After landing his first Oscar nomination on Tuesday for his starring role in the Baz Luhrmann-directed Elvis, Austin Butler spoke with Deadline about the breakthrough, as well as the passing of Lisa Marie Presley, upcoming roles in Dune: Part Two and Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders, and his goals as he moves forward.
Butler said that he was “overjoyed” to see the “daunting undertaking” of Elvis recognized, including his transformational performance as the King of Rock and Roll, which so often felt like “climbing that seemingly impossible mountain.”
He acknowledged, as he has in the past, that there were plenty of “sleepless nights” for him over the course of his time on the project. “So, to be on this other side and to feel so much support, and to be recognized in this way just means the world to me,” he said. “But then also to get to see all the [nominations for] production design and costume design and editing, our cinematographer Mandy, I’m just so proud of everybody. And the fact that [we got] the Best Picture nomination as well, just for the entire cast and crew, I just share this with all of them.”
Among the others he shares the nom with is the late Lisa Marie Presley — Elvis’ only child, who passed away abruptly and tragically on January 12, aged 54, and was laid to rest at Graceland just yesterday. She and her mother Priscilla were longtime champions of both him and the film, most recently cheering Butler on as he nabbed his first Golden Globe earlier this month. “It’s a bittersweet moment right now because I just wish that Lisa was here to celebrate with us,” admitted Butler. “But you know, I try to focus on how this can be a moment of honoring her.”
Butler shared that the moments spent with Lisa Marie that he’ll always cherish are the “quiet ones,” when “nobody else was around” and they were able to share a laugh or a conversation. “She was just amazing,” the actor reflected. “There’s nobody like her. I’ve never felt the experience where I got so close to somebody so fast.”
Among the next projects on Butler’s slate is Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, which will have him play the villainous Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. While the actor stayed mum on the specifics of the experience, he noted that he was “a huge fan” of the original 2021 film and relished the opportunity to work alongside Villeneuve, who he found to be “an incredible filmmaker, and an amazing person,” to boot. “We had a blast getting to collaborate on this,” he said. “It was just so much fun for me, especially playing this role, to get to do something so different from anything I’ve ever done before.”
Also coming up for Butler is The Bikeriders — a crime drama from the filmmaker behind such titles as Mud and Take Shelter and New Regency. “[Nichols is] another one of my favorite people in this world, and we had an amazing time getting to go on that journey with Jeff, and with Tom Hardy, and Michael Shannon, and Jodie Comer, and everybody else involved in the film,” shared Butler. “There was such a powerhouse group of actors that we just had a blast.”
The actor’s goal as he looks to the next stages of his career is simply to continue working “with great filmmakers and actors” on stories that “resonate” with him personally — taking on roles that “challenge” and “scare” him as Elvis‘ did. “I feel very fortunate with all the people I’ve been able to work with in these past couple years. And I just feel so privileged because there were many years where I did not work as an actor, or where you’d go out for a hundred auditions and not book one,” he said. “I just know as an actor, to even just be working, you’re in an incredibly privileged position, so I’m just very fortunate.”
Released by Warner Bros. in June after world premiering at Cannes, Elvis examines the life and music of Elvis Presley (Butler) through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), charting their dynamic over the course of multiple decades.
Butler’s nom was one of eight garnered by the film, which in addition to Best Picture and Actor, will contend for Best Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Editing and Sound. The thesp’s competitors in the Oscars’ Best Actor category will include Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Bill Nighy (Living).
Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner wrote Elvis, which was based on a story by Luhrmann and Doner. Luhrmann also produced alongside Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss, with Olivia DeJonge, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Kodi Smit-McPhee among those rounding out the cast.
The 95th Academy Awards are set to take place at the Dolby Theatre on March 12.
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