Baz Luhrmann casts Austin Butler in the lead role of his as yet untitled Elvis Presley biopic. News of Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic first broke way back in 2014, but following that announcement there was little in the way of new information about the project. A few months ago, however, it was revealed that Tom Hanks had been cast as the rock and roll icon’s manager Colonel Tom Parker and since then the search has been on for the biopic’s star.
Earlier this month, it was reported that auditions had been held for the part of Elvis and several actors had been shortlisted for the role. Alongside Butler, the shortlist included singer-turned-actor Harry Styles of One Direction and Dunkirk fame, Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Baby Driver’s Ansel Elgort, who is about to star in another musical - Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story - next year.
But it was the lesser-known Butler who beat the other auditionees to the punch and nabbed the role of Elvis, as reported by Deadline. Butler has appeared in shows including Arrow and The Shannara Chronicles and was recently in Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die. Next month, Butler can be seen alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie when Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is released. It was Butler’s Broadway debut opposite Denzel Washington in the play The Iceman Cometh in 2018 that put him on Luhrmann’s radar and his natural ability and vocal talent that convinced the director he was right for the role. As Luhrmann explains:
“I knew I couldn’t make this film if the casting wasn’t absolutely right, and we searched thoroughly for an actor with the ability to evoke the singular natural movement and vocal qualities of this peerless star, but also the inner vulnerability of the artist. Throughout the casting process, it was an honor for me to encounter such a vast array of talent. I had heard about Austin Butler from his stand-out role opposite Denzel Washington in The Iceman Cometh on Broadway, and through a journey of extensive screen testing and music and performance workshops, I knew unequivocally that I had found someone who could embody the spirit of one of the world’s most iconic musical figures.”
Alongside Butler’s casting, Deadline also reports that the biopic will cover Elvis’s rise to fame while focusing on the complex relationship between he and his manager. The film is expected to start shooting early next year in Queensland, Australia from a script co-written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, who the director has worked with on many of his films including Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss will produce alongside Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin - the Oscar-winning costume designer behind Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby. Andrew Mittman will executive produce the biopic and Warner Bros. will distribute it worldwide.
It’s certainly an opportune time to be making a music biopic. Last year’s Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody went on to win a handful of Oscars and the recently released Elton John biopic Rocketman received many rave reviews. And given Luhrmann’s talent for making epic, music-focused films like Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, this Elvis Presley biopic is definitely in the right hands.