Austin Butler
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Austin Butler Through the Years: From Disney Channel Star to Hollywood Heavyweight

How Austin Butler became a movie star.

Austin Butler may be a household name now, but his rise to fame has been fast and furious. It wasn't until his astonishing embodiment of the king of rock 'n' roll in the 2022 biopic "Elvis" that Butler reached the mainstream. And the 32-year-old star shows no sign of slowing: Next up, he plays a real-life WWII hero in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg's Apple TV+ epic "Masters of the Air."

If you're new to Butler-mania, you've probably seen the actor dressed to the nines with his model girlfriend Kaia Gerber, 22, the daughter of Cindy Crawford, at any number of high-fashion Hollywood events. The couple have been a red carpet staple since their debut at the 2022 MET Gala. Longtime fans may know him from his early days as a Disney Channel heartthrob, or, let's be real, as Vanessa Hudgens' ex-boyfriend.

But don't let Austin Butler's leading-man looks fool you: He's a chameleonic star with a wide range of tastes. In March 2024, Butler transforms into the vicious (and bald) Feyd-Rautha in "Dune: Part 2." Personally, we can't wait to see the Oscar nominee in his villain era. 

Here's everything you need to know about Austin Butler, from his child-star beginnings to his status as one of TIME's most influential people.

California Boy

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 on "SNL" 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

Actor Austin Butler attends "The Give Back from The Heart" benefit concert at Malibu Performing Arts Center on May 30, 2009 in Malibu, California

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

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" 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.

All that hard work paid off when, in 2007, he landed his first recognizable role as Jake Krandle in the hit teen series "iCarly."

Breakout Roles

Austin Butler attends "The Iceman Cometh" Broadway Meet The Press at Delmonico's on April 11, 2018 in New York City

Rob Kim/Getty Images

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 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 The CW's "The Carrie Diaries" in 2012 that things really began to take off for him.

Despite being canceled after 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 writing 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."

Becoming Elvis

Austin Butler in 'Elvis' (2022)

Warner Bros.

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. The role scored Butler an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe Award wins in the category.

'Masters of the Air' and Beyond

Austin Butler in 'Masters of the Air' Episode 1.

Austin Butler in 'Masters of the Air' Episode 1. (Apple TV+)

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. In the Hanks-Spielberg WWII miniseries "Masters of the Air," Butler plays Major Gale Winston Cleven, one of the real-life airmen of the "Bloody 100th" squadron of bombers. Cleven received a Distinguished Service Cross for a bombing raid on German positions in 1943, and survived a Nazi POW camp.

After "Masters of the Air," Butler makes his hotly-anticipated debut as the villainous Feyd-Rautha in Denis Villeneuve's "Dune: Part 2," in theaters March 2024. The role was memorably played by Sting in David Lynch's 1984 version. In the most recent trailer for the sci-fi epic, fronted by Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, Butler's transformation into the bald Harkonnen warrior is astonishing. 

Butler will close out 2024 with the lead role in Mike Nichols' 1950s motorcycle drama "The Bikeriders," hitting theaters in June. The star-studded cast includes Tom Hardy, Boyd Holbrook and Michael Shannon.

Austin Butler has hit the big leagues. The final stage of his celebrity has to include an appearance in a Taylor Swift music video...

READ MORE: Austin Butler Explains His Ever-Present 'Elvis' Voice: 'Pieces of My DNA Will Always Be Linked'