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Culture

Austin Butler Still Slips Into His Elvis Voice

“I’ve never loved somebody I’ve never met more than Elvis.”

Austin Butler, famous for small roles as someone’s nameless crush on shows like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly place, is set to skyrocket to fame among more than just teens, as the star of Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming musical biopic Elvis.

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Butler, who is shaping up to be a Very Serious Actor, recently spoke with GQ about his role, which he dedicated his entire life to — so much so, that Butler still occasionally slips into an husky-voiced Elvis timbre.

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During his interview with GQ, Bustler would occasionally slip into the Elvis voice, pronouncing words like “oat latte,” how the late singer would. “When he orders an oat latte, the pronunciation is pure Presley — a long, drawn-out o to start, punctuated by a laconic taaay — as if the King himself had returned and requested an alt milk to wash down a peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich,” the article reads.

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Production was supposed to begin in April 2020, but was postponed indefinitely after Tom Hanks, who stars in the film as Elvis’ longtime mysterious and controlling manager, was hospitalized. It was during this time that Butler fully delved into the role, turning his apartment into a shrine to the late singer.

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“Just images of Elvis everywhere, from every time period,” Butler told GQ. “I think the film would have been very different if we had started shooting at that point, and I’m grateful I had the time to let myself marinate.”

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For months, all Butler listened to or read was Elvis-related. That is, until Tom Hanks gave him a piece of advice.

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“‘Every day I try to read something that has nothing to do with the job that I’m doing,’” Butler recalls him saying. “That gave me permission, because up ’til that point, I was only reading everything to do with Elvis. I was only listening to Elvis. It was Elvis’s influences and Elvis himself and nothing else,” Butler says.

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Hanks isn’t the only seasoned Serious Actor mentoring Butler. Denzel Washington is one of the reasons Butler ended up getting cast as Elvis. When Butler and Washington were cast in a Broadway play together, Butler decided that instead of trying to befriend Washington, he would simply work really hard. He showed up to the theater earlier than Washington for every show, and eventually Washington took note of Butler’s intense work ethic.

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Washington was so impressed that he called Luhrmann personally. According to Luhrmann: “I get a phone call out of the blue from Denzel Washington, who I did not know. Denzel Washington just said, in the most incredibly emotional and direct way, ‘Look, I’ve just been on stage with this young actor. I’m telling you, his work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen anyone who devotes every single second of their lives to perfecting a role.’”

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Butler was so wrapped up in his role as Elvis that when it came time for his next project, he had a hard time shaking the character off. He arrived at a military bootcamp-style training for his next project Masters of the Air, a WWII miniseries, still in character as Elvis.

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“I was like, ‘This is what Elvis felt when he was put into the Army,’ ” Butler says. “I was aware when he showed up, he was still very much Elvis,” added the miniseries’ director Cary Fukunaga.

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Now, Butler has managed to shake off most of Elvis, but he’s still recording music for the film, so he still listens to him constantly. “I’ve never loved somebody I’ve never met more than Elvis,” Butler says.

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