Austin Butler Finally Gives Credit Where It’s Due

Photo: Jacopo M. Raule/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma

Austin Butler has said many things about starring in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic, a project that may or may not have permanently altered his voice. However, there is one thing that, until recently, we had not heard in his newly acquired baritone twang: that his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens urged him to play Elvis far before he even auditioned for the role. Instead, he repeatedly referred to Hudgens as a “friend” when talking about his casting, understandably annoying a lot of Vanessa Hudgens stans.

Butler and Hudgens started dating in 2011, shortly after Hudgens and Zac Efron broke up. (RIP.) They stayed together for nine years and broke up at the beginning of 2020. Butler is now dating model Kaia Gerber.

Earlier this month, during an actors’ roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter, Butler recalled being urged to play the King by a mysterious “friend” the month before he heard about Luhrmann’s biopic. “I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend,” he said, “and there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio, and I was singing along, and my friend looked over at me and goes, ‘You’ve got to play Elvis.’”

Cut to a few weeks later, when he was “playing the piano,” and, wouldn’t you know it, “that same friend was there.” He continued, “She said, ‘I’m serious. You gotta figure out how you can get the rights to a script.’ Then my agent called and said, ‘So Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film.’”

As Hudgens supporters have pointed out, that story bears a strikingly similar story that she told in 2019 about her then-boyfriend, a few months after he was cast in the film. In an episode of Live With Kelly and Ryan, she told Ryan Seacrest:

Last December, we were driving along listening to Christmas music and Elvis Presley’s Christmas song came on. And he’d just dyed his hair dark, and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was, like, “Babe. You need to play Elvis. I don’t know how, but I’m serious, you need to play him.” And in January, he was sitting at the piano — he’s a musician — and he’s playing and he’s singing and I’m like, “I don’t know how, but we need to figure out how you can play Elvis.”

Can you guess what happened one month later? “We get a call saying Baz Luhrmann is doing the Elvis biopic, and I was like, ‘Babe? This is it.’”

Timeline-wise, Hudgens’s story adds up. Butler was cast in July 2019, suggesting this Christmas miracle occurred in late 2018 — well within the bounds of their nine-year relationship. Also, Hudgens has gone on record saying that she talks to ghosts “a lot,” so I have no doubt she has the power to manifest and also probably to trap the spirit of Elvis in Austin Butler’s vocal cords for all eternity. Imagine dating someone for nine years, manifesting the biggest role of their career, and then hearing them repeatedly refer to you as a friend. I would certainly be seeking some sort of spectral revenge.

Thankfully, a determined L.A. Times reporter got Butler to finally admit that it was indeed his ex-girlfriend who told him he should play Elvis. When his interviewer brought up the Christmas story, Butler corrected him when he used the word “friend,” interjecting, “I was with my partner at the time.” Seizing on this apparent moment of honesty, the reporter pressed on, asking if the “partner” in question was Hudgens. Butler: “That’s right. We’d been together for so long and she had this sort of clairvoyant moment and so I really, I owe her a lot for believing in me.” I’d say so!

Anyway, Butler is, by the skin of his teeth, in the clear when it comes to crediting Hudgens for his success. Okay, babe?

Austin Butler Finally Gives Credit Where It’s Due