Austin Butler got so into his Elvis role, his body literally shut down

He was rushed to the hospital in 'excruciating pain' after filming wrapped.
May 26, 2022 11:48 a.m. EST
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Switched At Birth and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood actor Austin Butler scored his greatest role yet when he was cast as the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, in Baz Luhrmann’s latest biopic, Elvis. But according to Butler, he threw all of himself into the role so intensely, it sent him to the hospital.

Holding nothing back to perfect the role, Austin conducted in-depth research to become the legendary singer with the hips too sexy for Ed Sullivan.

 "[Elvis is] such a superhuman figure, so to me, it was the curiosity of finding out, who is he as a human? And delve into studying everything I could on him," he said back in February. Now in a new interview with GQ, he reveals that his transformation -- body and soul -- into the “Jail House Rock” singer caused his body to “shut down” immediately after filming wrapped.

He says that in March of last year, when filming wrapped, he abruptly experienced intense physical pain.

"The next day I woke up at four in the morning with excruciating pain, and I was rushed to hospital," he told the outlet, adding that his "body just started shutting down." He says he was required to convalesce for a week after doctors diagnosed him with a virus that can trigger appendicitis

It wasn’t just a physical experience, either. Austin reveals that he also had an identity crisis due to his deep immersion in the role.

“You can lose touch with who you actually are. And I definitely had that when I finished Elvis – not knowing who I was,” he told GQ.

He reveals in the interview that when initial production on the film shut down in March 2020 when co-star Tom Hanks came down with COVID-19, he declined an offer to be flown back to LA, and instead stayed in Australia (the filming location and Baz Luhrmann’s home country) to really become the “Hound Dog” singer.

The article quotes Luhrmann noticing this change in Austin, particularly in how the actor began to articulate and speak.

“I asked one of my assistants [about Butler’s accent], and the guy said, ‘Well, he’s not Southern. He’s from Anaheim [California].’ I don’t think, until recently, I actually came to understand how Austin actually sounded.”

Luhrmann should have guessed this might happen, as the reason Austin got the part in the first place was due to his extreme audition tape singing “Unchained Melody,” where Luhrmann says he thought the actor might be having “a nervous breakdown.”

The other reason for his casting was the hugely gracious reference from Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, who co-starred with Austin in the Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh. Washington called Luhrmann to sing Austin’s praises, telling him how dedicated and hard-working Butler is, which helped seal the deal.

Tom Hanks also acknowledged that what Austin went through was probably required for the movie to work, telling Vogue back in April that "the body and psyche take on a heavy burden" from a role such as this one.

At the 2022 Met Gala, Austin told Vogue on the red carpet that his extreme transformation of body and soul was in order to guarantee that he’d make "all the people who loved Elvis so much proud."

We think we can safely say that’s true, as the film received a whopping 12-minute standing ovation when it was screened at Cannes this week. Attending that screening was Elvis’ only daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, who previously took to social media to gush over Austin’s raw and authentic portrayal. 

“Austin Butler channeled and embodied my father’s heart and soul beautifully,” she wrote on Facebook and Twitter. “In my humble opinion, his performance is unprecedented and FINALLY done accurately and respectfully. (If he doesn’t get an Oscar for this, I will eat my own foot, haha.)”

One aspect of his body and soul that Austin declined to speak to GQ about was his personal life. He dated Vanessa Hudgens for nine years, and is now linked with Cindy Crawford’s lookalike daughter Kaia Gerber. But all he would comment about that was, “Life is full of changes, and you've got to find a way to constantly be evolving and growing."

“I don’t think there’s anything I want to share about [my relationship],” he says. “But thank you for providing the space.” 

Elvis is set to premiere June 24. 

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