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How Austin Butler channeled 'The King' for the role of a lifetime

The Presley family is raving about the work he did in "ELVIS." #k5evening

SEATTLE — Despite critical acclaim and a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, actor Austin Butler was only concerned about reviews from one source: the Presley family.

He plays the title role in “ELVIS,” a daunting job he spent 1.5 years preparing for prior to filming in 2020.

Entertainment reporter Kim Holcomb talked to Butler in Memphis, the day after Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley sang his praises at a special screening.

HOLCOMB: "When Lisa Marie Presley was saying, 'I had no idea that was Austin singing Young Elvis, I thought it was my dad,' what happened in your brain at that moment?”

BUTLER: “I just sort of melted. It's hard to articulate what that means to me. It was such a responsibility the whole time and I just feel so overjoyed right now."

HOLCOMB: "Three years of your life, it's a long time. Does any part of him still linger? Are you ever going through the drive-thru and ordering in that voice?”

BUTLER: (laughing) "I think he taught me a lot. I notice it in my humor at times, I feel it in moments when I'm feeling anxious or nervous. I'll sometimes get anxiety in crowds and that sort of thing. And just seeing the way he dealt with fans and seeing the way he deals with people — the sincerity and the genuine presence that he had. Through all the noise, just being able to focus in on one person at a time? That's really something."

HOLCOMB: "Do you remember the very first scene you shot, and how you felt when right when 'action' was called?"

BUTLER: "We had a light day for the first, which was me getting my hair cut for the military. And then the next day was doing the 1968 special. The heaviest, most nerve-racking experience. I'd been working for a year and a half and living this and suddenly you go, 'This is the moment of truth,' where you've got to get out there. All of that's for nothing if it's not alive in front of the camera. That was my big fearful moment, and then it hit me in the dressing room — that's exactly what Elvis was feeling. His career was on the line just like mine feels like it's on the line. His life felt like it was on the line just like mine feels like it's on the line. So rather than pushing that fear away, I just kind of took it and realized, this is what he was feeling inside. The genuine emotion on (the extras’) faces, seeing a girl blush and another one smile, it was — it transcended what I thought that would be and it really was an out-of-body experience for me.”

HOLCOMB: "What was the part (of Elvis) that you found the most interesting and fulfilling for you to play?"

BUTLER: "I really envy anyone who got to be in the audience for those moments before he went to the army, and he was at the peak of his animalistic, punk rock, fiery power. Doing "Trouble," that was one of those moments that was so exciting to do."

“ELVIS” is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters June 24.

Travel and accommodations provided by Warner Bros.

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