Austin Butler spent much of his successful Oscar campaign for “Elvis” referring to an unnamed “friend” who had encouraged him to seek out the role. Intrepid TikTok users who noted this “friend” was likely his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens can now rest easy.
“I was with my partner at the time,” Butler said in a Tuesday interview with The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Olsen, who asked if he meant Hudgens, who the actor dated for nearly nine years up until early 2020.
“That’s right,” Butler said. “We’d been together for so long and she had this sort of clairvoyant moment and so I really, owe her a lot for believing in me.”
Both actors have shared the story, although Butler didn’t specify that Hudgens was the “friend” in question.
“Last December, we were driving along ... and an Elvis Presley Christmas song came on,” Hudgens said on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” in 2019. “He’d just dyed his hair dark ... and I was looking at him and he was singing along, and I was like: ‘Babe, you need to play Elvis.’”
At the time, Butler had dyed black hair as a result of his successful audition for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”
“Then in January, he was sitting at the piano,” Hudgens continued. “And he’s playing and he’s singing and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how, but you need to figure out how you can play Elvis. Like, I don’t know how we get the rights or what we do, but you need to play him.’”
During a recent Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview with fellow actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser — both of whom are now vying for Oscars as well — Butler referred to Hudgens as his “friend” when regaling them with the story.
“The month before I heard that [director Baz Luhrmann] was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend, and there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio and I was singing along, and my friend looked over at me and goes, ‘You’ve got to play Elvis,’” he said.
“I said, ‘Oh, that’s such a long shot,’” he said, adding that his friend brought it up a couple of weeks later while he was playing the piano. The friend said, according to Butler, “‘I’m serious. You gotta figure out how you can get the rights to a script.’ Then my agent called and said, ‘So Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film.’”
Butler received an Oscar best actor nod for “Elvis” earlier this week. He called his nomination “bittersweet” because Lisa Marie Presley — Elvis’ daughter, whom the actor grew close to during the production of the film — died earlier this month. While he’s sure to thank her should he win on March 12, whether he mentions Hudgens remains to be seen.