Baz Luhrmann Reveals Why He Cast Austin Butler Over Harry Styles in 'Elvis' : 'He's Already an Icon'

The director shared that the decision had nothing to do with the "Watermelon Sugar" singer's acting ability

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 18: Harry Styles attends the "DUNKIRK" premiere in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images); NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 02: Austin Butler attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty for The Met Museum/Vogue

Baz Luhrmann is speaking out about why he passed on Harry Styles to play Elvis Presley in his new film.

The director, 59, opened up about his casting decision for Elvis while appearing on the Fitzy & Wippa podcast this week.

When speaking about the film, which opens in theaters June 24, Luhrmann was asked about some of the other hopefuls for the title role, including Miles Teller and Styles, which ultimately went to Austin Butler.

"I don't audition," the Moulin Rouge! director said. "I do these really rich workshops. I'll talk about Harry only because Harry said it himself just recently."

Styles, 28, spoke about his attempt at snagging the role in an interview with Howard Stern last month.

Luhrmann said the issue with Styles wasn't that he didn't have the acting chops. (He called him "a really talented actor.") He said what it came down to was that Styles is already an "icon."

"...the real issue with Harry is, he's Harry Styles. He's already an icon."

The director continued, "I think Harry and I came to a place, genuinely I mean, he was just desperate to put the suit on and explore, he's such a great spirit and I have nothing but great things to say about Harry Styles."

In an interview last month, Styles opened up to Stern about the process of exploring the role, which included re-creating one of Elvis' Las Vegas performance and acting out a few scenes for the audition.

"Elvis was probably the first person I knew outside of my family when I was a very small child," the "Watermelon Sugar" singer said. "There was something incredibly sacred about it, that felt like I should [audition]"

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 04: Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Baz Luhrmann and Tom Hanks attend the Australian premiere of ELVIS at Event Cinemas Pacific Fair on June 04, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
From left: Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge, Baz Luhrmann and Tom Hanks in June. Chris Hyde/Getty

He continued: "I was very intrigued by it… I feel like if a director feels like I'm not the best person for the role then it's better for them and it's better for me," he said. "If they think the movie's going to be better with someone else then I don't want to do it because I don't want to be the not-as-good version."

The new drama, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last month, tells the story of Elvis Presley's rise to stardom. The film stars Butler, 30, along with Tom Hanks and Olivia DeJonge.

Priscilla Presley, who was married to the musician from 1967 to 1973, has previously sung her praises of the new film recounting the meteoric rise of her late musician husband, saying during the Met Gala red carpet earlier this month, "I think it's a movie for everyone."

"Even the people who've heard stories about Elvis before, they're gonna learn something," she added.

On Instagram days later, she reiterated her feelings, writing alongside a trailer for the film, "I've seen Elvis the film, I watched the trailer over a dozen times."

"But the words I heard from my daughter [Lisa Marie Presley] on how much she loved the film and that [granddaughter] Riley will love it too when she sees it brought tears," she added.

"I relived every moment in this film. It took me a few days to overcome the emotions as it did with Lisa. Beautifully done Baz, Tom, Austin and Olivia."

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