It seems as if Austin Butler owes a recent career-high role to none other than Denzel Washington.
In two new interviews, one with director Baz Lurhmann and another with Butler himself, many are realizing how pivotal Washington has been in Butler’s career in his recent role as Elvis Presley and the upcoming Warner Bros. film, Elvis.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Luhrmann opened up about casting the role of Presley and the role Washington played in the casting process.
“[Austin Butler] found me,” Luhrmann said. “I received this videotape of this young man in a flood of tears playing ‘Unchained Melody,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, what is that? How is that happening? And then I got a call from Denzel Washington, who gave me a cold call,” he said.
“I did not know Denzel. And he said, ‘I’ve just worked with this guy on stage. I’ve never seen a work ethic like it.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I must see him.’”
Luhrmann also discussed hat Butler brings to the role of Elvis Presley.
“His life fits beautifully into three acts,” Luhrmann said. “There’s Elvis the punk, if you like, the original punk rocker, the rebel. Then there’s Elvis the movie man, and that’s when he is pop and family-friendly. And then there’s ’70s Elvis, which is epic.”
Then, in an interview with GQ magazine, Butler discussed the role and how Washington has played in his acting craft.
During the interview, Butler discussed meeting the Oscar-winning actor for the first time during a 2018 Broadway production of the Eugene O’Neill play The Iceman Cometh.
“There’s that thing where you meet your heroes, and you want to be their best friend,” Butler says. “I was like, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ So, I went into the quickest mentality of ‘I’m not going to try to be his friend, I’m just going to try to do work as well as I possibly can.’”
Butler then mentioned how he would make it a habit of arriving to the theater earlier than Washington, who took notice and started giving him acting advice.
“It’s just Denzel and me in this empty theater,” explained Butler. “He started giving me acting advice and he really took me under his wing. He’d start telling me thoughts about the scene, and suddenly I’ve got Denzel almost as an acting coach.” And maybe even a life coach. Denzel always goes back to gratitude. I look at that for longevity in any career. Having those moments where, at the best of times or the worst of times, you’re being grateful for what you actually have and having humility.”
Butler expressed his gratitude at the role Washington played in all of this.
“I was so grateful for that,” Butler told GQ. “He didn’t call me beforehand, he didn’t call me after. It was this generous thing that he just did.”
Aside from Butler, Elvis will star Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B King, Yola Quartey as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager. The script for Elvis was written by Lurhmann and Craig Pearce have, with Lurhmann also producing alongside Catherine Martin, Patrick McCormick, Schuyler Weiss and Gail Berman. Elvis is slated to be released on June 24, 2022 in the United States.