Elvis Director Reveals How Denzel Washington Helped Cast a Key Role

Denzel Washington actually helped Elvis cast a key role. The director of the biopic, Baz Luhrmann, talked to Entertainment Weekly about how he discovered Austin Butler for this part. The filmmaker saw the young actor perform in Unchained Melody. But, then came a call out of the blue from Washington. The two had worked together on The Iceman Cometh in 2018. Washington explained that he had rarely experienced this kind of drive from any actor, much less one so early in his career. From his own inklings, and then the full throated co-sign from the Training Day star, Luhrmann had no choice but to give Butler a shot. It seems like the decision is paying off. Early impressions of Elvis are good and Butler is a big reason why.

"I got a call from Denzel Washington, who gave me a cold call. I did not know Denzel. And he said, 'I've just worked with this guy on stage. I've never seen a work ethic like it.' And I'm like, 'OK, I must see him.'"

The director has talked about why he chose to take on this project in the past. Butler really did a great job of capturing the Elvis magic. "I love biopics, but this is not really a biopic, right? It's really about, for me, America in the 50s and the 60s and the 70s," Luhrmann mused. "And if you want to talk about America in the 50s and 60s and the 70s at the center of culture, for the good, the bad, and the ugly, is a figure [like] Elvis Presley."

"Like how Shakespeare would take a historical figure like a king and explore a big theme, or Amadeus isn't really about Mozart when you learn so much about Mozart, it's about jealousy," he continued. "What this movie is about is America in those three epochs — Elvis the rebel, Elvis the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, and Elvis the living legend, the icon trapped in that hotel not 10 minutes from here, by a man called Colonel Tom Parker."

Warner Bros dropped a synopsis for the upcoming film: "The movie explores the life and music of Elvis Presley (Butler), seen through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Hanks). The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley's rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America. Central to that journey is one of the most significant and influential people in Elvis's life, Priscilla Presley (Olivia DeJonge)."

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