After making the Croisette dance last May, “Elvis” has been visible in theaters since Wednesday. In the skin of the King, Austin Butler, a young Californian seen in “The Chronicles of Shannara” and at Tarantino.
Presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival last May, Elvis by Baz Luhrmann created the event. As surprising as it may seem, this is the first time that the cinema has dedicated a biopic to Elvis Presley. In 1979, John Carpenter signed the TV movie Le Roman d’Elvis, in which Kurt Russell played the King. Today, Austin Butler has the difficult task of slipping into the skin of the rock’n’roll icon.
If this thirty-year-old has distinguished himself in around thirty television and film productions, this is his first major role in a feature film of such magnitude. The opportunity to look back on his journey.
From Hannah Montana to the Shannara Chronicles
Originally from California, he stood out at only 13 years old and quickly distinguished himself in music and modeling. His screen debut was in 2005 in front of the cameras of Ned: how to survive studies?. His angelic physique earned him to play in many very popular series among (pre) adolescents such as Hannah Montana with Miley Cyrus, Zoe (worn by Jamie Lynn Spears), or even iCarly.
2009 marks his first appearance on the big screen with Les Zintrus, in which he has to face a comical alien invasion alongside Ashley Tisdale, then a star with young audiences with the High School Musical series. But it is on television that he continues to break through, multiplying appearances in series such as Ruby & the Rockits, Wizards of Waverly Place and Jonas, or even CSI: Miami and Manhattan.
In the early 2010s, he landed recurring roles in programs like Life Unexpected where he played Britt Robertson’s boyfriend, the first season of Switched in which he played the rebellious teenager Wilke, before interpreting for the CW the bad soft-hearted boy Sebastian, Carrie Bradshaw’s first love in The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex and the City.
After a handful of episodes of Arrow, her rise continued in 2016 with a starring role in the TV adaptation of Terry Brooks’ heroic fantasy bestseller The Shannara Chronicles, midway between Game of Thrones, Hunger Games and Lord of the Rings. The actor embodies Wil Ohmsford, half-elf half-human, likely to save the kingdom of Quatre-Terres threatened by formidable demons. Having inherited magical powers, the apprentice healer must learn to master his gift to fight dark and evil forces.
Disciple of Charles Manson for Tarantino
At the end of the judgment of the series after two seasons, it is in the cinema that the career of the actor flourishes. In 2019, he is filming under the direction of two major filmmakers: Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino. In front of the first camera, he is a hipster friend of Selena Gomez for the zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die. For the second, in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, he slips into the skin of Charles “Tex” Watson, a member of Charles Manson’s sect who played a central role in the murder of Sharon Tate.
But it is in 2022 that the general public discovers him in what could well be the role of his life. Austin Butler was able to win against Harry Styles, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, or Aaron Taylor-Johnson, approached to play Elvis Presley.
In Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, which traces the rock’n’roll star’s journey over three decades, the actor delivers a spirited performance hailed by audiences and press alike. Beyond the “artifices” (make-up, hairstyle and costumes), he was able to capture the facial expressions, voice and energy of the King. He is also the one who interprets the songs that we hear when Elvis is young, as evidenced by these essays shared by the director on Twitter:
“I feel like I didn’t make it clear enough that Austin sings the whole young part of Elvis in the movie, so forgive me. I thought you might find this camera test from 2019 fascinating. Thank you @austinbutler for allowing me to share this first try to give fans a glimpse of your journey.”
The fruit of a long work and a total investment, since the actor claims to have lived in the skin of Elvis for two years: “Every second of every day. I was obsessed with it”. So much so that his body collapsed at the end of filming and he had to be hospitalized. An involvement that will certainly be greeted by an Oscar nomination next year. Or even, who knows, the famous golden statuette? One thing is certain: Austin Butler’s career is now assured and we will find him in the highly anticipated Dune: Part Two by Denis Villeneuve.