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“[This role] seemed as though it was this impossible mountain to climb in front of me,” Butler told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday morning, following the 2023 Oscar nominations. “There were so many pitfalls and so I just was focusing on one step at a time. And really the thing for me was just honoring the life of this man and his family. And that’s why those moments when Lisa Marie and Priscilla [Presley] got to see the film and then I first saw them after … nothing I would do would ever top that. And especially with Lisa Marie not being here with us. I just wish she was here to celebrate today with us.”
Presley died Jan. 12 after an episode of cardiac arrest, just a few days after Butler won the best actor award at the Golden Globes for his portrayal. Her funeral took place Sunday, with Butler and Luhrmann in attendance. Presley and her mother, Priscilla, were very involved in the making of the biopic and were continuously strong champions of Butler’s performance.
“She was the most straightforward and supportive person,” Butler said about Presley. “I know from all the times that we got to celebrate together how we would celebrate today, you know, and I wish she and Elvis were here to get to experience this time.”
He continued, “It really puts things in perspective to where ultimately, the thing I’m most grateful for is that I was able to spend the time that I had with Lisa Marie, and also the time that I had in getting to live for three years exploring the life of her father. When I see moments like today or when I feel moments like today, I have to really take a second to go, ‘OK, this is this is something to be really grateful for.’ But nothing compares to that moment I looked in her eyes after she first saw the film, where she told me how much it meant to her. I’ll really cherish that for the rest of my life.”
Butler said the thing he’s most proud of from working on the film is not only portraying one of the most famous people of all time, but also overcoming his own personal fears.
“There were so many things that I had to find in myself: I’m very shy,” he explained. “I didn’t dance or sing or like being in front of large crowds, and so to overcome those fears, as well as just the daunting task of embodying one of the most recognized people that’s ever lived — because there were so many ways in which that could have gone wrong — that was this tightrope that I was walking every day. To now be here, I just feel relieved and grateful and joyous. The peaks are really high right now, the valleys are very low. But that’s what makes life feel vibrant.”
Butler was nominated alongside Brendan Fraser (The Whale), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Bill Nighy (Living) and Paul Mescal (Aftersun).
“So many of my heroes are my friends that I’m rooting for,” he said. “I was really excited to hear that my good friend Barry Keoghan got nominated as well today and Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Banshees … I also just adore Brendan and I’m so excited for him. I love Colin and he’s been really sweet to me and Paul’s a friend of mine, as well and Bill Nighy! It’s been a really wonderful part about this whole experience, getting to be around all these other actors and artists, like Martin McDonagh — I’m so excited for him. There are a lot of people; I could go on and on. I’m just so proud of everybody, and so privileged and humbled to be included among them all.”
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