"They were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing."
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Austin Butler's emotions were shaking, rattling, and rolling after he endured a particular filmmaking experiment at the hands of Elvis Presley biopic director Baz Luhrmann.

"Well, when I was on my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible," Butler revealed in a new interview with VMAN. "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."

The 30-year-old actor suggested that there was no malice in Luhrmann's tactic, but rather the filmmaker's intent was to get Butler to empathize with the criticism Presley faced throughout his career.

"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," Butler continued. "I went home in tears that night. I really did."

EW has reached out to representatives for Luhrmann for confirmation.

Austin Butler plays piano as Elvis Presley
Austin Butler in 'Elvis'
| Credit: Hugh Stewart/Warner Bros.

Butler previously told EW that Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet star Leonardo DiCaprio gave him some pointed advice about working with Luhrmann.

"Leo told me, 'Baz is going to constantly keep you off balance, and it's going to pull things out of you [that] you never knew you had inside you.' That's exactly the experience that I had," Butler said, later adding, "There were days where I just thought, 'Baz, why don't we just do what we prepared?' I realized that he would push me right to the edge of what I was capable of. You capture lightning in a bottle in a way — if you had just done the thing that you had prepared, it may have been more stale."

Butler's experience with Luhrmann seems to have paid off: His performance has already courted significant critical praise and Oscar buzz ahead of the 2023 Academy Awards, with many pundits touting him as a front-running contender for Best Actor.

Elvis is playing now in theaters.

Hear more on all of today's must-see picks on EW's What to Watch podcast, hosted by Gerrad Hall.

Related content:

Elvis
Elvis (2022 movie)

Austin Butler and Tom Hanks star in this musical biopic about the life of Elvis Presley, specifically his relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

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