Somehow, months into the Elvis press junket that feels like it may be eternal, there’s still more to learn about the intense on-set environment of Baz Luhrmann’s latest glitzy biopic. In a new interview with VMAN, Austin Butler reveals he went home from the set “in tears” once after Luhrmann instructed other individuals on the set that day to heckle him.
“Well, when I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” Butler explains. “He had all the executives and everybody from RCA, who were back in the offices, he brought them into the recording studio and he goes, ‘I want you all to sit facing Austin,’…and he told them to heckle me. So then they were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing.”
Of course, Butler assures us, there was a method in the madness. “When we were filming this moment when Elvis first goes on stage and he’s getting heckled by the audience, I knew what that felt like,” he says. “I went home in tears that night. I really did.”
This new revelation comes after Butler (who insisted on continuing to use his Elvis accent long after filming concluded) already revealed he was hospitalized after filming. According to the star, the moment he stopped portraying Elvis his “body just started shutting down.” The inability to rely on basic bodily functions without your character—now that’s method acting.
Luckily for Butler, however, he received some sage advice on Luhrmann’s directorial techniques from a similarly handsome, blonde source: Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio, who starred in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and The Great Gatsby, apparently warned Butler that Luhrmann was going to teach him some new tricks, sometimes the hard way.
“I had spoken to Leo before and he said, ‘Baz is gonna push you in ways you didn’t know somebody could,’” Butler recalls. “‘He’s gonna push you off balance and keep you off balance.’” If Luhrmann’s technique for getting Butler to master heckling was testing him with the real thing, we now understand why Elvis chose not to show the legend’s death by constipation.