How Denzel Washington Helped Convince Elvis Director to Cast Austin Butler as Elvis Presley (2023)

Austin Butler made sure to thank Denzel Washington for helping him land his leading role in Elvis.

At the Golden Globes 2023 on Tuesday, Butler, 31, addressed Washington, 68, directly as he accepted the award for best actor in a drama movie for director Baz Luhrmann's Elvis Presley biopic.

"Also, I gotta thank Denzel Washington," the Elvis star said during his speech. "Denzel, thank you for your kindness, thank you for your generosity and championing me when you did not have to."

(Video) Austin Butler On Channeling Elvis Presley, How Denzel Helped, And Why He Got No Sleep

"I am so grateful for all eternity to you," Butler added.

While the Training Day actor did not appear in Elvis, nor did he work behind the camera on the biopic, the legendary actor helped Butler secure the role by giving director Luhrmann a call to advocate on Butler's behalf. The Oscar winner appeared with Butler in a 2018 Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh.

Austin Butler Says He'd 'Cry Every Night' After Mom's Death: 'Never Experienced Pain Like That Before'

(Video) How Denzel Washington Helped Convince Elvis Director to Cast Austin Butler as Elvis Presley

In a May 2022 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Luhrmann, 60, said that Washington cold-called him shortly after he first encountered a video of Butler performing a cover of Presley's "Unchained Melody."

"He found me," the director said when asked why Butler proved to be right actor to play the rock n' roll icon. "I received this videotape of this young man in a flood of tears playing 'Unchained Melody,' and I thought, 'Wow, what is that? How is that happening?' And then I got a call from Denzel Washington, who gave me a cold call."

(Video) How Austin Butler Prepared to Play Elvis

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"I did not know Denzel," Luhrmann clarified of the call to the outlet. "And he said, 'I've just worked with this guy on stage. I've never seen a work ethic like it,' "

"And I'm like, 'Okay, I must see him.' Honestly, I put him through the wringer, but he lived Elvis," Luhrmann added of the performance. "What he's managed to do is not do an impersonation, but to live Elvis, to the extent that he's humanized him."

Luhrmann also recalled the conversation with Washington in a panel conversation about the movie with SiriusXM in June 2022.

" 'You're about to meet an actor I've been on stage with,' " the director recalled of Washington's pitch for Butler at the time. " 'You will not believe this young man's work ethic, there is just no minute he won't give to the art.' "

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(Video) Austin Butler REVEALS How Denzel Washington Helped Him..

The 80th Golden Globe Awards ceremony is airing live on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.


When did Denzel Washington work with Austin Butler? ›

In a new feature interview with Backstage magazine published Wednesday, Butler, 31, said that working with Washington, 68, on the 2018 Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh "changed my perception of myself and my abilities."

Who should have been cast as Elvis? ›

Miles Teller was a top fan choice for the role of Elvis. At the time of the international casting call for the part, fans were abuzz posting side-by-side comparisons of the Top Gun: Maverick star next to the iconic crooner Presley.

Who tried out for the role of Elvis? ›

Baz Luhrmann, the director behind the Elvis Presley biopic, has revealed pop icon Harry Styles auditioned for the starring role, and compared striking similarities between the two artists.

How was Austin Butler discovered? ›

His friend on the show, Lindsey Shaw, introduced him to her manager, Pat Cutler, who signed him and launched his career. From that point on, Butler began taking acting seriously as a career.

How did Denzel Washington help Austin Butler? ›

While Washington did not appear in the film nor did he work behind the scenes on the biopic, he helped Butler secure the role by giving director Luhrmann a call to advocate on Butler's behalf. The Oscar winner appeared with Butler in a 2018 Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh.

Is Austin Butler still talking like Elvis? ›

Backstage at the Globes last week, Butler said had heard the chatter that he continues to talk like the soft-spoken "Hound Dog" singer. “I don't think about it. I don't think I sound like him still, but I guess I must because I hear it a lot,” he told reporters.

How did Austin Butler prepare for Elvis? ›

Among his preparations included listening to compilations of Presley's voice and laugh. He also listened to his songs for hours and worked on his movement to make his portrayal perfect. Singing coaches also helped him with his transformation.

What actor looks the most like Elvis? ›

Blake Rayne. Blake Rayne (real name Ryan Pelton) was constantly told that he looked like a young Elvis Presley growing up, so it's no surprise that it was his winning an Elvis impersonator contest that nabbed him an agent and a new career as a professional impersonator.

Who would play the best Elvis? ›

The 12 best actors who have played Elvis Presley, ranked
  • Austin Butler as "Elvis."Warner Bros. ...
  • Don Johnson as Elvis Presley. ...
  • David Keith as Elvis Presley. ...
  • Harvey Keitel (center) as Elvis Presley. ...
  • (L-R) Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley and Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon. ...
  • Bruce Campbell as Elvis Presley.
Jun 25, 2022

Why did they pick Austin Butler? ›

Austin's work ethic is also what sets him apart, and his ability to understand material and translate that and make it feel so honest. I think that honesty is also what the audience feels. He works tirelessly to get something right. By the end of the movie, he left it all up there on the screen.

Why did Harry Styles not get Elvis role? ›

At least, it is for director Baz Luhrmann. While sitting down with Australia's Fitzy & Wippa radio show recently, Luhrmann revealed that he considered Styles for the role of the King in his new film Elvis, but ultimately felt that the former One Direction heartthrob's superstardom would work against the storytelling.

Who is the best actor Austin Butler? ›

Austin Butler took home the 2023 Golden Globe in the best actor in a drama category on Tuesday (Jan. 10) for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's Elvis.

Did Austin Butler learn to sing for Elvis? ›

Austin Butler transforms into Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's biopic, Elvis. While not known for musicals, Butler did most of the singing himself.

Did Elvis wear makeup? ›

Elvis loved makeup and he loved how dramatic it made the eyes.…”

What did Vanessa Hudgens say about Austin Butler? ›

"He had just dyed his hair dark. He's a natural blond, and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, 'Babe, you need to play Elvis. ' "

Who owns the royalties to Elvis? ›

The RCA Records Label was bought by BMG in the 1980s and in 2004 BMG merged with Sony Music Entertainment to become Sony BMG. Sony BMG owns Elvis' recordings and they continue to use the RCA Records label for issuing Elvis releases. They also have a special Elvis collectors label, Follow That Dream Records.

Why does Austin Butler still have an accent? ›

When he took on the role of Elvis, he immersed himself in the character for two years in order to perfect the character. Naturally, his voice has shifted – and he admitted on The Graham Norton Show earlier this month that he 'can't get rid' of the accent now he's got it.

How long did it take Austin Butler to study Elvis? ›

Austin Butler Didn't See Family for 3 Years While Preparing for Elvis.

Did Austin Butler see Elvis bedroom? ›

"I get goosebumps," Butler said of the time Presley showed him around Graceland after they watched "Elvis." Butler said he got to see Elvis' slippers and his bedroom — "a place that most people never get to see."

Did Austin Butler do his own dancing in Elvis? ›

In the film, Austin not only plays the role of the King of Rock and Roll, he also sings and dances to Elvis' songs. Despite admitting he isn't a singer or dancer, and is actually a "shy wallflower", Austin got up to show Jimmy how to dance like Elvis.

Does Tom Hanks like Elvis? ›

No surprise Hanks sounds a bit like a DJ: “I do a show once a month on an internet radio channel, Boss Radio 66.” Hanks says he listens to more Elvis now since playing the legend's controversial manager, Colonel Tom Parker, in the new Baz Luhrmann biopic “Elvis” (in theaters now).

What kind of singer did Elvis not like? ›

Elvis even name-dropped some singers who he thought were all flair and no substance. In this category of the singer without any feeling, Elvis "firmly placed Mel Tormé and Robert Goulet". These kinds of singers were condemned in Elvis' home, Graceland. So much so that he would attack the TV if they appeared on it.

Who was Elvis Presley's favorite male singer? ›

Elvis held Roy Orbison is very high regard, publicly stating that Roy had ' most perfect voice' and referring to him as the 'greatest singer in the world' during one of his Vegas concerts.

What was the biggest audience Elvis played to? ›

Pontiac Michigan

December 31,1975 Elvis makes his biggest concert ever, earning a gross $800.000. With a crowd of over 60000!! Elvis performes at the "Pontiac Silverdome" in Pontiac, Michigan 8:30 p.m. Elvis wore the Rainfall suit with original belt.

How good of a voice did Elvis have? ›

Elvis Presley was a baritone whose voice had an extraordinary compass — the so-called register — and a very wide range of vocal colour. It covered two octaves and a third, from the baritone low-G to the tenor high B, with an upward extension in falsetto to at least a D flat.

Did Baz Luhrmann heckle Austin Butler? ›

“Elvis” Star Austin Butler Revealed That He Was Heckled And Humiliated By Baz Luhrmann In The Recording Studio And “Went Home In Tears” None other than Leonardo DiCaprio warned Austin about working with Baz after he landed the role of Elvis Presley.

Who made Austin Butler cry? ›

During an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Austin shared that he cries every time he watched a video of Elvis singing "Unchained Melody" while on his last tour. In the clip, the singer smiles at the audience after nailing a note.

How much did Austin get paid for Elvis? ›

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Austin has $4 million in the bank. Seems like a lot considering he “only” got paid $700,000 for his most famous role—but this could have something to do with the fact that he's starring in the upcoming Dune 2 and presumably commanded a pretty high post-Elvis paycheck.

Did Elvis refuse shower? ›

After his TBIs, Elvis' behavior became progressively erratic and irrational. ⁷⁻¹³ For example, it is reported that in 1975 he refused to bathe and developed sores on his body.

Did Elvis try to banish The Beatles? ›

Elvis's anti-Beatles tirade wasn't just a one-off, either. In early 1971, Presley took a tour of the FBI offices, and had some words to pass on to J. Edgar Hoover. After calling the FBI director the "greatest living American," Presley targeted the Beatles yet again.

Did The Beatles listen to Elvis? ›

Elvis Presley was a massive influence on The Beatles, and occasionally they returned the favour. "Before Elvis, there was nothing." That's what John Lennon said about Elvis Presley, and it'd take a brave man to argue with one of The Beatles about the influence of the King of Rock and Roll.

Who were the Black influences on Elvis? ›

Thornton's story is not unique, as Elvis was influenced by B.B. King, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jackson, Tharpe, Big Boy and more. Little Richard argued that he was the rightful heir to the king of rock 'n' roll title, with Berry up there with him.

Is Elvis the film accurate? ›

Starring Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, the film is told in Parker's version of events, from discovering Presley as a teen to both of their deaths later in life. But not everything in the film is entirely true to life.

Did Dolly ever meet Elvis? ›

In a 1978 interview with Playboy Magazine, Parton discussed the parallels drawn between herself and Elvis. She explained that, while she sadly never had the chance to meet Elvis, “There was nobody that [she] ever related to more. I always felt that we were kin.”

Why does Austin Butler sound different? ›

The actor works with a dialect coach, starting months or years before filming. The coach provides source recordings (a real person, for example, Elvis) and an accent breakdown. The actor will listen to the sound samples at every opportunity for total immersion.

Could Austin Butler win an Oscar for Elvis? ›

Austin Butler

Who is the best supporting actor of all time? ›

Brennan has received the most awards in this category with three awards. Brennan, Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Arthur Kennedy, Jack Nicholson, Claude Rains, and Al Pacino were each nominated four times, more than any other actors.
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Most awardsWalter Brennan (3)
8 more rows

How much did the Colonel take from Elvis? ›

Towards the end of his career, the Colonel was taking a 50% commission, which was considered completely exploitative.

How much did Elvis Presley make per concert? ›

How much did Elvis Presley make per concert? Elvis Presley earned a good living being on the road. According to a 1989 Los Angeles Times article, his "average concert gross in the mid-'70s was $130,000 a night," which puts him in the $700,000 range or so in modern dollars.

Did Elvis fire Colonel Parker on stage? ›

No, Elvis didn't fire the Colonel from the stage at Las Vegas in real life. While the film shows Elvis firing his manager during a show after realising he's being deceived by the Colonel, this is not what happened in real life.

What did Denzel Washington say about Austin Butler? ›

" 'You're about to meet an actor I've been on stage with,' " the director recalled of Washington's pitch for Butler at the time. " 'You will not believe this young man's work ethic, there is just no minute he won't give to the art.

Why did Austin Butler not see his family for 3 years? ›

Austin Butler Said He Didn't See His Family For Three Years While Preparing For “Elvis” Months After Recalling How Baz Luhrmann Left Him “In Tears” When He Humiliated Him On Set. “method acting has done irreversible damage to hollywood actors.”

Who did Austin Butler date before Kaia Gerber? ›

Austin Butler has been in a relationship with model Kaia Gerber since late 2021. Previously, Butler dated Vanessa Hudgens for nine years between 2011 and 2020.

What was the overall message of Denzel Washington's speech? ›

Washington's messages of achieving dreams through goals, of embracing failure and taking risks to achieve goodness, and of being thankful can inspire each of us to mark a new starting point in our life by committing to live these out.

What was the overall message Denzel was trying to convey to the students? ›

Denzel was ultimately encouraging the recent graduates to always maximize their potential and never give up on anything they are passionate about. He wanted the graduates to do something with their dreams and talents throughout their lives instead of bringing empty aspirations to the graves with them.

What is the message of Denzel Washington speech? ›

Washington shared four main key points during his speech which was to put God first, fail big, achieve, and be disciplined. With the help of pathos and rhetorical devices, He used his past experiences to express his ideas through his speech.


1. Watch This Before You See Elvis
2. Austin Butler on His Elvis TRANSFORMATION
(Entertainment Tonight)
3. How Denzel Washington Helped Austin Butler Land His Elvis Role
(Stars Life)
4. How Austin Butler Prepared To Play Elvis
(Brut America)
5. Baz Luhrmann DISCUSSES Austin Butler's STRANGE Elvis Audition..
(Encore Empire)
6. Austin Butler says there would be no Elvis 'without Black music' | Etalk Interview
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