What is Austin Butler’s Accent in Elvis? Did He Change His Voice to Play Elvis?

In Baz Luhrmann’s biographical film ‘Elvis,’ Austin Butler portrays the legendary titular musician with a highly distinctive voice. Although the actor had the challenge of playing an iconic singer whose voice is familiar all across the world, he does it with unignorable authenticity in the movie. The Southern California native had to change his voice, which was less deep, to play Elvis since the latter had a deep and commanding voice. Butler spent years getting ready to play the singer and changing his voice was an integral part of his preparations. The voice wasn’t the only thing he changed. He also had to let go of his California accent to transform into Elvis!

Becoming Elvis

Austin Butler uses a Southern accent in ‘Elvis’ since Elvis Presley was from Memphis, Tennessee. To play Elvis authentically, Butler had to sound exactly like the singer, which means he had to speak a Southern accent very deeply. The actor’s voice transformation was supervised by Erik Singer, his primary dialect coach during the production of the movie. In an interview with Vox, Singer revealed that Butler wanted to change his California English to achieve “the degree of specificity, tracking changes over time, and the overall tonality of vocal quality” to play the globally renowned performer. The duo worked together for 3 to 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 9 months for Butler to perfect his accent and voice.

One of the main challenges Butler confronted was perfecting Elvis’ voice with regard to the different stages of the latter’s life. Elvis’ sound varied when he was becoming a heartthrob in the 1950s, a rock-and-roll icon in the ‘60s, and a “lounge lizard” in the ‘70s. “We [Butler and Singer] needed to be incredibly clear about what the handholds were for each of those three periods. We broke it down with an incredibly fine-toothed comb,” Singer said in the same Vox interview. “When you spend all of that time going that deep into Elvis, you’ve carved that groove really deep. The accent is eager to come out and play,” he added.

Being Elvis

Even after completing the production of ‘Elvis,’ Butler couldn’t let go of his Elvis accent. He appeared in several events and programs with the same accent he uses in the film. “I didn’t do anything else for two years [apart from working on ‘Elvis’], that’s such a large chunk of life. I’m not surprised that it clicks in,” Butler told Elle Australia about having the accent in real life. “Because I’m a shy person, and when I know that there’s bits of Elvis that I’d have to click into in order to go out on stage and be in front of a ton of people, being surrounded by his name everywhere, there’s triggers,” he added.

When Butler spoke in the same accent after accepting his Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama in January 2023, the world wanted to know why he was sticking with it. “I often liken it to when somebody lives in another country for a long time. I had three years where [Elvis] was my only focus in life, so I’m sure there’s just pieces of my DNA that will always be linked in that way,” he told the press after accepting the award.

After a point, Butler realized that it was time for him to get rid of the Elvis accent. “I am getting rid of the accent. But I have probably damaged my vocal cords with all that singing. One song took 40 takes,” the actor told Graham Norton while appearing on BBC’s ‘The Graham Norton Show.’ And seems like he did. As per his ‘Dune: Part Two’ co-star Dave Bautista, Butler doesn’t sound anything like Elvis in the Denis Villeneuve movie. “It’s not Elvis. His [Butler’s] voice is different, his look is different. Everything about his demeanor is terrifying,” Bautista told USA Today about Butler’s character Feyd-Rautha.

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