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The Tragic Detail That Connects Austin Butler To Elvis

For Austin Butler, Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" biopic wasn't just a Hollywood passion project of his — it was a full-blown obsession. And what made things even more intense for the actor was the fact that he and The King share a heartbreaking, real-life connection. "I'd been watching all these documentaries and learned a couple of days prior [to his audition]," Butler told Vogue back in April 2022 of the tragic detail that binds him to Presley. 

Interestingly, Luhrmann told the magazine that the link was ultimately something that Butler used to his advantage, despite it being devastating for both men. "What I heard vocally, and more importantly, what I saw emotionally, was something that simply couldn't be ignored," the director said. "From the moment I met Austin, he was carrying something of Elvis with him." 

What also helped was just how obsessed and driven Butler was. "I basically put the rest of my life on pause," he told reporters at Cannes 2022 (via People). "I just went down the rabbit hole of obsession," he said. This included using his heartbreaking connection with Elvis to channel the most emotional performance possible.

Butler and Elvis both lost their moms when they were 23

According to Austin Butler, he and Elvis Presley were the exact same age when their mothers died, which is something he used to help mentally prepare for "Elvis."

"His mother passed away when he was 23, and my mom passed away when I was 23," Butler told GQ in a May 2022 interview. "When I learned that, it was one of those things where I got chills, and I just thought, 'Okay, I can connect to that.'" Butler ultimately decided that if he was going to portray Presley accurately, he would have to go to a place inside himself where those same emotions of losing his mother were present. 

While speaking to Vogue, the "Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood" star recalled using a nightmare he had about his mom to help shape his "Elvis" audition tape and overall performance. "My mother was alive again, but dying," Butler said of the dream. "And it felt so fresh and painful ... I thought he probably had nights where he woke up from nightmares like this. So what can I do with that?" 

The actor wound up changing his entire approach to both his acting and singing as a result. "I'd been practicing 'Unchained Melody' for a while, but I'd always been singing it to a lover. That night [for the audition], I sang it to my mom," Butler remembered. "I wasn't trying to look and sound like Elvis. I wasn't trying to do anything but take that emotion and pour it into the song." 

Butler's performance will be on full display on June 24 when "Elvis" officially hits theaters.