet and thinking, well that’s an interesting choice...

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterA.H.

He is very pretty

July 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I didn’t know Rami Malek and Taron Egerton were such huge stars. You’re right, it’s rare to see lesser known talent snag a biopic.

July 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJulia Roberts

With all the photos I've seen of him recently, it seems he's been auditioning for this role in public for quite a while.

July 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Sawyer ---good point. that's savvy of him

Julia -- touché. I guess the tide has been turning back to lesser knowns but for awhile it seemed like it was always big stars wearing makeup.

July 16, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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