Tough love! Elvis star Austin Butler opened up about the methods director Baz Luhrmann used to get him into character — some ending up too intense for the actor to handle.
“When I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” Butler, 30, revealed in interview with VMAN‘s Mathias Rosenzweig that was published on Wednesday, July 27. “He had all the executives and everybody from RCA, who were back in the offices, he brought them into the recording studio and he goes, ‘I want you all to sit facing Austin’ … and he told them to heckle me.”
While the Carrie Diaries alum explained that the reasoning behind the bullying was meant to help the actor understand Elvis Presley’s mindset during a certain performance in the film, the uncomfortable moment was still hard to deal with.
“They were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing,” he recalled, adding, “I went home in tears that night. I really did.”
The out-of-box methods Luhrmann, 59, used while working on the biopic were, however, something Butler was prepared for. The California native revealed to VMAN that he was previously warned by Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with the filmmaker on 1996’s Romeo + Juliet and 2013’s The Great Gatsby, that the experience would be challenging.
“I had spoken to Leo before and he said, ‘Baz is gonna push you in ways you didn’t know somebody could. He’s gonna push you off balance and keep you off balance,’” Butler said.
Despite the difficulties, Luhrmann’s methods clearly worked for the Switched at Birth actor, who got so into his role, he’s still having trouble shaking off the lake rock musician’s signature speaking voice.
“I didn’t do anything else for two years [apart from working on Elvis], that’s such a large chunk of life. I’m not surprised that it clicks in,” Butler told Elle Australia about his time on the biopic in June. “Because I’m a shy person, and when I know that there’s bits of Elvis that I’d have to click into in order to go out on stage and be in front of a ton of people, being surrounded by his name everywhere, there’s triggers.”
He added, “You spend so much time obsessing about one thing, and it really is like muscular habits, your mouth can change.”
Butler’s body also took a toll while filming. After wrapping the movie in March 2021, the Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood star immediately dealt with a health scare. “The next day I woke up at 4 in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to the hospital,” Butler told GQ in an interview published on May 25. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis.”
The Shannara Chronicles alum was diagnosed at the time with a particular virus that triggers appendicitis. He ultimately recovered after being bedridden for a week.
Butler stars in the epic film alongside Tom Hanks, Olivia DeJonge, Kodi Smit-McPhee and more. Elvis hit theaters in June and is expected to start streaming on HBO Max in fall.