Austin Butler is coming clean about the controversial comment he made about his title role in Elvis—when he conveniently forgot to mention in an interview that it was longtime girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens who first suggested he go for the part.
“Oh, yeah, I learned a lesson with that one—I felt that I was respecting her privacy in a way and not wanting to bring up a ton of things that would cause her to have to talk,” the Dune: Part Two actor told Esquire in an interview published today. “I have so much love and care for her. It was in no way trying to erase anything.”
Vanessa and Austin dated from 2011 to 2020, and it was the High School Musical star who inspired him to pursue playing the King of Rock ’n’ Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 epic biopic, telling Austin he would be perfect for it.
“Last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then an Elvis Presley Christmas song came on,” Vanessa recounted on an August 2019 episode of Live! With Kelly and Ryan. “He had just dyed his hair dark. He’s a natural blonde, and I was looking at him, and he was singing along, and I was like, ‘Babe, you need to play Elvis.’”
When talking about the same moment at the Hollywood Reporter’s Actors Roundtable in January 2023, though, Austin told the story differently.
“I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend,” he said. “And there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio and I was singing along and my friend looked over at me and goes, ‘You’ve got to play Elvis.’”
Fans quickly criticized Austin's use of the word friend on social media, accusing him of snubbing his longtime former love. But he has since made it clear that he was indeed speaking of Vanessa, and didn’t mean any harm.
Vanessa is now married to MLB star Cole Tucker, while Austin has been dating model Kaia Gerber since 2022.
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