Earlier this year, Austin Butler was praised for his performance as Elvis Presley in the Baz Luhrmann-directed biopic, Elvis. The movie told the life story of the King of Rock and Roll, and to get his version of the King just right, Austin explored every part of Elvis’ history that he could get his hands on. One particular story sent his imagination wild.
Austin recently opened up about dissecting some of Elvis’ songs to really get to know him. One of these tracks was Trouble, a 1958 blues track originally written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
This was a particularly turbulent time period for Elvis as he recorded and performed the song just before he was sent off to the US Army. While he was enlisted, he received the dreadful news that his mother had died. This was a turning point in the star’s life as he was extremely close to his mother and fell into a powerful state of grief. After the funeral he reportedly locked himself upstairs and wailed in sorrow for hours.
Austin described Elvis’ rendition of Trouble as “fiery, exciting and animalistic”. He was particularly inspired by the tales of Elvis really letting loose while performing the track.
Austin said: “There are stories of him spitting on the stage, and rolling around on it, and completely giving what sounds like a punk-rock show.”
Austin pointed out: “What I loved is you can read a lot of stories about Elvis performing on stage in that small amount of time before he goes into the army and his mother passes away, where he’s at the height of his primal, animalistic power.”
In that specific time, there were countless photos of Elvis being “animalistic” on stage, but not much video footage. The only footage of him performing was from TV shows – but they were a special case. Elvis’ performances on TV shows – such as The Ed Sullivan Show – were extremely tame, as his gyrating dance moves were considered “vulgar”.
Austin said: “He didn’t push it quite as far as he would [performing] live.”
Because of this, when Austin portrayed Elvis singing Trouble in the 2022 movie, he amped up his performance.
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Austin said: “So it was fun to perform Trouble and for it to be at this pivotal point in the story, with real emotional meaning behind it. It’s a moment where he’s rebelling and being true to his own artistic and moral integrity.”
Elvis also famously sang Trouble during his 1968 Comeback Special, and Austin used this video footage of the star as inspiration, as well.
He said: “[The special] became an influence for the way I performed it in the 1950s [scenes] because he has more grit, and does a growl that became very influential for me.”
Elvis’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, said that Austin deserves an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of her father. However, there is another cinematic version of Elvis Presley coming to the big screen in the next year or so.
Another version of Elvis’ life story is being adapted for the big screen, but this time it will focus on Priscilla Presley, the King’s ex-wife. The source material comes from her 1985 memoir, Elvis and Me. In the movie, which will be directed by Sofia Coppola, Elvis will be played by Jacob Elordi.
She said: “Yes, you know, he’s a great actor, a great actor. I can only imagine him being a nervous wreck. Like everyone else is!”
The 77-year-old also praised Sofia, saying: “I love Sofia and I love her film work. I really think… think it will be fine. I hope!”