How do you turn a young Californian former model into the smouldering, hip-swivelling King of Rock ‘n’ Roll?
Answer: by sending him to ‘Elvis school’ to watch hours of footage of Presley; then putting him through a full year of voice coaching (before the cameras even rolled); and finally, employing the crack British choreographer who helped to transform Rami Malek into Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, to turn him into ‘Elvis the Pelvis’.
Austin Butler, 30, was cast as Presley by director Baz Luhrmann in 2019, after a global search to find the perfect Elvis for his hotly anticipated new film of the same name.
Butler, whose background is as a teen heart-throb (he was in Hannah Montana and Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure) and who is dating Cindy Crawford’s model daughter, Kaia Gerber, said that as soon as he was picked by Luhrmann, he began researching everything he could on the boy from Tupelo, Mississippi.
Austin Butler, 30, was cast as Presley by director Baz Luhrmann in 2019, after a global search to find the perfect Elvis for his hotly anticipated new film of the same name
‘First, I just watched as much as I could, over and over again,’ he said. ‘I didn’t look at or read or hear anything that didn’t have to do with Elvis for a long period of time.’
Then, London-based movement coach Polly Bennett, who worked with Malek on Bohemian Rhapsody, and Olivia Colman in The Crown (and whom director Luhrmann described as ‘absolutely indispensable’) got cracking.
‘Everyone wants to talk about his hips, and everyone thinks it’s about the hips — ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ — but it isn’t,’ she said, of the essence of Elvis. ‘It’s his knees rotating, which makes it look like his hips are moving.
‘I studied a lot of footage of him performing; and then also advised on how he would move off camera — it was a negotiation between what is known and what isn’t known.
‘We don’t know how Elvis existed when he was on his own, or when he did mundane tasks like making a cup of coffee — we have to use what we know … to make a full, rounded performance.’
She called Butler ‘an amazing student’; while he called his teacher ‘incredible’. He added: ‘When I first started, I really felt like when you are a kid, and you put on your father’s suit, and the sleeves are much too long and the shoes are like boats on your feet.
Even more important than getting the pelvis perfect, though, was making sure Butler sounded like Elvis
‘In the beginning, I thought: ‘This is impossible.’ But then, as time passed, I started to feel like I grew into it.’
Bennett said the trickiest bits ‘were what Baz called ‘trainspotting’, which is where you are trying to get a performance exactly the same as the footage. I did this in Bohemian Rhapsody, with Live Aid, so I had a process. Here it was for the 1956 performance of Hound Dog on the Milton Berle Show.
‘It was the first time that Elvis has performed without a guitar, so you could see his whole body in motion with no limitations.
‘His movements are so syncopated and he’s on the balls of his toes, making gestures with his arms to the band to slow down — it is all completely spontaneous. That was a challenge, to get that down.’
Even more important than getting the pelvis perfect, though, was making sure Butler sounded like Elvis.
New Yorker Erik Singer, who is fluent in a large number of real and fictional languages (including Avatar’s Na’vi), confirmed that he was Butler’s vocal coach.
Butler said: ‘When I began the process, I set out to get my voice to sound identical to his. That was my goal.
‘For maybe a year, even before we started shooting, I was doing six, seven days a week of voice coaching and working with different experts and just trying to get the register to be in the right place; and the dialect; and the way he inflects.’
Butler recorded versions of the early Elvis songs — which were taped in mono — to be used in the film. Later songs ‘blend’ his voice with Elvis’s; and in depictions of the final years, it is Elvis singing and Butler miming.
The film, which stars Tom Hanks as Col Tom Parker, will be premiered at the Cannes film festival next month, with Butler now in pole position to star in the eagerly awaited Dune 2.
Butler recorded versions of the early Elvis songs — which were taped in mono — to be used in the film
Bjork’s dottir joins her mum on the big screen
Seeing double? The Icelandic singer Bjork is a striking part of the blood, guts and vengeance saga The Northman, which is in cinemas now.
Bjork, 56, plays a seeress in the film, and made a typically understated appearance on the red carpet at the premiere in Reykjavik — sporting a red dress, with red, yellow, green and black hair.
Attending another premiere, in LA, a few days later was her daughter, Doa, wearing a similar red dress.
Doa, 19, is also in The Northman; making her acting debut, alongside Nicole Kidman and Anya Taylor-Joy, playing an Irish girl held captive on an Icelandic farm. She was cast by director Robert Eggers, who rated her work ethic and spark, and is also a friend of Bjork’s.
Filming took place in Belfast during the pandemic. Doa said: ‘There were some very tough days. Especially for my enslaved women and I! We were not exactly clothed for the weather — we were given slave attire. We were meant to be barefoot, but we did get these protectors for the bottoms of our feet.’
Doa now lives in California, where she is at college, and has hopes of an acting career. But she also sings, and can be heard in the movie doing a traditional Scandinavian herding call known as ‘kulning’, used to summon livestock down from the mountains.
Bjork, 56, plays a seeress in the film, and made a typically understated appearance on the red carpet at the premiere in Reykjavik — sporting a red dress, with red, yellow, green and black hair. Attending another premiere, in LA, a few days later was her daughter, Doa, wearing a similar red dress
Having captured millions of hearts with her Oscar-nominated performance in Coda, Aled Jones’s daughter Emilia now has a very different kind of date with actor Nicholas Braun, aka Succession’s gormless ‘Cousin Greg’. The two star in a film retelling of Kristen Roupenian’s short story Cat Person, which went viral (and divided opinion) when it was published in the New Yorker in 2017. Emilia will play Margot, a 20-year-old student, who goes on a single bad date with Robert, a man ten years her senior, and decides to sleep with him, even though she doesn’t want to.
Special agent role calling for busy Lydia
Watch out for Lydia Leonard (pictured), star of the new series Ten PerCent — a brilliantly wry British reworking of the hit French drama Call My Agent, which starts on Prime Video on Thursday
Watch out for Lydia Leonard (pictured), star of the new series Ten PerCent — a brilliantly wry British reworking of the hit French drama Call My Agent, which starts on Prime Video on Thursday.
Leonard takes the role of the kick-ass, manipulative lesbian agent Rebecca Fox — but is a little more gentle than her French counterpart Andrea Martel, played by Camille Cottin.
Christian Baute, the new show’s executive producer, said the British characters were only loosely based on their French counterparts.
‘It wouldn’t quite work culturally [if they were the same],’ he insisted. ‘Camille is very exuberant. In a workplace, you wouldn’t necessarily find that exuberance in the UK. They are not the same.
‘They wouldn’t be as candid in their judgment. It would be more polite. You wouldn’t say things in the same way as the French character.’
He added: ‘She [Rebecca] has this stiff upper lip thing; she wants to be in control of herself, in control of other people as well. Which is not different to Andréa. But she’s doing it differently, more quietly.’
Leonard, 40, went to Bedales school and is familiar from her screen roles in the TV dramas Gentleman Jack, Apple Tree Yard and Flesh & Blood; and for playing Anne Boleyn in the RSC’s Olivier and Tony award-winning Wolf Hall.
She plays Cherie Blair in the forthcoming series of The Crown and tells me that the roles of the ambitious agent and the ambitious lawyer were both rewarding. ‘They are different personalities, but I approached it all in the same way,’ she said.
Visitors to the new Oscars museum in Hollywood might be surprised to find themselves face to face with Will Smith.
The actor, who was recently banned from attending Academy events for ten years after slapping Chris Rock on stage, features in a sci-fi montage, called Behold, which uses footage from his 2004 film I, Robot. It’s part of a permanent exhibit; with Smith’s face popping up around 20 times an hour.
But surely it will have to be edited, to remove the disgraced star? An Academy Museum spokesperson insists not and said: ‘The Academy Museum is committed to exploring both celebratory and complex moments of film history, and we believe there is more to learn from addressing complex moments head-on than from erasing them. For that reason, we do not plan on removing he film from the installation.’
Expectations are high for the new Netflix adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, starring The Crown’s Emma Corrin.
Jack O’Connell, who was in Skins, Godless and The North Water, will play gamekeeper Mellors.
Will it be steamy? Well, there are THREE credited intimacy co-ordinators, including the leading expert Ita O’Brien, who worked on It’s A Sin, The Pursuit Of Love and Gentleman Jack.
After the unconfined joy of a wedding, comes the pain of paying the bill. And according to a friend who is a top-end events planner for the A-list crowd, billionaire Nelson Peltz will have had to dig deep — really deep — for the nuptials of his daughter Nicola and David and Victoria Beckham’s son Brooklyn.
Estimates have generally put the cost of the three-day affair in Palm Beach around the £3 million region. However I’m told that this is a fraction of the true figure at the ‘Chelsea Clinton level’ event.
My mole says that security will have cost £500,000; and flower display and designs, including accessories, set build, rigging and a large team, a cool £3 million.
The temporary structures with air con and flooring, portaloos, catering tents — and a bespoke chuppah canopy— could add a further million.
Other items to pay for (but far from the whole list): food over three days — £2,000 a head, including the cost of renting all the kitchen equipment. Labour: £2 million. Furniture: £500,000. Hotels for all: £750,000. Then add a planner’s fee of 15 per cent on the top.
Final total: somewhere between £15 and £20 million.
Sean and Julia as you never saw them before
Hard to believe, but this balding old gent with the wobbling jowls and double — nay quadruple — chin is actually the well-preserved Sean Penn, 61.
Penn, who is going through a divorce from Greta Scacchi’s daughter Leila George, donned 11 separate prosthetics — including chin pads — to play Nixon’s Attorney General John N. Mitchell in the Starzplay drama Gaslit, which goes out from Sunday.
It tells the Watergate story from the view point of Mitchell’s wife Martha, who is played by Julia Roberts. It was filmed in the US during the pandemic, and Penn famously insisted on only working with vaccinated crew.
He also struggled with the amount of make-up required, saying he had to spend three-and-a-half hours in the chair every day for five months.
‘Having so many prosthetics applied every single day was wholly necessary, to effect the transformation, but was like a level of water torture,’ he commented later. ‘That level of application I do not advise for claustrophobics.’
Hard to believe, but this balding old gent with the wobbling jowls and double — nay quadruple — chin is actually the well-preserved Sean Penn, 61
It tells the Watergate story from the view point of Mitchell’s wife Martha, who is played by Julia Roberts. It was filmed in the US during the pandemic, and Penn famously insisted on only working with vaccinated crew