Entertainment

The World Has Been Sleeping on 'Elvis' Star Austin Butler

Thank goodness the actor is finally having a moment. He's been one to watch since starring on 'The Carrie Diaries.'

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.
Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Back in 2019 when it was announced that Baz Luhrmann’s next film would be an Elvis Presley biopic, the handful of names in the running to play the rock ‘n’ roll icon made a lot of sense. There was Harry Styles, a rock star himself; Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who had already played a young John Lennon in another music biopic, Nowhere Boy; Miles Teller, whose charisma you could picture in the role; and Ansel Elgort, who has since been accused of sexual assault but was being cast in other musicals at the time, like Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story.

There was also a fifth name in consideration: Austin Butler, who, in comparison to the other A-listers competing, seemed like a bit of a wild card. But after the “intense” audition process, Luhrmann ended up being the most impressed with Butler, crowning him The King in the passion project that he’d been working on since 2013’s The Great Gatsby wrapped.

Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

Elvis is now finally in theatres, and while the reviews are all over the place, the one thing most critics can agree on is how fantastic Butler is. If he wasn’t who you had counted on to play Presley, or if you simply hadn’t heard of the actor prior to the release-well, perhaps aside from his nine-year role as Vanessa Hudgens’ boyfriend, which called for many public Coachella appearances-the buzz around his performance might have you intrigued. It would be very wrong, though, to say that everybody is only now recognizing Butler’s previously untapped potential. For fans of The CW’s The Carrie Diaries, which ran for two seasons in 2013 and 2014, it’s simply about damn time that the charmer had his breakthrough moment. The truth is, the world has been sleeping on Austin Butler-aside from the small but mighty hive of Carrie Diaries fans who have been waiting for years for the we-told-you-so moment we’re now experiencing. The teen series, a prequel to Sex and the City about high-school-aged Carrie Bradshaw, was arguably his first major role. After a handful of appearances in kids movies and TV stints, primarily on The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, he joined The Carrie Diaries in 2013 as Carrie’s bad-boy love interest Sebastian Kydd. The CW show wasn’t at all canon, and the only boy Carrie had eyes for was Sebastian-never mind that in the HBO show she says she lost her virginity to Sean Bateman on his ping-pong table. But that’s besides the point, because Butler was one of the clear standouts. Like AnnaSophia Robb’s wide-eyed Carrie, you couldn’t help but swoon whenever he appeared and basically felt weak in the knees when he called her “Bradshaw.” Between their first kiss in a swimming pool and every scene in which they shared his Walkman, the young actor had a presence that was hard to ignore.

Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

It was a crime not only when The Carrie Diaries was cancelled, but that Butler didn’t just become an in-demand leading man. Obviously, not enough Hollywood execs had seen the way he smiled at Carrie down the school hallways. A few years later, he joined another short-lived teen series, MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, and then wasn’t seen all that much on-screen again, until a scene-stealing performance as Charles Manson disciple Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. But while he wasn’t landing many major movie roles, he was catching the attention of theatre fans and the No. 1 thespian-turned-Hollywood-royalty: Denzel Washington, with whom Butler starred opposite in a 2018 Broadway rendition of The Iceman Cometh.

In fact, we actually have Washington to thank for Elvis, as he literally gave Luhrmann a cold call and urged him to see Butler in an audition, having been so impressed with his stage work. (I also like to think Denzel is secretly a Carrie Diaries stan.) And not only does Washington ride for Butler, but Presley’s living family have been more than impressed by the actor. (When his granddaughter Riley Keough invited him to the Graceland estate, I like to think they all fired up a binge watch of The Carrie Diaries.)

Really, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world saw Butler the way fans of The Carrie Diaries did in the 2010s. And it’s only the beginning: Next, he’ll start work on the highly anticipated Dune sequel, taking on a role that was famously played by a young Sting in the David Lynch adaptation from 1984. It may have taken a few years, but the moment Butler is having is not unlike the swoon-inducing hold Elvis Presley ignited decades ago as his popularity grew. We’re ready for the star’s swivelling hips to hit the big screen, and we’ll follow his smoulder through whatever blockbuster or awards-primed indie he inevitably does next.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

Entertainment

Why the Shocking Twist in 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' Is So Killer

The A24 horror-comedy has a lot to say about how logged on we are today.

A24
A24
A24

This story contains spoilers about the ending of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.Even if you’ve tried to game the TikTok algorithm to feed you videos from #fashiontok, #foodtok, or whatever else you might be interested in, when you open the app, you tend to be inundated with a whole lot of discourse. In many ways, it’s incredible how attuned young people are in knowing who they are and how comfortable they are having frank conversations. But in other ways, sometimes it can feel like quick-hit platforms have a tendency to deduce real issues or strip things of their meanings-whether that’s teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental illness, or people labelling musicians as “female or male manipulator artists” without ever listening to their music.

A24’s latest horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies (out now in theatres) about a group of 20-somethings partying during a hurricane that turns into a hunt for a killer is like a movie downloaded from the current millennial-Gen-Z cusp moment of the internet we’re in. When the trailer for the movie directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a story from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, dropped earlier this year, it made that very clear. In just over a minute and a half, we hear the cast of cool girl breakouts yelling, “You’re always gaslighting me,” “you fucking trigger me,” “you’re so toxic,” and “you’re silencing me.” Even the movie’s tagline is, “This is not a safe space.”

Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much logged onto millennial/Gen Z social media-isms throughout, from lines hilariously pieced together by the Twitter zeitgeist to scenes featuring TikTok dances. The movie operates on a delectable kind of slasher-movie paranoia, making the audience just as unsure as the slumber party gone wrong with who is killing them off left and right. But given how much of a playful satire it is of contemporary youth culture, it ends up being a twist that feels all but inevitable, and couldn’t be more razor-blade sharp.

A24
A24
A24

Once the torrential downpour stops and the sun comes up, it seems as if Maria Bakalova‘s Bee is about to be our Bodies Bodies Bodies final girl, now that she’s realized how much her relationship with Sophia (Amandla Stenberg) is based on lies. As a test to see how easily Sophie can lie-and therefore deny killing all of her friends from midnight until dawn-Bee asks her if she cheated on her with Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan. It’s a fact that Bee already knows to be true, considering she came across a pair of panties in Sophie’s car that matched a bra she noticed in Jordan’s bag. When Sophie denies it, Bee tries to take her phone (which Jordan admitted would have texts about their recent hook-up on it), and the two start fighting outside in the remnants of the storm. Bee eventually pulls a phone out of the mud, and it looks like the WiFi and cell phone service that was gone all night is finally back. Thinking she’ll pull up the evidence she needs-and confirmation to get the hell out of there-she’s surprised when Sophie says, “That’s not my phone,” and even more surprised to see what’s on it.

It turns out that it belongs to David, Pete Davidson’s coked-out rich kid character whose parents’ house they’re partying at and was the first one to die in the movie. They know it’s David’s phone because it opens to a TikTok, soundtracked by the lockdown classic TikTok song “Bored In The House” by Curtis Roach and Tyga, that shows him waving around his dad’s decorative but very real sword (!) to try to open a champagne bottle (!), idiotically waving it towards himself, only to slice right into his own neck. As it turns out, nobody killed David-not an intruder, not Jordan, not Sophie, not Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) she knew nothing about (except for the fact that he was a Libra moon), and not their friend Max (Conner O’Malley) who left early the night before. David accidentally killed himself, and hysteria is what killed everybody else. You could say that it’s almost predictable that it turns out to be a clout-chasing TikTok that led to the movie’s murderous spiral of events. Although, that would undercut what Reijn and DeLappe are trying to say with the darkly funny movie with an especially dark, funny twist. Like TikTok or Twitter, the movie is a constant feed of discourse, buzzwords, and blanket statements that snarkily laugh at and with its ensemble. There are many moments in particular that drive this home-like Alice trying to be sympathetic in talking about mental health, only to make the conversation about her, and David ridiculing his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) for getting all of her thoughts from Twitter after she says he “gaslights” her. On top of that, David picks up the sword and tries to go viral to begin with because his masculinity felt threatened by Greg, who did the trick in the first place.

While it would be downright terrifying if a party with people who are supposedly your best friends turned into a slasher flick, in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the horror isn’t a vengeful or heartless killer. Everybody may become a psychopath of sorts when they feel physically threatened or legitimately toxic name-calling and backstabbing ensues, but Bodies Bodies Bodies and its devilish twist is about the humour and horror in the devoid way we can use social media today more than anything else. Like Sophie and Bee’s terrified realization at the end, it makes you want to log off for awhile… right after you post a 100K-worthy tweet about it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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