In 2019, Austin Butler sent a video of himself performing “Unchained Melody,” the Righteous Brothers’ song that Elvis Presley covered just two months before his death in 1977. Upon earning the once-in-a-lifetime role, Austin Butler was determined to prove that he was the perfect actor to embody The King.
With that resolve fueling him, Austin Butler vowed to walk, talk, and breathe Elvis until the film was complete. He was so dedicated to the task, in fact, that he refused to consume any media that wasn’t an Elvis creation until his costar Tom Hanks warned him of the dangers of losing himself in a role.
And it’s a good thing Butler reached out to his more experienced costar for advice, or he might have lost his identity entirely. Because of production delays, the total time between casting and finishing the film stretched to three years.
Even with adding a single non-Elvis activity to his daily routine, abandoning his Elvis identity after three years of intense method acting resulted in some serious adverse effects, according to Butler. In his recent tell-all interview with GQ, Butler explained the events immediately following the final day of filming.
“The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to the hospital,” Butler explained. Upon arriving at the hospital, medical staff diagnosed Butler with a virus that mimics appendicitis.
The illness was so severe that he remained bedridden for a week. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis,” Butler said.
Austin Butler’s Family Worried That ‘Elvis’ Changed Him
Devoting himself, mind, body, and soul, to his roles spurred some pretty magical moments for Austin Butler. In the early stages of Elvis, Butler received a blessing from Priscilla Presley herself. Elvis director Baz Luhrmann also received a phone call from acting legend Denzel Washington, who sang Butler’s praises.
“I get a phone call out of the blue from Denzel Washington, who I did not know,” Luhrmann explained. “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.'”
“I was so grateful for that,” Butler said of Washington’s approval. “He didn’t call me beforehand, he didn’t call me after. It was this generous thing that he just did.”
Unfortunately, however, the consequences of his devotion weren’t entirely positive. In addition to his hospitalization, Butler’s family worried that Elvis changed him as a person. “My family said I didn’t sound like me anymore,” Butler said.
Though Butler’s days of acting as Elvis are behind him, he still feels a strong connection to The King. “It’s comforting to me now,” Butler said of his unbreakable bond with Elvis. “When I get in the car. I’ll just go, ‘What do I want to listen to?’ Usually, I just end up popping on Elvis. I’ve never loved somebody I’ve never met more than Elvis.”