Denzel Washington

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — Though he’s not in the film, superstar actor Denzel Washington had a major impact on the upcoming Baz Luhrmann film “Elvis.” That came in his influence and impact on the production’s major star Austin Butler. Butler openly credits and repeatedly cites Washington as a key figure in him landing the role. 

Luhrmann mentioned to Entertainment Weekly that Washington had sizable impact in Butler’s casting. “[Austin Butler] found me,” Luhrmann said. “I received this videotape of this young man in a flood of tears playing ‘Unchained Melody,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, what is that? How is that happening? And then I got a call from Denzel Washington, who gave me a cold call,” he said.

“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.’”

Butler in turn talked with GQ magazine to talk about Washington’s impact, both personally and professionally. They initially met in 2018 while working on Broadway in the Eugene O’Neil’s “The Iceman Cometh.” “There’s that thing where you meet your heroes, and you want to be their best friend,” Butler said. “I was like, ‘That’s not going to happen.’ So, I went into the quickest mentality of ‘I’m not going to try to be his friend, I’m just going to try to do work as well as I possibly can.’”

Butler added that he would often arrive at the theater earlier than Washington. Once Washington became aware of that, he began providing counsel to Butler. “It’s just Denzel and me in this empty theater,” Butler continued. “He started giving me acting advice and he really took me under his wing. He’d start telling me thoughts about the scene, and suddenly I’ve got Denzel almost as an acting coach. And maybe even a life coach. Denzel always goes back to gratitude. I look at that for longevity in any career. Having those moments where, at the best of times or the worst of times, you’re being grateful for what you actually have and having humility.”

“I was so grateful for that,” Butler said. “He didn’t call me beforehand, he didn’t call me after. It was this generous thing that he just did.” “Elvis” also stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. as B.B King, Yola Quartey as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager. The script was written by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. Additional producers beside  Lurhmann include Catherine Martin, Patrick McCormick, Schuyler Weiss and Gail Berman. “Elvis” will be released June 24.