Austin Butler has revealed that after his mother died when he was 20, he wondered if he should give up acting and whether it was a “noble profession”.
The 31-year-old Hollywood star was nominated for a Golden Globe and is being tipped for an Oscar nomination for his critically acclaimed role as Elvis Presley in the musical biopic Elvis.
Butler started out as a child actor on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon before moving into teen dramas before making his Broadway debut in the 2018 revival of The Iceman Cometh.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Butler recalled, “I started when I was about 12. I just got an extra job. I was an incredibly shy child.
“If this kid knew I was sitting around all my heroes right now talking in public like that, he wouldn’t believe it. But being among other actors, I suddenly felt that I had found my tribe.
“I started wanting to be with other people. My mom saw that in me and I owe everything to her because she quit her job, drove me to auditions and took me to acting classes.”
He said that when his mother died of cancer in 2013, he “never felt pain like this before.”
“I started to question it,” he added. “Suddenly I was around doctors and people who were suffering a lot in hospitals, and I thought, ‘Is acting a noble profession? Should I be doing this or should I be giving myself in some way that can help people who are dealing with cancer or something like that?’”
The actor said he went to New Zealand to film a young adult TV show after her death, but admitted he “went home and cried every night.”
“I was dealing with regret, but it was also a feeling that I wasn’t in tune with something that was really satisfying,” he said.
“I was done with that show when they canceled it after two seasons, and I said, ‘I’d rather not work as an actor than ever do something like that again.’
He added that he took a break from the profession around the age of 24 or 25, but began “going deeper and deeper into depression” for about six or eight months.
His breakthrough came when he was encouraged to audition for a revival of The Iceman Cometh and landed the role, describing it as “the moment that changed my career”.
Butler’s portrayal of the late King of Rock’n’Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis brought him worldwide acclaim.
The actor said that when his agent told him about Luhrmann’s plans, he hired a movement, singing and dialect coach and started working as if he already had the job.
He added: “I met Baz after about a month. And we spent five months trying different things.
“And then I finally had to do a screen test. I thought, “Oh, I don’t have that job?”
Butler was one of the all-star Hollywood Reporter team that deliberated at the Oscar nominees round table, which also included Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, Jeremy Pope, Ke Huy Quan and Adam Sandler.