What Is Going On With Austin Butler’s Voice?
Photo: Rich Polk/NBC/NBC via Getty Images
Austin Butler, formerly of Disney Channel fame, recently became a “serious actor” by dyeing his hair and playing Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 biopic. As all serious actors must, he has also spent the last six months talking about how much he dedicated himself to embodying the king of rock and roll. So far, it seems to be working. On Tuesday night he won a Golden Globe for his widely praised performance as Elvis. His acceptance speech brought renewed attention to a phenomenon that has persisted since the film’s release: Butler refuses to stop using his Elvis voice, instead spending the entire awards season talking like he’s possessed. from a southern ghost with laryngitis.
There is plenty of evidence to show that, before Elvis, Butler’s voice sounded absolutely nothing like this. According to an interview with GQ, he’s been using this voice since auditioning for the film, though not exactly consistently—the writer noted that his audibly forced bass “gradually fades in and reappears” during their conversation.
To me, this makes perfect sense. Balls-to-the-wall voices, non-existent accents, and generally speaking in a way that disturbs and confuses the world has become the hallmark of a great actor, and Butler has taken this maxim to its logical extreme.
Of course, he also insists on pretending that this is his real voice now. He seems willing to admit that he hasn’t always sounded like this, but has consistently denied that he consciously changed his voice outside of the film. In June, he told Elle that he channels Elvis to help him feel more confident when speaking in public, referring to some unspecified “triggers” that can cause him to slip into it.
Austin Butler with his #Elvis voice sticking with him after the movie: “I don’t think I sound like him yet, but I think I should because I listen to him a lot.” https://t.co/obwVD3aG1a pic.twitter.com/qb1M4yWC9P
— Variety (@Variety) January 11, 2023
On Tuesday night, Butler compared his Elvis voice to an accent he acquires after living in a foreign country for a long time. “I don’t think I sound like him yet,” he told reporters at the Golden Globes. “I had three years where that was my sole focus in life, so I’m sure there’s just parts of my DNA that will always be wired that way.” A voice that engages too much, accompanied by a deep misunderstanding of biological science? I can’t think of anything more Hollywood.
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