How Does Vanessa Hudgens Tie Into Ex Austin Butler’s ‘Elvis’ Role? Breaking Down the Timeline

They're all shook up! Austin Butler and Vanessa Hudgens have both recounted the story of how his Elvis biopic role came to be — but fans have noticed some subtle differences in the tales. The Spring Breakers actress, 34, and Butler, 31, dated for nine years before Us Weekly broke the news of their split in January 2020. Ahead of their breakup, Hudgens gushed over the Switched at Birth alum during an appearance on Live With Kelly and Ryan. "Last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then an Elvis Presley Christmas song came on," she said in August 2019. "He had just dyed his hair dark — he's a natural blond — and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, 'Babe, you need to play Elvis.'" At the time, the Second Act star said she was "so, so proud" of her then-beau for his major career move. (Butler was officially cast as Elvis Presley in the Baz Luhrmann project in July 2019.) "He's always been so inspiring to me. Like, his work ethic is compared to no one," Hudgens added. "I'm always so in awe of him and I'm so excited that this is happening for him." Butler put his heart and soul into the role, which earned him his first-ever Golden Globe win earlier this month. The California native gave a shout-out to Priscilla Presley and the late Lisa Marie Presley while accepting his honor. (Lisa Marie died two days after the awards ceremony at age 54 after suffering cardiac arrest.) Since the June 2022 premiere of Elvis, the Life Unexpected alum has continued to embody the titular character — especially with his speaking voice. "It's funny to me because I don't even think about it," he confessed to The Los Angeles Times after being nominated for an Academy Award on Tuesday, January 24. "I guess after three years of doing everything that I could to focus on this one goal of trying to bring life to Elvis in this film, I think that there's certain muscular habits that must pop up. If I was trying to sound like Elvis, I would sound very different right now." When the 2023 awards season began weeks prior, Butler looked back on his path to portraying the late "Blue Suede Shoes" crooner. During The Hollywood Reporter's Actors Roundtable, the Zoey 101 alum told nearly an identical story to Hudgens' from 2019 — but noticeably left her name out of the conversation. "The month before I heard that Baz was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend, and there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio and I was singing along, and my friend looked over at me and goes, 'You've got to play Elvis,'" he recalled. "I said, 'Oh, that's such a long shot.'" Butler added: "A couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano. I never really sang for any of my friends or anything. That same friend was there and I was playing the piano. She said, 'I'm serious. You gotta figure out how you can get the rights to a script.' Then my agent called and said, 'So, Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film.'" While speaking to The Los Angeles Times, the Dune: Part Two actor still avoided directly mentioning Hudgens. "I was with my partner at the time," he said when asked about the piano story. "We'd been together for so long and she had this sort of clairvoyant moment and so I really — I owe her a lot for believing in me." Scroll down for an explanation of how Hudgens ties into Butler's Elvis success: