Baz Luhrmann’s long-awaited movie based on the life of rock’n’roll legend Elvis Presley is now in theaters, and Austin Butler is already garnering critical acclaim for his leading performance as the King opposite Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. However, there is some uncertainty among filmgoers as to whether the actor—whose previous biggest role was as a member of the Manson family in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood—is actually singing in the biopic’s scenes which show Presley performing.
Is Austin Butler really singing in Elvis?
In a recent interview with USA Today, Butler clarifies that he sang some of the performances of Presley’s earliest hits in the movie himself, as the original recordings were not of a high-enough quality to be used. For other numbers, Presley’s vocals were blended with Butler’s.
This is an increasingly common technique in screen musicals featuring actors who are not also trained singers. For instance, Rami Malek played Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, but the vocals you hear in that movie are an “amalgamation” of Mercury’s recordings and Canadian singer Mark Martel. And in the “Husavik” number which forms the climax of the Eurovision movie, Rachel McAdams’ voice was blended with that of Swedish musician Molly Sandén.
“All the ’50s stuff, that’s me,” Butler said. “After that, it’s a mix of me and Elvis… On ‘Suspicious Minds’ in particular, I can’t tell when my voice ends and his begins.”
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While it might not be Butler’s own singing voice in every musical number in Elvis, the 30-year-old actor did bring a layer of verisimilitude to those performances in another way: he has played the guitar since he was 12 years old. He also worked extensively with dialect coaches to capture Presley’s trademark deep voice, as well as a karate sensei and choreographer Polly Bennett (who previously helped Malek channel Mercury) so that he would be able to conjure the some-might-say inimitable physical presence of the late star.
“I realized this man was as iconic as they come, and yet he of course was a human being, sensitive and vulnerable, with virtues and flaws, and I got to experience all of that,” he said. “This was an incredible privilege. I was just a detective, trying to find the truth of who he was. Trying to find Elvis’ soul.”
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