Throw Back Thursday: A Look Back at Austin Butler’s Journey to Stardom
Set to play Elvis, the newly minted leading man kicked off our Fall 2019 portfolio.
Austin Butler is gearing up for his role as infamous musician and entertainer, Elvis Presley in the highly anticipated film, Elvis out June 24th. In anticipation of the film directed by Baz Luhrmann, VMAN takes a look back at what the actor was up to, when we spoke to him last in 2019.
This piece was originally published in 2019, and featured in VMAN 42
Last spring, Austin Butler struck gold twice while waist-deep in his Broadway debut, opposite Denzel Washington in “The Iceman Cometh.” First was booking an untitled Tarantino project in what he calls “one of the most magical days of [his] life.”
“I flew from [New York] on a Sunday to an all-day Monday audition. [Quentin] gave me the job that day,” says Butler. “That never happens—a director just shaking your hand at the end.” Then, also during Iceman’s run, Butler tested for director Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes, Broken Flowers). “I would have done one line in a Jarmusch movie,” says Butler. “He is just so iconic.”
In Jarmusch’s zombified character study The Dead Don’t Die, Butler plays an unsuspecting hipster alongside Luka Sabbat and Selena Gomez. “It was great to spend some time with [Selena]. [She, Luka and I] play friends on a road trip [who] show up in a town where weird things are happening,” he hints. “[All I can add about the film] is madness, and zombies, ensue.”
Butler took a quasi-method approach to accessing the vivid historicism of Tarantino’s film industry caper Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, dressing in flower-child fashion and blasting ’70s radio programs at home. “I felt like a kid in a candy store; I wanted to hear what they heard and wear what they wore,” he says of playing Manson-Murder crony Tex Watson, a dark lynchpin in the film’s subplot.
Raised in Anaheim, in the shadow of Disneyland, Butler’s proximity to the scaffolding of fantasy proved to have real-world benefits. “I stumbled into extra work when I was about 11. Being on a film set, around the essence of movie-making, [made] something click. I thought, this is my tribe,” he says. “I’d never really found my place before that. My parents tried putting me in sports and I would come home crying.”
Equal parts blue-eyed soul and brawn, Butler seems a likely heir to the Hollywood Golden Age archetype—making his most recent career windfall playing Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic—feel both thrilling and fated. Still, he admits to doubt: “I remember being 21 and thinking I had it all figured it out,” he says. “So I have been trying to enjoy the climb rather than focus on being on top of the mountain.”