When Austin Butler signed on to play Elvis Presley in Elvis, the new biopic about the musician’s life, he knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park to step into the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s blue suede shoes.
“I’ve never felt a responsibility like this,” Butler told ABC News. “Anytime you take on somebody who’s actually lived their life, there’s a responsibility. But with Elvis, it’s something I’ve never felt before.”
The film’s director, Baz Luhrmann, echoed his sentiment, saying it was important to both of them that Butler did not do an impersonation of Presley. “Elvis is the most impersonated person in history. We had to have a person,” he said. “Austin really did fuse his spirit with that of Elvis’. He shows the man, not the icon, you know.”
Butler’s performance as Presley tried to combat “all the misconceptions” of those impersonations — the caricatures and the Halloween costumes — that Butler says make people look “up to him almost in a godlike way” and, in turn, take the singer’s “life out of context.”
“I was just so fascinated by stripping all that away,” Butler said.
Elvis hits theaters today, but it premiered at Cannes Film Festival last month — where it was treated to a 10-minute standing ovation during and after the end credits.
“I’m getting to now see people responding to all the work that we did,” Butler said. “And it just feels so good that people are appreciating and getting to see him in a way they haven’t maybe before.”
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