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Before He Becomes Elvis, Austin Butler Answers Andy Warhol’s Questions
By Andy Warhol
Photographed by Ryan McGinley
Styled by Mel Ottenberg
After years as a heartthrob-for-hire on a string of teen TV shows, Austin Butler’s career took a turn for the big leagues when, earlier this year, he was cast as the main character in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley biopic. Here, the 28-year-old California native, who recently appeared in Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, answers some questions that Andy Warhol posed to Matt Dillon in 1983, when the 19-year-old actor was similarly on the cusp of mega stardom.
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ANDY WARHOL: How did this happen to you? When did you start making movies?
AUSTIN BUTLER: I started acting when I was about 13 years old. I stumbled into doing extra work, so that got me onto sets in a very low-pressure way. Prior to that, I had been a very, very shy child. Being on a set with other children, there wasn’t this hierarchy,which there can be sometimes. That really taught me a lot about how I want to conduct myself in any environment. I started going to acting class and learning that there was a craft to it, and then I fell in love with it. Then it was a slow process of going through hundreds of auditions, and you only book one thing. I remember the days of being so grateful to just book one line on a TV show.
WARHOL: Did you always want to be in the movies?
BUTLER: I didn’t realize it was a possibility, but I think I felt most free when I was playing pretend. I would watch a movie, and then I would put on the clothes that I could find that were most similar to a character I liked. I would get really dressed up to then destroy myself in some way in an action scene. I look at my job now and—I mean, in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, they paid for my horse lessons. I got to train four hours a day for months. Now people are putting these incredible costumes on me, but it’s just a very elaborate version of what I was doing as a child.
WARHOL: Of all the films you’ve made, do you have a particular favorite?
BUTLER: I think it’s very hard. I asked Denzel [Washington] this question, and he said his answer is always “the next one,” so that’s kind of my thing right now.
WARHOL: What kind of roles are you after now?
BUTLER: Anything that scares me and challenges me and causes me to have to dig in to parts of myself that maybe I would not otherwise.
WARHOL: Do you go to the movies often?
BUTLER: As much as I can. That’s one of my favorite pastimes.
WARHOL: Do you want to stay away from romantic leads?
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