‘Elvis’ Star Austin Butler, Baz Luhrmann & Gail Berman On The “Terror” Of Taking On The King – Contenders LA

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After landing the coveted title role in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama ElvisAustin Butler barely slept for two years.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. every day and my heart was just pounding,” the actor said at a panel for the Warner Bros movie at TBEN’s Contenders Film: Los Angeles awards season event. “It felt like an immense weight on my shoulders. It felt so mammoth.”

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The “terror” he felt, he said, had to do with his fear that he could “possibly never live up” to portray the musical icon — a performer with quirks known to so many around the world.

Butler was joined on the panel at the DGA Theater by Luhrmann and producer Gail Berman, who, like the actor, have seen the risks they have taken with Elvis confirmed many times since the premiere of the film at the Cannes Film Festival. The most meaningful response came from those who knew the King of Rock and Roll personally – among them are daughter Lisa Marie Presley, wife Priscilla Presley and longtime friend the talent manager Jerry Schilling.

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Although Luhrmann was on the plane during the first screening of the film for Priscilla Presley and Schilling, Berman was present and said she felt “really nervous” knowing their reaction to it “could have gone either way”.

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Berman recalled the pair entering the screening room with a female security guard closing the door, leaving the producer outside to walk around. “Then I heard that [the film was] roll up and the female guard opened the door and cried and I thought, ‘Well, she liked it.’ That was good,” she recalls. “Then they came out and kept saying, ‘blown away. We’re blown away.’ It was a bit of disbelief. [Priscilla] was really overwhelmed.”

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Butler was not alone in being impressed Elvislovers with the authenticity in his acting and musical performances – achieved through years of complete immersion in the artist’s life and body of work – but he also managed to capture the artist’s inner life in a way that stunned them. “How did he know about Elvis’ anger?” Luhrmann recalled being asked in a letter.

While Luhrmann has established himself as a unique talent over the past 30 years, he said there was something special about his journey with Elvis and feels he may never be able to match it. “I’ve done some movies,” he said, “[but] I don’t think anyone on this movie will ever have an experience like that [again].”

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Released by Warner Bros. in June, Elvis explores Presley’s life and music through the prism of his complicated relationship with his enigmatic manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). The cast of the film includes Olivia DeJonge, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Kodi Smit-McPhee and more. Luhrmann, Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner wrote the script, which was based on a story by Luhrmann and Doner. Luhrmann and Berman were joined as producers by Catherine Martin, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss.

Check back Monday for the panel video.

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