EXCLUSIVE: Director Baz Luhrmann has found his Elvis. He has set Austin Butler to play the starmaking role of Elvis Presley in the untitled drama that covers the seminal legend’s growth from dirt poor singer to global icon, seen through the prism of his complex relationship over two decades with manager Colonel Tom Parker. Latter role will be played by Tom Hanks and Warner Bros will distribute worldwide.
The film will shoot early next year in Queensland, Australia, with Warner Bros Pictures distributing worldwide. The film will trace Presley’s elevation to a level of stardom and celebrity matched only by The Beatles, set against an evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America.
This was a hotly contested role. Butler filmed a test for Luhrmann as did Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller and Harry Styles. It was no easy choice and Luhrmann took his time. In Butler, he has chosen an actor who has credit and chops, and who is ready for a major jump up. He made his Broadway debut in 2018 opposite Washington in the George C. Wolfe-directed adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, drawing strong reviews for his role of “lost boy” Don Parritt. He will be seen later this month opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Butler can currently be seen on the big screen alongside Bill Murray and Adam Driver in Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. He ticked all the boxes for Luhrmann.
“I knew I couldn’t make this film if the casting wasn’t absolutely right, and we searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist,” Luhrmann said in a statement to Deadline. “Throughout the casting process, it was an honor for me to encounter such a vast array of talent. I had heard about Austin Butler from his stand-out role opposite Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh on Broadway, and through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”
Luhrmann will direct from the current screenplay he wrote with Craig Pearce. Luhrmann will also produce, alongside multiple-Oscar winner Catherine Martin –his collaborator on The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge who will serve as production designer and costume designer — Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss. Andrew Mittman will executive produce. The film will be made in Queensland with the support of the Queensland Government, Screen Queensland and the Australian Government’s Producer Offset program.
Butler is repped by WME and Anonymous Content.