Austin Butler didn’t see his family for 3 years when he was filming Elvis

Austin Butler really broke out this year with his portrayal of Elvis Presley in Bad Luhrmann’s film. He’s received a lot of praise for his acting in the role, he’s in Oscar nomination conversations, and for months much was made of his Elvis voice and the fact that he was still speaking in it after filming. Austin spoke to Janelle Monáe as part of Variety’s Actors on Actors series and revealed just how far his method acting went — he didn’t see his own family for three years while he was filming the movie in Australia. Wow.

Austin Butler is once again opening up about the trials and tribulations of preparing for the role of Elvis Presley.

Austin portrayed the leading figure in Baz Luhrmann’s hit film, which was released earlier this year. His performance received tons of critical acclaim, with many predicting that the actor will be in the running for an Oscar nomination next year.

But it turns out that the astounding project took a lot from Austin, who sat down alongside Janelle Monáe for Variety’s Actors on Actors series to reveal the lengths he went to in order to perfect his portrayal of the late singer.

To the surprise of many observers on the internet, Austin told Janelle that while preparing for and shooting Elvis, he didn’t see his family for roughly three years.

“During Elvis, I didn’t see my family for about three years,” he solemnly revealed. Janelle replied, “Oh no.”

“I was off in New York prepping with Baz, and then I went to Australia. I had months where I wouldn’t talk to anybody,” Austin went on.

“When I did, the only thing I was ever thinking about was Elvis,” he said.

And Austin then added that when he did eventually speak with his family again, he couldn’t shake off Elvis’s southern drawl. “I was speaking in his voice the whole time,” he said.

[From Buzzfeed News]

Again, wow, and not a good wow. I thought the voice thing was a pretentious affectation, but this is much worse. This is not impressive or something to brag about. It’s just bad and brings to mind Charlie Hunnam ghosting his longtime girlfriend for months during filming. But this is worse because it’s years. Like, it’s just a movie role. There are people that don’t see their families for years because of circumstances beyond their control, like they’re stuck in another country and can’t travel home or are doing their job to put food on the table. This wasn’t that; this was completely voluntary on Austin’s part. It sounds like he could have seen his family and production certainly would have accommodated their lead actor doing so, but he stayed away to get into character. Sure, some people don’t speak to their families at all because of other issues, but it sounds like Austin’s issues are selfishness and grandiosity. Is this why he and Vanessa Hudgens broke up? The article even says Austin’s body started shutting down after filming and he had to go to the hospital, and Baz Luhrman treated him terribly as well. This role literally made him sick. I hope it was worth it because it sure seems ridiculous. The things that method actors do to get into character doesn’t speak to their talent the way they think it does.

Embed from Getty Images

Photos credit: Blaine Ohigashi/Avalon, JPI Studios/Avalon, Getty Images

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

41 Responses to “Austin Butler didn’t see his family for 3 years when he was filming Elvis”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. SarahCS says:

    Can we just stop with this? You’re creating entertainment. I totally understand that for actors this is their craft and there can be a strong emotional connection with playing a role but it is also your job and if you can’t perform your job while also being a human being and living your life you may want to reconsider your choice of job.

    • ElleV says:

      exactly! it’s a job and this self-inflicted suffering is dumb and reeks of insecurity about his acting skills

    • molly says:

      “He takes his craft so seriously!” is usually code for “this guy’s an a-hole.”

      • DK says:

        Agree with that code!

        Also: didn’t Elvis start filming in 2020, and Australia shut its borders for two years due to COVID, so…isn’t the main reason he didn’t see his family for so long mainly because he *couldn’t* see them?!

        So…not only is he taking the whole method thing to a-hole levels, but he’s lying about it to make him seem even more method and cool than he is?!

        This is not the flex you think it is, my dude.

  2. Twin Falls says:

    “The things that method actors do to get into character doesn’t speak to their talent the way they think it does.”


    • LIONE says:

      He really did all of that and his performance was mediocre. I was massively underwhelmed and extremely frustrated watching this film.
      Bad acting, bad directing, bad editing. Overall, I wish I had done something else with my time..

    • Jennifer says:

      Love this.

  3. The Old Chick says:

    I wonder if this was during covid? It was incredibly hard to travel into /out of AUS during covid. And for a long time there was unpleasant mandatory quarantine at specified hotels with armed guards.

    Otherwise he was not wanting to see his family and pretending he was super special

    • Abby says:

      That is true and it would make sense with the timing, but maybe he thinks it sounds better to be hardcore method. 🤷🏻‍♀️ that doesn’t make me think someone is a better actor. It just sounds unhealthy to me.

    • Fuzzy Crocodile says:

      When I read the headline, my first thought was “well, yeah. COVID.”

      Otherwise, comes off a little odd to me.

    • Concern Fae says:

      This. Australia had very closed borders, strict quarantine, and limits on how many flights were allowed in. I have an Australian friend who hasn’t seen their family since 2019. Their mom died (not of Covid) in early 2020 and it’s been really hard on them.

      So Luhrman probably wanted to keep everyone there. Wouldn’t be surprised if they played it out as a Method thing.

      Also, people can have shitty relationships with their families and taking a break can be healthy.

    • lucy2 says:

      I thought the same thing – this was during COVID, in very strict Australia. Of course he didn’t see his family for a long time, many people didn’t.

      Did anyone actually see this movie? I don’t know anyone who did or talks about it.

      • SurelyNot says:

        I have watched it — it is more of a look at the Colonel (Tom Hanks) as it is Elvis. It is a modern take and method of filming and much of it was camp. As someone old enough (barely) to remember Elvis and remember my mother being in LOVE with the man…it didn’t do much for me. Hanks and his many prosthetics took me out of it a lot too.

      • ally says:

        I had to watch it in tiny parts because I could not handle it all in one evening. I love Elvis and his music but this movie was not good.

    • Shoop says:

      I’d say it was partly covid related. He’s also young and was clearly obsessed with doing a good job for his big break, which I believe he did. Terrific performance, hope he goes easy on the method from now on, though.

    • Juju says:

      Agreed, I think they were filming during the height of the pandemic so travel was restricted. But is he trying to spin it like it was caused by his commitment to the role?

  4. nutella toast says:

    Some people are champion dissociators due to issues in their lives and I think that’s sometimes true of actors – it might make for an immersive performance, but it also potentially triggers mental health issues – especially for someone so young, I hope he’s talking with someone about it because it’s not emotionally healthy to want to be apart from family and friends to that extent or live in the head of someone else for 3 years.

    • Sal says:

      Wasn’t it -his- choice to delve deeply? It’s also his family’s choice to stick w him o no. He’s an adult, no one forced this. Also, many ppl work 9-5 5days/wk, and it becomes an identity–where’s the outrage over someone’s entire existence given job identity? I LOVED the film and am thankful, just like I’m thankful for Veterans & others’ CHOICES.

  5. FHMom says:

    Oh brother. That’s all I’ve got. It sounds like he wants to be taken too seriously.

  6. Cat says:

    It sounds like he didn’t *interact* with his family for 3 years. I would be so pissed at my brother if he did something like this to me and my parents. I’m not sure I’d be willing to talk to him again. These are people who love you and want to be loved by you in return. You can’t just put them down like toys and pick them back up when it’s convenient. Subsuming your sense of self is not mentally healthy.

    • LIONE says:

      What a strange reaction, making his choice about you.

      Maybe he needed the time to himself. Just because you are born into a family you hold no responsibility to be there for everyone 100% of the time.
      If he has family dependent on him and enmeshed, as it sounds like your family is, that’s putting an unhealthy amount of responsibility on each other.
      People should be free to go do what they love for some time in their life.
      Maybe this was his dream and he felt like he needed a break away from everyone and everything at the same time?

      I know I had no problems supporting my brother when he wanted to go travel the world and we didn’t see him for 2 years. Just an occasional phone call, but mostly no contact.
      Why wouldn’t you support your brother in doing what he wants to do in life and have his experiences?

      I’m puzzled by your aggression and self-centeredness. Are you very dependent on your family?

      “These are people who love you and want to be loved by you in return”.
      And this. It’s just not always true.
      And it’s a toxic way of thinking. Putting emmense pressure on others.
      Family is not a binding contract or a job you were assigned at birth, so you have to make sure you please them for the rest of your life.
      You can love someone from a distance. You can love someone and not see them for a few years.
      You should be allowed (a family shouldn’t dictate anything anyway) to go live your dream for a while.

      • SRSLY says:

        Every word you said, @LIONE. This whole, “we need you to love us or we will stop loving you” vibe conjures Issendai’s Dysfunctional Beliefs.

      • A says:

        If Butler didn’t feel that leaving his family for three years was a trial for him, a hard choice that (supposedly) deepened his connection to his character, he wouldn’t have brought it up while discussing how committed to the role he was. He is literally and explicitly saying he stopped being himself, Austin Butler, to become Elvis, the character. That’s not a healthy choice and if people love him it would worry them, regardless of how much time they may or may not spend with one another.

        I try not to get involved in other people’s fights but it’s not fair of you to go after Cat in such bad faith. She didn’t make Butler’s story about her family and she didn’t say anything toxic or aggressive or ‘make his choices about her’. That’s you.

    • LIONE says:


      I’m not going after someone, I’m observing and commenting what I find problematic, while also trying to understand. Could you be reading tone where there is none?

      And politely, with all respect, you’re wrong:
      “I would be so pissed at my brother if he did something like this to me and my parents. I’m not sure I’d be willing to talk to him again.”
      This is making his choices about them. And it’s also signs of emotional blackmailing, manipulation and control. Not the love the next sentence in the comment is talking about.
      (And side note:” my parents”, not “our parents” – just a little observation of where the focus is in this comment).

      “These are people who love you and want to be loved by you in return. You can’t just put them down like toys and pick them back up when it’s convenient.”
      This is about Cat’s belief system, not him. And it’s also a toxic perpetuated family dynamic-belief, where love is conditional.
      Family love should not be a transaction. If you stop loving someone because they don’t love you the way you want them to back, you’re not really loving them, you’re pushing agendas and trying to control someone.

      Getting offended and taking it personally if someone prioritize themselves, and their pursuit in a big dream they have, IS making it about yourself.
      And that’s what Cats doing, putting themselves in the shoes of the family of someone like Austin and reacting by being personally offended by his choice.

      If you have a person in your family who wants to go after their dream and that means they get so obsessed with it you won’t see them for 3 years, it’s still not about you.
      And that person holds no responsibility for how you feel about their choice. When everyones a grown up, it should be expected that we treat and meet everyone as exactly that. And I add this last part because if Austin had children, then he DID have responsibilities he couldn’t distance himself from while working. But a sister is not. Cats belief that it is, is strange to me.

  7. North of Boston says:

    This just comes off as really self centered and privileged. Especially with the immersing himself in the Elvis experience for years. Dude, you could have made yourself a cup of tea and Zoomed with your family every other Sunday like the rest of the world did during the first year of lockdown. You didn’t because you didn’t want to bother .. it was easier to just focus on yourself and your character.

    Hope it’s just his youth, immaturity speaking or that he or someone on his team is thinking this “suffering for his art” shtick will give him a leg up for awards.

  8. Case says:

    Method acting seems wildly selfish and frankly unprofessional to me. If you’re an actor, you should be able to, you know, ACT without completely changing your off-screen life and persona too. Method acting makes me think those actors are less talented, not more.

    That said, I do think he was excellent in Elvis. Didn’t especially love the movie, but he clearly poured his heart into that role.

    • Jennifer says:

      Damn right. I’m pretty sure some older/more experienced/award winning actors have said this in the past, I just can’t recall who right now.

  9. AnneL says:

    Well, he was great in the role, so at least it paid off?

    He was very young, playing an iconic figure and working with a demanding director, all during a global pandemic. I don’t approve of him ghosting his family, nor do I think he needed to go to such lengths to turn in a fine performance, but I can see how it might happen. I hope he doesn’t do it again.

    Elvis is an object of worship to many people. I once found a vintage wall clock from the 60s, maybe 70s, very kitschy. I bought it for $5 and sold it for about $35 to a neighbor’s son who was obsessed with it. It had three portraits on it: Jesus, JFK, and Elvis. I kid you not.

    He was under a lot of pressure.

    • LIONE says:

      I disagree. He was OK in the role.
      He was not great. He posed to much and seemed very self conscious. He always looks self conscious btw, that’s just how he is I think, very preoccupied with how he comes off and looks.

      • AnneL says:

        I thought he was quite good. I can understand why some others disagree.

        I only meant to say that it was a major challenge and he dove into it head-first. Yes, he took it too far. I imagine he was afraid of failing. If he’d utterly bombed, his career might have been over.

        I don’t approve of this degree of method acting. But I can see how a young actor in this situation might end up getting too immersed. Look what happened to Heath Ledger after he played The Joker. He went to such a dark place he ended up overdosing. I’m glad that didn’t happen to AB.

  10. Neners says:

    “I was a douche. But it’s okay. Because ART.”
    — Every Method Actor Ever

  11. HeyKay says:

    These comments are spot on.
    Method acting to that extreme is unhealthy.

    His role as Elvis causes me to think of Gary Bussey as Buddy Holly. It was his big break, a big hit movie, award nominated and IMO, it was the height of his career.

  12. Frippery says:

    If you are going to lose 50 pounds because of stress, damage your internal organs, alienate your loved ones, miss out on every important event for those that care about you, or have to begin therapy, all for the sake of a movie that might be forgettable? I mean, even all for a movie that wins 27 Oscars and is picked for the White House screening room……how can that ever be worth it?

    If you’re willing to absolutely deplete yourself for the sake of your work, there’s a nursing shortage. And a teacher shortage. And a wait staff shortage.

  13. Julia K says:

    Isn’t this the guy hooking up with Kaia Gerber? I can pretty much guarantee that she didn’t wait around for three years.

  14. Eh says:

    So many in the comments criticizing this, but I can completely understand why it would be necessary in order to really develop and dive into the character role. It is often family who wants to keep you in your little box of ‘this is who you are,’ and it is often family who does not support its members growing massive wings. It’s not ‘privileged’ to make a choice that works for something that is deeply important to him creatively and professionally. Also this was during COVID, and filmed in another country. The irony of people being offended by someone’s personal choices, and calling them ‘self-centered’ for making their own choices.

    • North of Boston says:

      It’s more that his time not in touch with family is presented like “oh nos, poor him, see what he did for art”

      I re read it and he doesn’t say that, but the whole piece colors it that way.

    • Pilar says:

      The idea that you need to completely live In character for 3 years is utterly bonkers. People like this guy and Jeremy strong, Jared Leto, Shia lebouf take it to extremes, and it doesn’t necessarily lend itself for a pleasant work environment.

      It’s really a white man thing, and speaks of privilege where everyone has to tolerate their shit. No black woman ( or woman for that matter) would ever dare doing the shit Shia,Jeremy and Jared did on set for their “ art “ because they would be branded difficult and possibly unstable.

    • Tiffany:) says:

      I know incredible actors, and it isn’t “necessary” to spend YEARS away from family to develop a character. Work on it for years, sure, isolating yourself for years, no. He’s doing it wrong if that’s what it takes for him. Suffering isn’t quality.

      As Laurence Olivier said, “Why don’t you just try acting?”

  15. Renee' says:

    The filming happened during Covid and he couldn’t just fly home. The production was shut down and he stayed in Australia. I don’t think it’s as bad as this is making it sound.

  16. Jais says:

    Robert Pattinson had the best response about method acting in his conversation with Jennifer Lopez. He nailed it exactly. Wonder if Austin ever heard that interview and took a pause but then just went ahead.