‘Elvis’: How Denzel Washington Helped Austin Butler Land Elvis Presley Role

by Taylor Cunningham
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It seems that Austin Butler’s lead in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis came with a little help from two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington. Apparently, the young actor made an impression on Washington while the two starred together in the limited Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. While Butler only had a supporting role on stage, he had a work ethic that Washington had “never seen.” And that mixed with his overwhelming talent made Washington realize he was a shoo-in to play The King of Rock and Roll.

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Luhrmann said that while he was searching for the perfect Elvis, someone sent him “a videotape of this young man in a flood of tears playing Unchained Melody.” And he was completely stunned by the performance.

“I thought, ‘Wow, what is that? How is that happening?’ he shared.

And the next thing he knew, Denzel Washington was on the phone singing praises about the actor who would eventually star as Elvis. Luhrmann had never met Washington in the past, which spoke to the genuine intent behind the call. So, he agreed to meet Austin Butler.

The director admitted that he put Butler “through the wringer,” during auditions and filming. But what came of the hard work is pure cinematographic gold.

“What he’s managed to do is not do an impersonation, but to live Elvis, to the extent that he’s humanized him,” Luhrmann told the publication. He also added that the 30-year-old was particularly “incredible” while singing “the early Elvis.”

Denzel Washinton Isn’t the Only Person Impressed by ‘Elvis’ Star Austin Butler

And the high opinion of Austin Butler is shared by many. Though audiences haven’t had a chance to see the film yet, plenty of critics and people close to Elvis have screened it, including his ex-wife Pricilla Presley and talent manager Jerry Schilling.

After watching the finished work, Pricilla took to Facebook to share that Butler’s depiction of the iconic singer is “outstanding.”

“Halfway through the film Jerry and I looked at each other and said WOW!!! Bravo to him…he knew he had big shoes to fill. He was extremely nervous playing this part. I can only imagine,” she wrote.

Up until Elvis, Austin Butler was a relatively unknown actor. His main work came from the Nickelodeon series iCarly and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But once his new flick hits theaters, he may become a household name.

Aside from Butler, Elvis also stars Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, and Helen Thompson and Richard Roxburgh as Presley’s parents. The movie releases worldwide on June 24th.

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