Austin Butler is set to make his debut in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis when the film hits theaters this Friday (June 24), but the road to playing the King of Rock n’ Roll was far from easy. Speaking with Kelly Clarkson during his Thursday (June 23) appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, the actor opened up about the arduous audition process and revealed it took a total of five months before he secured the role of Elvis Presley.
According to Butler, the auditions started with several meetings with Luhrmann and consisted of performances of songs from Presley’s catalogue, scene readings, and more.
“I sent Baz a tape of me singing ‘Unchained Melody’ and playing the piano, and he responded to it, and I flew to New York. We met and we just talked for three hours,” the 30-year-old actor explained, before detailing the back and forth he went through with the director. “Then he said, ‘You want to come in tomorrow and read a couple of scenes from the script?’ So I came in and read a couple of scenes. And then he said, ‘You wanna come in and sing a couple songs … and you wanna sing ‘Suspicious Minds?’ So I went home that night, practiced, and come back. We ended up doing that for five months, so it was unlike any audition.”
Despite being in limbo with with the Elvis director, the official screen test did not come until much later. Of that process, Butler said that “Baz changed everything on me on the day” he was meant to read for the studio. “I was supposed to do a couple of scenes, and he changed all the words in the scenes. I was supposed to sing three songs … and he’s saying, ‘You’re gonna sing these three songs,’ and they weren’t the songs I prepared,” he explained.
“He put me through the ringer, and I realize now he likes to be very spontaneous on set. He wanted to see if I would lose my mind, so I didn’t think I got it,” Butler added. “A week later I woke up to Baz calling me … he sounded kinda downcast and said, ‘I wanted to be the first one to call you and say, ‘Are you ready to fly, Mr. Presley?'”
Watch Butler talk about the audition process for Elvis with Clarkson below.