Yes, Austin Butler has been in a relationship with model Kaia Gerber for nearly a year. But ICYMI, the actor previously dated Disney darling Vanessa Hudgens for about nine (!) years from 2011 to 2020 — and she basically manifested his success as the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis.
While guest-hosting on Live! With Kelly and Ryan in August 2019, Vanessa shared a sweet anecdote about her then-BF, revealing that before Austin landed the role as Elvis Presley, she was convinced that he had to play the musician in a biopic.
“Last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then [an] Elvis Presley Christmas song came on,” Vanessa shared with co-host Ryan Seacrest. “And he had just dyed his hair dark — he’s a natural blonde — and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, ‘Babe, you need to play Elvis. Like I don’t know how, but I’m serious, you need to play him.’”
“Then January, he’s sitting at the piano — he’s a musician — and he’s playing and he’s singing, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how, but we need to figure out how you can play Elvis,’” she continued. ‘“I don’t know how we’d get the rights… but you need to play him. It is your calling.’ And then that next month, we get a call saying Baz Luhrmann is doing the Elvis biopic. And I was like, ‘Babe, this is it. This is it.’”
Obvi, Vanessa is a manifestation queen (and can predict the future?!). Fast forward nearly four years later, and Elvis has proved to be Austin’s breakout performance, and earned him his first-ever Golden Globe Award. However, eyebrows are raising after Austin sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for an “Actor’s Roundtable,” and recounted a story nearly identical to the one Vanessa told about how he secured the role.
“The month before I heard Baz was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights… and there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio,” Austin began. “I was with a friend of mine, and I was singing along, and my friend kind of looked over at me and goes, ‘You gotta play Elvis.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, that’s such a long-shot.’”
“Then a couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano… and that same friend was there… she said, ‘I’m serious, you got to figure out how you can get the rights to a script and write something and do Elvis’s life,’” he continued. “Then a couple days after that, my agent called and said, ‘So Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film,’ and the hairs just stood up on my arms.”
We don’t know *for sure* that Austin’s “friend” is Vanessa — perhaps he had multiple people he went to see Christmas lights with and who thought he bore a striking resemblance to the King of Rock and Roll. But their stories are extremely similar, leading many to believe that he is referring to his ex in this story.
Naturally, people sounded off on Twitter. Some called the actor out for referring to Vanessa simply as a friend after nearly a decade-long relationship, while others came to his defense.
“him calling vanessa hudgens a ‘friend’ PLEASEEEE,” user @mcstardently wrote in a now-viral Tweet with a clip from the interview. “It’s not a huge deal, but do people really not realize that saying ‘friend’ is disrespectful when someone was an integral part of almost a decade of your life?? Like, he couldnt have said ‘my partner at the time’ or even credited her with ‘vanessa hudgens, my gf at the time’ ??,” user @stanallday96 penned in a reply Tweet.
Meanwhile, @keonaaa_w wrote, “I promise you Vanessa don’t care and neither does Austin like y’all need to stop this,” and @lovenarryxoxo said in a separate Tweet: “There’s literally nothing wrong with Austin Butler calling Vanessa a friend that is called GROWTH AND MATURITY. Learn it.”
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