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Austin Butler didn’t dance or sing before ‘Elvis.’ How a movement coach made him the King

Butler, who has been lauded for his portrayal of the rock legend, is up for a best actor Academy Award.
/ Source: TODAY

Everyone knows Austin Butler sounded just like Elvis Presley (and still does!) when playing the King of Rock 'n' Roll in “Elvis,” but the actor also moved just like the late rocker. And that took some help.

Butler, whose portrayal of the late rock icon earned him a best actor Academy Award nomination, was trained by movement coach Polly Bennett.

Bennett didn’t teach Butler how to dance like Presley, electing instead to focus on why he danced, how he moved and held his head.

“It means excavating where he’s from, where he grew up, what was in his body, what he had for free and therefore what comes to be elevated when he’s on stage,” she told TODAY on the March 10 episode.

Butler didn’t sing or dance prior to “Elvis,” so how did Bennett go about teaching him?

“With fear and trepidation," she said. "You know, you’re fighting everyone’s expectation of what Elvis is and who Elvis is.”

Austin Butler gave a critically acclaimed performance as Elvis Presley in "Elvis."
Austin Butler gave a critically acclaimed performance as Elvis Presley in "Elvis." Warner Bros. / Alamy

But turning Butler into one of music’s biggest stars was a project. He and Bennett trained for four months, while she also helped guide the extras to properly act as screaming girls from the 1950s.

“This is a world where you would be, sort of, married off at 15,” Bennett said. “So, the idea of responding to somebody dancing on stage, who’s moving their legs, and shaking and looking at you and flicking their hair, it does something internal to you. So I had to work with those girls to literally uncorset them.”

Bennett has a solid track record, having worked with Rami Malek on his Oscar-winning role as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” She also trained Emma Corrin and Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana in “The Crown.” Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, either.

Butler thanked her when he accepted the award for best leading actor at the BAFTA Awards in February.

“It was amazing for Austin to acknowledge that work,” Bennett said.

Butler will find out if he can add an Oscar to his mantle on Sunday, March 10 when the Academy Awards air live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.