Austin Butler transformed so completely and convincingly into Elvis Presley while playing the rock n’ roll legend in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, it almost seemed effortless. In a new interview with Jimmy Kimmel, however, the 31-year-old actor revealed that it was anything but.
Appearing Monday night (Jan. 9) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Butler opened up about the stresses that came with the two-year process of getting Elvis’ every move, note and mannerism exactly right for the film. “I would usually wake up every day around 3 or 4 in the morning with this terror,” he confessed.
“It was just such a daunting thing,” he added. “I really was just guided by my terror.”
The Carrie Diaries alum — whose performance is up for best actor in a motion picture — drama at Tuesday night’s (Jan. 10) Golden Globes — also shed some light on the prep work he did to master the role of The King. The process was unexpectedly prolonged when filming for Elvis halted for much of 2020 after co-star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.
Worried about losing all the progress he’d made so far with the character, Butler said he doubled down on his studies and covered his apartment walls with photographs of Elvis through the years. He made compilations of the “Hound Dog” singer’s voice and paid special attention to Elvis’ laugh.
“I’d walk down the beach for hours with a headphone in, laughing as Elvis,” he shared, recalling the looks he would get from confused surfers. “So it looked like [I was] this man, just absolutely out of his mind.”
In a separate roundtable interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Butler remembered the day he first met Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, after filming had wrapped. “She hugged me with tears in her eyes, and she just said, ‘Thank you,'” he said. “She took me upstairs and we went into Elvis’ bedroom and just sat on his bed and just talked for hours.”
“When you realize that he’s this guy that has been either thought of as this icon, godlike figure, or people just see him as this Halloween costume …,” he continued. “Then it dawns on you that he’s a father, and he’s a son and he’s a husband. That responsibility is so huge.”
Watch Austin Butler talk about portraying Elvis and meeting Lisa Marie below: