How Elvis star Austin Butler overcame heartbreaking tragedy to play king with the help of two A-list romances

Curled up in a fetal position, Elvis Presley clung to the hems of his mother’s dress after her fatal heart attack.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll couldn’t bear to let go of 46-year-old Gladys, the woman he lived for.

Actor Austin Butler, who played Elvis, understood exactly what the star went through after losing his own beloved mother when he was also 23

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Actor Austin Butler, who played Elvis, understood exactly what the star went through after losing his own beloved mother when he was also 23Credit: Alamy
Elvis was devastated when his beloved mother, Gladys, above, died of a heart attack

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Elvis was devastated when his beloved mother, Gladys, above, died of a heart attack
Austin's mother, Lori - his

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Austin’s mother, Lori – his “hero and best friend” – died at age 50, when he was 23, like ElvisCredit: Provided

And when actor Austin Butler performed the haunting scene as the legendary singer in a glitzy new £120million biopic, his tears flowed big and fast.

Because the 30-year-old understood exactly what Elvis went through after losing his own beloved mother when he was also 23.

Austin’s mother, Lori — his “heroine and best friend” — died of duodenal cancer in September 2014 at the age of 50.

She had only been diagnosed nine months earlier.

Lori, a former dental assistant, had homeschooled Austin and his older sister Ashley, 34, and supported him throughout his career.

In 2019, while recovering from a horrifying nightmare in which Lori was alive but dying, Austin realized his connection to Elvis.

That night he recorded an audition tape singing one of the legend’s hits in hopes of winning the right to star in director Baz Luhrmann’s new drama Elvis.

But really, he says, “I sang it to my mother.”

By the time Luhrmann saw the tape, the relatively unknown actor had risen from non-runner to number one, ahead of chart-topping Harry Styles and War Dogs star Miles Teller.

Now his incredible performance is receiving rave reviews, with the singer’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley hailing him an Oscar certainty and Austin being touted as the next Leonardo DiCaprio.

Austin, who remembers a small tattoo of 27, his mother’s lucky “god number,” on his left wrist, realized he needed to empathize with Elvis’ heartbreak rather than trying to look exactly like him.

family shock

He says: “When I first started, I had these unrealistic expectations of myself that somehow, if I worked hard enough, I could make my face identical to Elvis’.

“I realized that at a certain point it’s like going into the wax museum. And what’s really important is that his soul comes out.”

Now Austin’s aunt Hilary Howell Miller thinks his mother, her late sister Lori, is beaming at his triumph.

Hilary, 47, told The Sun: “I know she just smiles down when she sees this but I wish she were here to see all the success Austin is coming to.

“What makes it crazy is that Elvis and my dad had the same birthday and Elvis died on my parents’ anniversary.

“Both my father and Elvis were from Mississippi, my father was from a very small town there called Lucedale.

“And Austin lost his mother like Elvis at 23, so there’s a lot of coincidences.

“I think it’s something that God had in his hands.”

Hilary, a health insurance worker and mother of two from Kerman, California, continued, “Lori pretty much quit her career to help Austin get to where he is.

“She was doing daycare from home at the time and she stopped doing that.

“She started working on the sets of TV shows in Hollywood so she could work around Austin’s schedule.

“Losing his mother at the same age as Elvis definitely helped Austin relate to the character.

“It helped him really get into his soul and he was able to connect.”

Austin has spent three years transforming into the rhinestone-clad singer for the epic, which hits theaters June 24. It follows roles in the Sex in the City prequel The Carrie Diaries and as a killer in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time. Hollywood. But his entry into acting came about by accident.

Born in Anaheim, California, not far from Disneyland, Austin was more interested in sports than stage performances in his early years.

His world was turned upside down when his mother divorced his father David, a real estate agent, at the age of seven.

Austin’s talents were discovered three years later when the stepbrother he acquired in this family upheaval left for a role in a grocery commercial.

The “shy” youngster was asked if he would like to be in front of the camera and he said yes.

Austin recalled, “I don’t know what came over me. I was shaking, but I made it, and that’s what led to me being an extra by the time I was ten.”

Walk-in roles gradually evolved into speaking roles and he began to take acting seriously.

The blond, healthy boy with limp hair was perfect for American children’s television shows like Hannah Montana, in which he once appeared, and Zoey 101, in which he had a starring role.

But his first film, 2009’s Aliens In The Attic, received poor reviews, as did High School Musical spin-off Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure two years later.

However, the high school connection put him in the orbit of the show’s female star, Vanessa Hudgens, who recently split from Zac Efron.

Soon Austin and Vanessa were inseparable, attending festivals, exotic holidays and attending Hillsong Evangelical Church together.

Vanessa, 33, described him as “the love of my life” and said he has “the kindest heart, the most beautiful soul, the crazy talent and the best looks I’ve ever seen”.

Not to mention an obvious talent for singing the megastar’s hits.

“You have to play Elvis,” she once told him after hearing him sing along to Presley’s version of Blue Christmas.

“Tears in my eyes”

Although Vanessa lived in Los Angeles and Austin lived in New York, their long-distance relationship lasted nine years.

But they split in 2020, around the time he was filming Elvis in Australia, Luhrmann’s home country.

When Austin learned that Luhrmann was working on a screenplay for an Elvis biopic, he decided to “dedicate everything I have to this”.

Austin, who is now dating Cindy Crawford’s daughter Kaia Gerber, 20, said: “I’ve been on hiatus for the rest of my life for two years. And I just absorbed everything I could and went down the rabbit hole of obsession.

“I spent two years studying and trying to find his humanity as best I could through that.”

Austin hired a consultant to help him perfect Elvis’ hip thrusts, visited the singer’s Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee, and spent days watching videos. He would brood over clips.

He revealed: “I watched a second of this (Hound Dog) clip over and over again to see what his eyes were doing, the angle of his head, what his hand was doing to try to find it exactly.

“And practice that until it’s in my marrow.” The California native also needed a voice coach to help him perfect the Mississippi-born legend’s Southern accent.

He kept the accent even when he stood to the side.

In the film, Austin, who learned to play guitar and piano at age 13, sings the early Elvis songs himself. But his voice is mixed with old recordings for the later part of Presley’s life.

Shooting the film proved difficult as filming Down Under was put on hold due to Covid running for more than double the planned five months.

He put so much energy into it that in March 2021, shortly after graduation, he had to be hospitalized with a virus.

Austin said, “My body just started shutting down the day after I was done with Elvis.” Even before the film hit theaters, Austin’s performance had him in demand.

He has been cast as a villain in the sequel to Dune and will star in a WWII Apple Plus TV series called Masters Of The Air, which is being produced by Steven Spielberg.

Most importantly, the film carries the seal of approval from Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, 77. She praised Austin’s “amazing” performance.

The proud actor summarizes, “Baz read me Priscilla’s lines as we drove to dinner and it brought tears to my eyes because ultimately there has never been a person I’ve never met that I’ve loved more than.” Elvis.”

  • Elvis hits theaters on June 24th.
Austin as Elvis with his on-screen mother, Gladys, played by Helen Thomas

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Austin as Elvis with his on-screen mother, Gladys, played by Helen ThomasPhoto credit: Zuma Press
Elvis pictured in 1968

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Elvis pictured in 1968Photo credit: Rex
The film has the seal of approval from Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla, 77, above. She praised Austin's

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The film has the seal of approval from Elvis’ ex-wife Priscilla, 77, above. She praised Austin’s “amazing” performancePhoto credit: Getty

https://www.the-sun.com/news/5495616/elvis-presley-biopic-actor-and-legend-revealed/ How Elvis star Austin Butler overcame heartbreaking tragedy to play king with the help of two A-list romances

DevanCole

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