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The Inspiring Elvis Scene Austin Butler Called Out For Being 'Corny'

With such projects as "Strictly Ballroom" and "Moulin Rouge" under his belt, it's no great shock that Baz Luhrmann decided to tackle the story of the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley. Starring Austin Butler as the titular music legend, "Elvis" follows his rise to fame and eventual professional and personal decline. It also takes a look at the relationships he shared with those in his life, including his partner, Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), and his longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), as well as the condition of the United States and the world across the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

That's a lot of ground to cover in one film — hence why Luhrmann has a four-hour cut that we'll likely never see — but simply filling out a checklist of important moments and events isn't enough. This is Elvis Presley, after all, one of the most famous and recognizable musicians ever to walk a stage or grace an album cover, so getting it just right is of the utmost importance. Thankfully, Austin Butler doesn't phone it in with his take on Elvis Presley. In fact, the star was so dedicated to the production that he even gave some brutally honest creative feedback to Luhrmann regarding a pivotal scene he found "corny." Here's what happened.

Butler didn't think a scene in Vegas worked as originally planned

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler explained the process of pinning down Elvis Presley's speech patterns and music vocals. This proved no easy feat and required a lot of effort on Butler's part, but they eventually got it down to a science. In doing so, they even changed a scene about Elvis' attempt at inspiring his Vegas band during their workshopping of the song "That's Alright (Mama)." When it finally came time to shoot after months of rehearsal with a playback tape, Luhrmann recalls, "Austin looked at me and was like, 'This just is corny. This is not working. It's fake.'"  

Luhrmann instructed the band to play different notes so Butler could find a desired sound that sounded more sincere and true to the role. While this tweak made it possible for the actor to slip into his role more authentically, this level of commitment didn't come without a price. Butler told Collider in June of 2022 that rediscovering himself after wrapping up his work on "Elvis" wasn't a quick and easy thing to pull off. "It was really a solid couple months before I really felt some semblance of normal afterward. I'd never done something in the way where I just put my life aside," the star explained, adding that the project required him to practically isolate and become the closest to Elvis he possibly could.

Austin Butler clearly gave his all for "Elvis" and wanted to do right by the pop culture icon. It's a good thing he spoke up to remove some potential corniness from the final product, too. Had he not, who knows if Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley would've given it such glowing endorsements.

Butler helped Elvis in other ways

Identifying a corny scene isn't the only way Austin Butler helped "Elvis" become the success that it turned out to be. In fact, the movie may not have reached the finish line at all if the actor hadn't pushed for it when the going really got tough. 

Readers may recall a frightening moment from early 2020 when "Elvis" star and actor Tom Hanks revealed that he had contracted COVID-19 (via CNN). As it turns out, Hanks' illness came right around the time that "Elvis" was in its most crucial stage of production. With one of the film's lead actors out of action thanks to a virus that the world still knew relatively little about at the time, things quickly went sour, and it even seemed to Baz Luhrmann like the film was going down in flames.

During a speech at the 2023 Palm Springs Film Festival, Luhrmann spoke about this tumultuous time in "Elvis'" development (via Variety). "The film fell apart — I couldn't keep the cast together," he said. Luhrmann recalled that he subsequently went to Butler and told him the film was over and production had shut down. However, Butler remained resolute, insisting that he wouldn't exit the film until it had been finished. "He inspired me to go back to Tom and say, 'You've got to do this,'" the creative said.