Edging upon Jared Leto levels of method acting, Austin Butler lived as Elvis Presley for nearly three years to transform into the hip-swiveling king of rock and roll for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic.
While the former might unwind at a silent 12-day desert meditation retreat, Butler had a bit more trouble de-transforming from the role after production wrapped, resulting in an unforeseen medical emergency.
“The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to hospital,” the actor told GQ in a profile published on Wednesday. “My body just started shutting down the day after I finished Elvis.”
Butler ultimately recovered, but was diagnosed with a “virus that simulates appendicitis and spent a week bedridden,” per the outlet.
The film chronicles the legendary performer’s relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks. To portray Presley, Butler worked with a movement coach, covered his apartment walls with photos and memorabilia and adopted a Southern twang, which he somewhat confusingly still speaks in, despite his Anaheim, California upbringing.
The actor beat out a slew of high-profile talent, including Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller and Harry Styles for the role after sending in a passionate video of himself performing “Unchained Melody,” which Luhrmann remarked looked like he was “having a breakdown.”
“You can lose touch with who you actually are,” Butler said of his extensive preparation. “And I definitely had that when I finished ‘Elvis’ – not knowing who I was.”
He even made a trip to Graceland to spend time with the singer’s ex-wife Priscilla Presley. She has lent her support to the film, which she said was “told brilliantly and creatively,” praising the actor’s portrayal as “outstanding.”
“She looked like an angel,” Butler recalled about their meeting. “I walked down the hall with Baz afterwards with tears in my eyes.”
The two apparently formed quite the friendship, posing together on the red carpet at the 2022 Met Gala earlier this month.
But it was Hanks who ultimately helped ground Butler back in reality after encouraging the 30-year-old star to “read something that has nothing to do” with the job at hand.
“That gave me permission, because up ’til that point, I was only reading everything to do with Elvis,” Butler said. “I was only listening to Elvis. It was Elvis’s influences and Elvis himself and nothing else.”
“Elvis” arrives in theaters on June 24.
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