The day his high-profile casting as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic was announced, Austin Butler was busy taking care of business.
The 27-year-old was snapped taking a stroll in Los Angeles with actress girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens, 30, even as he made headlines for his surprise casting as the latest king of rock and roll.
While he’s had a slew of roles since being scouted at a county fair at 13, the high school dropout is a Hollywood minnow compared to mooted Elvis rivals Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller.
In an eerie forerunner of his big break – or using the old Columbo mind trick of ‘the subliminal cut’ – Butler dyed his blonde hair and has been sporting a quiff and semi-pout at Hollywood events this year.
High School Musical star Hudgens, 30, went large sharing the news about her boyfriend of eight years on Instagram. She said (in capital letters) she is “so proud of my honey” and “over the f—–g moon.”
Quoting Elvis, Butler himself was more circumspect and subtle on his own Instagram account, which has 2.1 million followers: “You have made my life complete, and I love you so.”
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Butler’s signing to play the Tennessee crooner came after a global leading man search by Luhrmann, who has Tom Hanks locked down to play Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker.
It was Butler’s Broadway chops which helped him get noticed by Luhrmann, who “heard about” his “standout role” opposite Denzel Washington in Eugene O’Neill play The Iceman Cometh.
“Although there are many performers in … The Iceman Cometh, there is only one actor, and his name is Austin Butler,” wrote Hilton Als for The New Yorker during the play’s 2018 three month run.
Still, Luhrmann made Butler jump through hoops including “music and performance workshops” and “extensive screen testing” before he was sure he had his man.
The casting of his Elvis had to be “absolutely right”, Luhrmann said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist.”
In Butler, “I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”
It can’t have hurt that Butler – whose hobbies are “exercising in his home gym”, according to Wikipedia – is musical. He’s played guitar and piano since he was a teenager.
Also on the plus side: in showbiz parlance, Butler is definitely having a moment.
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Currently on big screens in Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die with Bill Murray and Selena Gomez, he had a fan boy moment opposite Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
“There’s hardly anybody I’ve looked up to more than Brad and Leo,” Butler said in June, adding he was first “impressed” by Quentin Tarantino at age 12, when he printed out the Pulp Fiction script.
“I asked them about everything from craft to how to deal with life issues and they’re both so generous and kind. They definitely welcomed me with open arms.”
Born in Anaheim, California, Butler was 13 when he was scouted at a county fair. That led to roles in a stack of series including Ned’s Declassified School Guide, Life Unexpected, Switched at Birth and The Shannara Chronicles.
From the start, Butler was pegged as heart throb material. He played Miley Cyrus’ love interest Jake in Hannah Montana and Jamie-Lynn Spears’ in Zoey 101.
In Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries, Butler romanced Anna Sophia Robb’s Carrie Bradshaw for two seasons when the future fashionista was in high school.
The Elvis biopic begins shooting next year in Queensland. In the meantime, Butler has Hudgens to love him do. As he said in June, “She’s my rock.”
Fans took to social media to approve Butler’s casting, with some suggesting Hudgens should play Elvis’ wife Priscilla Presley.