By Michael Merced Jr.
The King of Rock rises once more in a beautiful artistically driven new film. “Elvis” directed by Baz Luhrmann is a movie that tells the story of the career of Elvis Presley as well as the “King of Rock’s” relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker.
These two roles are played by Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, respectively, and their performances in this film were critical to making the movie as good as it was. This, combined with the creative directorial style of Baz Luhrmann, helped to create one of the best films of the year.
It released June 24 to wide critical acclaim as well as high audience acclaim and made $281.9 million at the box office. The x-factor of the whole show, however, has to go to the main lead, Butler, who famously beat out the likes of Harry Styles for the role. His work on the film required a physical and mental sacrifice in order to become Elvis Presley.
While opening up about the experience of playing Elvis, Butler described one incident involving the film’s director, Baz Luhrmann. Butler had to record some singing parts in Radio Corporation of America Studio B in Nashville, Tennessee. This is where Elvis recorded several of his tacks, so naturally, this was quite the occasion for Austin. Luhrmann had brought in executives and everyone else from RCA to the recording studio and had demanded them to criticize and heckle Butler while he was singing his heart out to an audience of industry professionals as well as his director.
Austin recalled coming home in tears that night. Apparently, this was done by Baz in order to give Butler some insight into Elvis’ emotions during a scene that they were filming. What Baz did ended up helping in the long run, as Butler’s performance as the titular “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” has become one of the most stand out performances of the decade so far. Unfortunately though, this isn’t where Butler’s story with this film ends.
The physical and mental stress of filming “Elvis” continued to hit Butler even after filming. The day after filming, Butler was hospitalized.
“The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to the hospital,” Butler said in an interview with British GQ.
He also mentioned that he was bedridden for a week afterward. Butler also claimed that people have noticed he was still rocking with the persona of Elvis Presley, not being able to shake it off. He said his family even said he didn’t sound like himself anymore. Butler began filming another film, “Masters of the Air” in London. When he got there, however, Director Cary Fukunaga claimed “when he showed up, he was still very much Elvis.”
Butler had to become Elvis Presley for Baz Luhrmann’s film, and he indeed succeeded in doing so, maybe a little too much.
The situation isn’t all that gray.
As previously mentioned, Butler has received practically universal praise for his work in “Elvis,” including praise from the family of the musical superstar. Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ ex-wife, had received a private screening from Warner Bros., alongside Elvis’ associate Jerry Schilling, according to Vanity Fair.
“It is a true story told brilliantly and creatively that only Baz, in his unique artistic way, could’ve delivered. Austin Butler, who played Elvis is outstanding. Halfway through the film Jerry and I looked at each other and said WOW!!!” Priscilla posted to her Facebook page.
The daughter of Elvis, Lisa Marie Presley, also gave Butler praise, taking to her Instagram saying “Austin Butler channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully. In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully. (If he doesn’t win an Oscar for this, I will eat my own foot, haha.)”
Butler had to go through a lot to respectfully fill the shoes of the legend that is Elvis Presley. What he did is not only a showcase of how much of a hard worker he is, but also a showcase of how great of a director Baz Luhrmann is.
He was able to get the best out of Butler, even if it took some harsh turns during the process. Butler’s supporting cast also helped a lot, especially with Hanks’ performance as Colonel Tom Parker. The two played off of each other beautifully to give a true and realistic portrayal of the relationship between Elvis and his controversial manager. It goes without saying that “Elvis” is a movie that could’ve only worked had it been done by the people who did it, which includes Butler putting up a performance worthy enough of the greats.
Fans of Elvis can now watch it on HBO Max.