EXCLUSIVE: Austin Butler tells us all about getting ready for the role of Elvis and responds to TikTok's claims his voice changed!
- Congratulations on the film. You were incredible in it, but I think that you owe everyone a bit of an apology. Because number one, you broke our hearts. Number two, you made a film where you made us dislike Tom Hanks.
AUSTIN BUTLER: Oh, wow.
- How could you do that to us?
AUSTIN BUTLER: I-- well, I'm sorry. [CHUCKLES] It wasn't my choice. I, uh-- yeah, see, I thought Tom was amazing at-- when I would look him in the eyes on set, he was so justified in his behavior. I thought that shows such mastery of craft-- the fact that he could have that twinkle and be so justified in his actions. So yeah, yeah, I'm sorry.
- What about-- tell me about the prep for a role of this magnitude. It was in the works for a long time. How did that work for you?
AUSTIN BUTLER: I had two years where I didn't do anything else. And I woke up every day with this terror of the weight of it all. And so yeah, I just tried to leave no stone unturned.
And I tried a lot of different things in that time, and I had an amazing group of people around me-- my movement coach, Polly Bennett, during the entire production, and singing coaches, voice coaches, my karate instructor-- I had tons of people around me. And yes, so I had a year and 1/2 before we started shooting.
- Yeah, that sounds hard. Was it hard afterwards to shake him off?
AUSTIN BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah, you don't quite know what to do with yourself after that time.
- Yeah, a lot of people on TikTok are saying that your voice is very Elvis-like.
AUSTIN BUTLER: Yeah, somebody was telling me about that.
Yeah. It's funny, because certain situations trigger it, I think. For one, being surrounded by his name everywhere, and then, two, it becomes, I think, as well, something where-- I mean, for one, when that was the voice that I spoke in for two years, it is so habitual at the end.
You get done, and you kind of don't remember what your natural voice is. I think-- also, I think a lot of the comparisons that people draw to my voice are me when I was, like, 17 years old.
- Bit of a difference.
AUSTIN BUTLER: So I'm 30 now, so my voice has dropped a bit. So yeah, yeah, it's funny. Voices are a funny thing, because they-- I also-- when I'm shy, I notice that-- the red carpet stuff make me very shy.
And so when you're doing interviews there, there's something where, I think, unconsciously, I'll click into the place where I felt confident, which Elvis had-- when I was-- while he was a shy person, being on stage-- I'd never been on stage in front of that many people. So there's also triggers in that way, which I think are fascinating.
- Was there a moment where you were like, OK, I feel it, I am Elvis now?
AUSTIN BUTLER: It was subtle things. I mean, it was sort of, every day, I'd find these keys. And I-- I know the very first performance I did, which was '68, was a monumental shift for me. Because I was so nervous for it.
And I could rest in the fact that Elvis was also very nervous. So once I went out there, and suddenly, I'm on stage, and I'm feeling genuine connection with the audience, and it became sort of like this out-of-body experience that really changed things for me.
- Do you wish that he could have seen it, or do you kind of feel that would have added a lot more pressure?
AUSTIN BUTLER: I wish-- I wish he was alive today to experience how loved he is, you know, to know that he wasn't forgotten after he passed away. Because he really-- he felt that way towards the end. So I wish that.
And also, once, Priscilla-- she said some things about, if Elvis was here today, how he would feel. And that really-- that moved me to tears. So yeah, I wish he was here to see it, because it would mean that I could hang out with him, you know.
- Fair enough. Maybe he would have been here on the press tour with you.
AUSTIN BUTLER: That would be surreal.
- You were saying last night on stage-- you were saying that you get stage fright. But it doesn't obviously seem that way when you're acting as him. Do you think that you and Elvis share any similarities?
AUSTIN BUTLER: Yeah, he had stage fright. He talks about it all the way through the '70s. So it's a thing where you-- and I get a lot more stage fright when it's me-- when I'm going out there, and I've got to-- I don't have a way to channel the fright, you know.
And so with doing this, that was a great lesson for me. Because I would be really nervous before I walked on stage, but as soon as I was out there, the music carries you. The audience, the interaction-- you're not thinking about yourself.
So the stage fright kind of disappears at a certain point. Then, you go offstage, and when you got to walk back on, you feel it again. So it's that relationship, where you realize, it's going to be here, but it doesn't stop you from being able to still do your job, you know.
- OK. And being him for so long, for-- and being in character for so long, was there something that you were like, I need to take that home with me from set?
AUSTIN BUTLER: You know what I took home was, when I wrapped, Baz and CM got me this frame that, inside of it, had the back of the "Unchained Melody" jumpsuit. And that's the first tape that I sent to Baz. And so it was this beautiful full circle moment where I now have that on my wall, and it means a lot to me.
- That's amazing. Well, congratulations again. We love the film, and all the best with what comes next.
AUSTIN BUTLER: Thank you so much. Thank you.