Moviegoers this year have been treated to two instant classics in the forms of Top Gun: Maverick and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Maverick is currently the most successful movie of the year, and Elvis received huge critical acclaim for Austin Butler’s performance as Elvis Presley.
Butler’s star is on a meteoric rise after his star-making turn as The King, but he very nearly had a role in Maverick as well. Butler auditioned for the role of Rooster which went on to be played by Miles Teller.
Hollywood casting director Denise Chamian recognized Butler’s talent all the way back in 2013. In an interview with Variety, she said any time she was doing a major casting, Butler was always on her radar.
“This happens a lot with casting directors, you’ll meet somebody when they’re very young. If they’re good, you keep bringing them back and you’re always trying to fit that person into the right slot,” Chamian said.
When she began the casting process for Maverick, Butler was a natural candidate. Even though the filmmakers believed Butler was too young for the part of Rooster, everyone agreed he made a significant impression.
“At that point, I saw that this actor has something very special that other people don’t always have,” Chamian said. “It’s almost the way he looks into the camera. He knows the camera and lets the camera see him, and that is really what is so captivating.”
Butler Loses One Role But Earns Another
When it came time for Chamain to cast the coveted role of Elvis, Lurhmann wanted to cast as wide a net as possible. However, Chamain had Butler’s name in mind from the very beginning. After his Maverick audition, she knew he had reached a new level of maturity.
“We went all over the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we even went to London,” Chamian said. “We did open casting calls online and even looked at Elvis impersonators, but from the very beginning, there was something about Austin to me that was a little reminiscent of Elvis.”
In a twist of fate, one of the other front runners for the role of Elvis was Miles Teller, who beat Butler for the role in Maverick. Also on the list were Ansel Elgort of West Side Story fame and musician Harry Styles. But for Chamian, Butler was always her top pick.
“When we got to Austin, I said, ‘This is your Elvis,’ and Baz just looked at me. It’s a pretty big statement to make,” Chamian said. “Shortly thereafter, I had Austin go on tape and that started the process of Baz meeting with him, doing a workshop in New York and we tested him along with other actors.”
Butler faced a long audition process to earn the chance to play Elvis. Once he got to show off his skill, Chamian said it all came into place.
“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,” Chamian said. “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. I thought it was just incredible.”