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When it was announced that Austin Butler would take on the role of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis, it was an interesting choice, as the handsome hunk — who began his career on teen shows — wasn’t alive to witness Presley’s rise to fame, which proved to be a challenge.

Though he grew up listening to Presley’s songs alongside his grandmother, who “was a teen in the ’50s,” he admits he was unfamiliar with the icon. Butler was also faced with another obstacle: an audition process that took almost half a year to completely until he heard he finally scored the role in the major motion pictured, which debuted on Friday, June 24.

The 30-year-old first sent Luhrmann, 59, a tape of himself singing “Unchained Melody” to show off his musical prowess. “I play the guitar and I play the piano, and my first instrument was the violin,” he previously shared. “I started playing the violin when I was in elementary school. I got a guitar when I was 13 and fell in love. I would play for eight hours a day and that became my obsession.”

The Carrie Diaries alum, who is currently dating Cindy Crawford‘s daughter, Kaia Gerber, then flew to New York to meet with the Moulin Rouge director, where they spoke for three hours. “Then [Luhrmann] said, ‘Do you want to come in tomorrow and read a couple of scenes from the script?” Butler recalled, adding that he was also asked to sing Presley’s song “Suspicious Minds.”

“We ended up doing that for five months,” he said of the back and forth. “It was unlike any audition. Fortunately, Butler came out on top, but it was a grueling process for him to turn into the “King of Rock and Roll.”

“The feeling was strong, like, am I going to fail, am I going to let everyone down?” he confessed. “So I redefined that feeling. I called it ‘free energy.’ I didn’t need coffee. I had that.” To make matters worse, the movie, which was filmed in Australia and focuses on Presley’s career and rise to stardom, was put on hold when Tom Hanks, who plays Colonel Tom Parker, came down with COVID-19 in March 2020.

US actor Austin Butler arrives for the screening of the film “Elvis” during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 25, 2022. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

“I wasn’t ready,” Buttler shared. “And then suddenly, production shut down and I had six more months to rehearse. I started to feel like it was me living with it every day.”

To prepare for the role, Butler — who beat out an impressive roster of actors, such as Harry Styles, Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort — took things very seriously: so much so, he watched every Elvis movie, performance video and interview. The California native also loaded songs and interviews to his laptop from specific periods of Presley’s life. “Every day, when I’d drive home from the set, I’d put on ‘Polk Salad Annie,’ ‘Never Been to Spain’ and ‘Milkcow Boogie Blues,'” he revealed.

Though the outfits were glitzy and glamorous, Butler noted that it was sometimes unbearable to get used to moving around in them. “I was strapped into the jumpsuit and my lungs felt constricted. I could only take shallow breaths and it was very hot,” he stated. “It felt very claustrophobic, and I felt a great sadness because I’m sure Elvis felt the same way, that he could hardly breathe. And yet his voice still soared.”

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 25: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white, and a starburst filter used in camera) (L-R) Alton Mason, Natasha Bassett, Tom Hanks, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler depart the screening of “Elvis” during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Eventually, Butler nailed down the voice — something he still carries with him to this day. “I’d hear him say a certain word and I would clip just that bit out so I knew how he said that word,” Butler, who also sings in the film, noted. “I created my own archive of how he said every word and every diphthong, and the way that he used musicality in his voice.”

Butler is sure to set pulses racing through his interpretation (just like Elvis did back in the day), but the leading man always made people swoon when he appeared on Hannah Montana, iCarly and Zoey 101 in the ’00s. However, he didn’t love being typecast at a young age. “I was sort of embarrassed about some of the things that I had to do — but I had to cut my teeth somewhere,” he said. “So I decided to treat each one of these jobs as a way to grow.”

Now, Butler has a pretty impressive resume — from starring on Broadway opposite Denzel Washington to appearing in Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, Dune and Dude — and it seems like this is just the beginning. Not only are critics praising Butler for his performance, but Presley’s family, including the late singer’s only daughter, Priscilla Presley, and her granddaughter, Riley Keough, are rough by how well the movie was executed.

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 25: Austin Butler attends the screening of “Elvis” during the 75th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2022 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

“I started crying five minutes in and didn’t stop,” Keough said. “There’s a lot of family trauma and generational trauma that started around then for our family. I felt honored they worked so hard to really get his essence, to feel his essence. Austin captured that so beautifully.”

Clearly, Butler put his heart and soul into this role, and it’s something he will never forget.

“I realized this man was as iconic as they come, and yet he of course was a human being, sensitive and vulnerable, with virtues and flaws, and I got to experience all of that,” he said. “This was an incredible privilege. I was just a detective, trying to find the truth of who he was. Trying to find Elvis’ soul.”

The King In Nassau

When Elvis Presley was at the height of his career, he toured all over the world and the United States, but in 1973, fans of the singer got to witness his greatness when they watched him perform at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York.

The audience was on the edge of their seat as they waited for the “King of Rock and Roll” to make his way onto the stage. As soon as Presley, who wore the “Snowflake” jumpsuit, walked out, a deafening standing ovation began and pictures were immediately taken.

Presley began singing “Oh See, See See Rider” and later played “I Got a Woman” before he greeted the crowd, saying “good evening,” despite it being 3 p.m. in the afternoon. Of course, his hits were played, such as “Love Me Tender,” “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Flip, Flop and Fly.”

ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII — Aired 4/4/73 — Pictured: Elvis Presley during a live performance at Honolulu International Center in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 14, 1973 for his NBC special (Photo by Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Believe it or not, the show was only one hour long, but it was one for the books: he concluded the performance by dropping down to one knee and spreading open his cape. One thing is for sure: Presley’s star power was never dull.

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