‘Elvis’ film trailer premieres alongside Q&A with director Baz Luhrmann, star Austin Butler

Noah Levine, Life and Arts Film Columnist

“Elvis,” a brand new biopic from Warner Brothers Pictures, will hit theaters this June. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (“The Great Gatsby”), starring Austin Butler (“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”) and Tom Hanks (“Forrest Gump”), the film follows the childhood and eventual rise to stardom of the iconic Elvis Presley (Butler), set against the backdrop of historic American events during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. 

The Texan attended an early trailer preview press conference, where director Luhrmann and star Butler discussed the upcoming musical experience moderated by music journalist Nelson George.

Before debuting the brand new trailer, director Luhrmann expressed his love for film trailers and how he wants his upcoming film to be experienced.

“I’m a trailer nut. When I go to the movies and see trailers, I could watch them forever,” Luhrmann said. “But (trailers) are not movies, they are an invitation to the movie. They are a door opening to the movie. (“Elvis”) is number one, a movie for theaters, from the get-go we set out to make a motion picture that is going to bring all kinds of audiences together.”

When asked by the moderator about what drew him to work on this project, Luhrmann explained his passion for unique variations of the biopic formula throughout entertainment history.  

“The great storytellers didn’t do biographies,” Luhrmann said. “Shakespeare never did the biography of ‘King Richard.’ They took a life and used that life as a canvas to explore a larger idea. A great biopic is terrific, but something like ‘Amadeus,’ for example, it’s not really about Mozart. It’s about jealousy. As a young guy, I was an Elvis fan, but I don’t know that fanhood was a reason I wanted to do ‘Elvis’ in the modern era. The life of Elvis Presley could not be a better canvas in which to explore America in the ‘50s, the ‘60s, and the ‘70s.”

Taking on the role of one of the most famous musicians in American history, actor Austin Butler had an intimidating amount of work to prepare for his performance. Butler recounted what drew him to such a momentous undertaking. 

“He’s such an icon, and he’s held up to a superhuman status,” Butler said. “To get to explore why he was the way he was and find the human within that icon, … I could do it for the rest of my life. That, paired with the fact that I get to work with one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived (made) this is the joy of my lifetime.”

Throughout the film, many of the singer’s performances are actually sung by Butler himself, and not dubbed over with a recording. Butler talked about the tiresome preparation he had to undertake to achieve the vocal power of the rock star. 

“When I began (this) process, I set out to get my voice to sound identical to his,” Butler said. “That was my goal. If you heard a recording of me and you heard a recording of him, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. … It instilled this fear that I’m not going to achieve that, which got the fire burning inside me to work and work. … A year before we even started shooting, I was doing 6-7 days a week of voice coaching, working with different experts. Ultimately, the life (of Elvis) is what is important. You can impersonate somebody, but to find the humanity and the life within and the passion and the heart, ultimately I had to unleash myself of the constraints of that and try to live (his) life as truthfully as possible.”