Austin Butler is getting heat for calling then-GF Vanessa Hudgens the ‘friend’ who encouraged Elvis’ role

Elvis old Austin Butler created a little drama on social media because of the way he apparently chose to refer to his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens, who he dated for nine years. Their breakup happened while he was shooting the film.

Footage of Butler discussing who inspired him to pursue the role of Elvis just won him a Golden Globe on The Hollywood Reporters round table has gone viral. “The month before I heard that Baz [Luhrmann] was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend,” he said. “And there was an Elvis Christmas carol on the radio and I was singing along, and my friend looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to play Elvis.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s such a long shot’.”

“A few weeks later I was playing the piano,” he continued. “I never really sang for any of my friends or anything. The same friend was there and I was playing the piano. She said, ‘I’m serious. You have to figure out how to get the rights to a script. .’ Then my agent called and said, ‘So Baz Luhrmann is doing an Elvis movie’.”

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Butler didn’t specify who this friend was, but fans found footage of Hudgens telling the same story Staying with Kelly and Ryan in 2019, when she and Butler were still dating. Hudgens appeared on the show gushing about her then-partner and her crush on him.

“Last December we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music and then an Elvis Presley Christmas carol came on,” Hudgens said. “He had just dyed his hair dark. He’s a natural blonde… and I looked at him and he was singing along and I was like, “Babe, you’re going to play Elvis.” Then in January he sat at the piano. And he’s playing and he’s singing and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how, but you have to figure out how to play Elvis. I don’t know how we’re going to get the rights or what we’re doing, but you have to play him.”

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Vanessa Hudgens knew that playing Elvis was her boyfriend’s calling

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Hudgens and Butler’s breakup was reported in January 2020. A Cosmo UK interview with her was released the same month, where she talked about Butler as her partner. “It’s eight years this year – FaceTime, good communication, respect and trust [are what keep us going]” she said then. “The longest we’ve been apart was four months. It stinks! You start to hate hearing yourself say ‘I miss you’. But if it’s your person, you make it work.”

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler in August 2019

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler in August 2019.

Jacopo M. Raule//Getty Images

While some fans believed Butler called Hudgens a friend suggested that things were amicable, others weren’t amused by the move or thought it was just awkward. Then there were those who didn’t understand the Twitter drama at all. (Butler and Hudgens don’t follow each other on Instagram, for what it’s worth.)

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One user summed it up simply: “I promise you Vanessa doesn’t care and Austin doesn’t like you guys stopping this either.”

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A source said E! back then, that distance contributed to the split. (Butler filmed Elvis in Australia and talked about not seeing his family for three years while they’re making the project.) “They’re just shooting on two different continents, and it’s a matter of distance,” a source said. “There is no bad blood at all and they have a lot of respect for each other.”

While they are shared for now [they’re] will see what happens,” another source added. “They have such a history and deep connection that they could find their way back to each other.”

In the end, they didn’t. Hudgens is now dating Cole Tuckerand was first romantically linked to him in November 2020. Butler, meanwhile, has been with Kaia Gerber for a year.

He spoke to GQ in May about his breakup from Hudgens’ right guard. “Life is full of change and you have to find a way to constantly evolve and grow,” he said.

Main photo by Alyssa Bailey

Senior news and strategy editor

Alyssa Bailey is senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees celebrity and royal coverage (especially Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She has previously held positions at With style and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, getting people to take #ootd pictures of her, and exploring New York City.

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