Elvis Movie: Baz Luhrmann, Austin Butler and Catherine Martin on Icon

Despite setbacks, budgets and pressures, Baz Luhrmann’s most nerve-wracking moment came after he had completed the film.

For Baz Luhrmann, there was “nothing more nerve-wracking” than showing his Elvis Presley biopic for Priscilla Presley.

All the heart, energy and emotion that Luhrmann put into his ambitious, extravagant and dizzying film depended on this moment.

“[Priscilla] texted me a few days later and said, “Oh my God, all my life, every breath, every movement.” If my husband was here, he would tell Austin [Butler]“Damn it, you are me!” Luhrmann told news.com.au.

He was not physically present with Priscilla, but was with Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the father she lost at such a young age.

“She was very emotional,” he said. “I just took her to the car and before she got in the car, she looked up and said something like, ‘I can’t put that in…’. I thought she was going to say “words” but she said, “I can’t appreciate it.”

“Then she said, ‘Grandchildren and everything else from now on.’ I think she meant that at least it’s a fair hearing. This is a more humanized version of her father who became wallpaper.

“It matters to me.

Luhrmann’s film is multifaceted – transcendent and infuriating at the same time, a manic whirlpool of energy and great emotions.

It is a dazzling spectacle that captures the ferocity and strength of Presley’s charisma and the impact he had on everyone around him, from his beloved mother and the most hysterical fan to the harsh authorities who did not understand how this revolving musician was changing the American. and world culture.

But underneath the legend was a man — that’s what Luhrmann wanted to capture. Elvisand why Priscilla and Lisa Marie’s approval meant so much.

“He is the father, husband and grandfather of these three women who are extraordinary women in their own way. They had to put up with the fact that he was a Halloween costume, a wedding chapel guy, or the butt of a thousand jokes.

“But he was a real rebel and overwhelmingly a very spiritual person. This man was a man who turned out to be incredibly gifted in music. He was also very kind and caring.”

Huge pressure for the Presley incarnation fell on Austin Butler, the 30-year-old actor from California, who has so far been best known for his roles in youth projects such as The Carrie Diaries.

He seemed like an unlikely choice, but Butler has the same smoldering, exhilarating appeal as the king of rock and roll. Butler had to train his deep velvety voice to take over Presley’s songs and had two years of dance lessons so he could move like him too.

“It’s two years where I did nothing but that,” he told news.com.au. “I was surrounded by incredible people. Polly Bennett was my movement coach and from the moment I got the part and even before I got the part I worked with Dana Wilson who helped me because I wasn’t a dancer or dancer before.

“It just made my body move in a certain way. I did everything from swing to tap to ballet – a lot of different things to have dexterity.

Butler grew up listening to Presley’s music at home, having met the legend through his mother and grandmother. But he didn’t know much about Presley’s life.

Butler’s task was not only to dance and sing, but also to reveal the emotional basis of the legend.

“It puts his life in context, puts this icon in context,” Butler said. “Because we often look at people like this and think they just showed up.

“People are so complex, and he had all this duality. To truly understand his three dimensional nature, it was the constant realization that many of him had this equal and opposite in the sacred and the profane.

“He was like this animal on stage, and then he would come out and say, “Yes, sir, no, ma’am,” and was so polite. There are many aspects of this, such as how he was in relationships with women. There are many aspects that I considered part of this duality.”

Butler’s recollection of Presley’s humanity made an impression on Catherine Martin, Luhrmann’s life and creative partner, and Elvis producer, costume designer and production designer.

“What worked for me in the film is the humanity that Austin brings to the role,” Martin said. “For me, it was a revelation how much he makes you connect with a person.

“He portrays him as a person with flaws and everything, so it’s a much more complete picture. And I think it’s becoming a more universal version of the story because we can all relate to this person.”

Luhrmann described Presley as, in Presley’s words, “trapped”, and his film is about the problems faced by someone as famous and privileged as Presley. The man behind the icon, behind the public persona, and behind the fall was just a man, and that’s what the movie best conveys.

Perhaps almost as famous for his death as for his life and accomplishments, Presley is often viewed as a tragic figure. Butler doesn’t think so.

“I think there was a lot of tragedy in his life,” Butler said. “I think it’s a tragedy that he never went on a trip around the world. I think it’s a tragedy that he passed away at 42. And I think it was a tragedy that there was a certain time in his life when he stopped being a creative challenge, when he had so much artistic brilliance, and that he was kept in a gilded cage. . It’s tragic.

“I don’t know if he was even a tragic figure because there were so many extraordinary moments in his life and he was such an extraordinary person. That’s the duality when he had great ups and downs. It was a really stressful life.”

Elvis is at the cinema now

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