Actor Austin Butler may be a household name now, but his rise to fame is still considerably recent. His 2022 portrayal of rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley, in the critically acclaimed film Elvis, has helped cement his place in the hearts of fans worldwide. He's now one of the fastest-rising stars in Hollywood, set to appear in some seriously major film roles in the coming years. Longtime fans may know him from his early years on Disney and Nickelodeon, long before he was playing one of the greatest singers of all time. Butler has proven to be a truly incredible talent, with acting and musical skills that rival some of the greatest names in his generation.
But how did he become an A-list celebrity? Let's take a look at his journey from Disney Channel star to Hollywood heavyweight.
A native of Anaheim, California, Butler was born in 1991 to Lori Anne and David Butler, who "divorced amicably" when he was 7 years old. Despite the split, the actor told Vogue in a 2022 interview that he and his sister, Ashley, "moved fluidly" between their parents' homes. While Butler was a self-described shy child, his mother helped him break out of his shell and pursue his dreams.
"Some of my favorite memories from growing up are watching SNL with her, and we'd watch every week," he shared during his opening monologue for Saturday Night Live in 2022. "And even though I had this crippling shyness, when I was with her, I'd just do anything to make my mom laugh."
Even though the family didn't have a lot of money, his mother -- who passed away from duodenal cancer in 2014 -- would often splurge on tickets to Disneyland. It was a pastime that undoubtedly set the stage for Butler's future acting career.
"My mom is no longer with us," he added during the monologue, "but I've been thinking about her a lot this week, just imagining how proud she'd be of her son, who used to not be able to order food for myself at a restaurant, is now standing on this stage."
The Disney Years
Butler was just 13 years old when he was first scouted by a background-acting management company while hanging out at a local fair. He discovered he loved the work and started taking acting classes. His first regular background role was on the hit Nickelodeon show Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.
"On that show, I became friends with a lot of the actors, and Lindsey Shaw (who played Moze on the show) introduced me to her manager, Pat Cutler," he revealed in a 2008 Portrait interview. "I signed with her immediately, and she got me on the right track."
He continued to make a name for himself by landing guest roles in many more popular Nickelodeon and Disney shows, such as Hannah Montana, Zoey 101, Jonas and Wizards of Waverly Place. Once it was clear that his acting career was the real deal, Butler left public school in seventh grade and started home schooling to accommodate his work schedule better.
All that hard work paid off when, in 2007, he landed his first recognizable role as Jake Krandle in the hit teen series iCarly.
Luckily, Butler avoided the childhood star trap, and his career only continued to grow with roles in films such as Aliens in the Attic and The Bling Ring and non-teen-driven TV shows including Life Unexpected and Switched at Birth. However, it wasn't until he landed the lead role of Sebastian Kydd, opposite AnnaSophia Robb, in CW's The Carrie Diaries in 2012, that things really began to take off for him.
Despite being on for only two seasons, the show's popularity helped to propel him into his most recognizable roles yet. Butler started landing more prominent parts in shows such as Arrow and The Shannara Chronicles, as well as major films such as Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
During this time, he also made his Broadway debut alongside Denzel Washington as Don Parritt in The Iceman Cometh in 2018. His performance received critical acclaim, with The New Yorker famously reviewing that, "Although there are many performers in George C. Wolfe's staging of Eugene O'Neill's phenomenal [...] drama, The Iceman Cometh, [...] there is only one actor, and his name is Austin Butler."
In 2019, Butler received the life-changing news that he would be portraying the king of rock 'n' roll, Elvis Presley, in Baz Luhrmann's biopic. Prior to the news, his ex-girlfriend of nine years, Vanessa Hudgens, reportedly told him that he "needed to play Elvis" after hearing him sing along to "Blue Christmas." When the opportunity to do so presented itself, Butler dedicated everything he had to make it happen.
Even though producers were considering more-notable names such as Miles Teller and Harry Styles, Butler reportedly blew Luhrmann away with his audition tape.
"What I heard vocally, and more importantly, what I saw emotionally, was something that simply couldn't be ignored," Luhrmann told Vogue. "From the moment I met Austin, he was carrying something of Elvis with him. He had a hint of the swagger, a touch of the sound."
When the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, it received a whopping 12-minute standing ovation from the crowd. From there, it received praise from not only fans and prominent critics but also the Presley family as well.
After that stellar performance, it's no surprise that Butler is on the fast track to becoming one of Hollywood's most sought-after actors. His upcoming projects include a war drama TV miniseries called Masters of the Air and two major films, Dune: Part Two and The Bikeriders, all of which are slated to be released this year.
READ MORE: Austin Butler Explains His Ever-Present 'Elvis' Voice: 'Pieces of My DNA Will Always Be Linked'
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