For most cable TV watchers born between a very specific window in the mid-’90s, Austin Butler was first introduced to cultural consciousness as the once-in-a-blue-moon Nickelodeon/Disney Channel actor who dated Vanessa Hudgens. A few years and some made-for-TV movies later, he’s a household name who just won his first Golden Globe for his starring role in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
It takes a lot to become The King: You need the good looks, the gyrating hips, and the sultry Deep South accent. Although Butler didn’t carry a ton of star power at the time, his Elvis audition edged out A-listers like Harry Styles, Ansel Elgort, and Miles Teller — a noble achievement that he’s evidently really, really wearing with pride, because even months after wrapping production, he can’t seem to let that damn voice go. Ever since the Elvis press junket began, Butler, a native of Anaheim, California, talks like he learned English at Graceland.
Talk about method acting. Below, we dissect the evolution of Butler’s bizarre Elvis voice over the past decade.
2012: Rags to Riches
Before you hear post-Elvis Butler, it’s important to remember where he came from. One of his first major “grown-up” roles was in The CW’s short-lived Sex and the City prequel series The Carrie Diaries, where he played Sebastian, a high school beau to Carrie Bradshaw. In this interview from the show’s 2012 premiere, Butler speaks in an effortless, nondescript accent, although it is pretty naturally low. When he’s asked which of Adult Carrie’s lovers Sebastian is most in-line with, he answers Mr. Big, who’s about as metropolitan as they come.
2019: He’s Austin, But He Ain’t Texan
Butler’s big break finally came when he was cast as the seemingly innocuous, horse-riding Manson Family member Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. The real-life Tex Watson was born in Dallas and remained in north Texas until his move to Los Angeles; as a Texan expat herself, this author was impressed with Butler’s country boy drawl. You can hear it for yourself in the clip below around the 1:30 mark.
2019: Big Blue Suede Shoes to Fill
Perhaps playing Tex is partially to blame for Butler’s voice now. When Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood premiered, Butler had just been cast as The King. For one, his voice has certainly gotten lower, although he was already a full-grown 21-year-old back when The Carrie Diaries premiered. Secondly, you can catch blips of his down-south persona poking through. Paired with his dark hair, it feels like the ghost of Elvis is creeping up on him already.