Toni Basil Speaks On Coaching Austin Butler For Role In ‘Elvis’


Toni Basil has been working as a choreographer in films from the ’70s to the 2000s. She has several credits for movies like American Graffiti (1973), The Rose (1979), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Something to Talk About (1995), That Thing You Do (1996), My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Legally Blonde (2001), Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), and The House Bunny (2008).

Recently, the 79-year-old opened up to Yahoo Entertainment about being contracted to coach Austin Butler for his role in the new Elvis biopic. “Because I danced in the ‘60s, and I still can dance,” Basil said. “I’m probably the only one alive that did dance in the ‘60s and can coach it [Austin Butler].”


Toni Basil gives details of how she came to work with Austin Butler

LOS ANGELES – OCT 16: Toni Basil at the ALS Association Golden West Chapter Los Angeles County Walk To Defeat ALS at the Exposition Park on October 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA

The “Mickey” crooner revealed to Yahoo Entertainment that she was informed by a vocal teacher about the need to coach Austin Butler. “I was told, ‘This guy is auditioning for Elvis. We think you’re the one to work with him. Since you worked with the real Elvis, you’ll be able to coach him,’” Basil told the news outlet. “There were no instructions. But I didn’t need instructions. ‘A guy is auditioning for Elvis? Cool. I know exactly what to do.’”


RELATED: Elvis’s Last Concert In 1977—A Timeline Of What Occurred That Night On Stage

The 79-year-old also stated that the role of Elvis was a highly competitive one with many actors like Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Harry Styles trying to land the lead role in the Baz Luhrmann film. She also revealed that Butler got the job because he interpreted the role exactly the way the director wanted.

“They all wanted the role really badly, but Austin just worked so hard. I think Austin encompassed the many things that it was going to take — because it wasn’t just how you danced and how you popped your knees, you know?” Basil said. “There was something much more to it. He embodied a lot of the talent, a lot of the pieces, of what needed to go into being Elvis. And I do think he captured Elvis — in his own way, and in Baz Luhrmann’s way.”

Toni Basil reveals how she coached Austin Butler

LOS ANGELES – JUN 21: Austin Butler at the Handprint Ceremony Honoring Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley And Riley Keough at TCL Chinese Theater IMAX on June 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA

The 79-year-old disclosed that while coaching Butler for the role of Elvis, she had to explore the full character of Elvis Presley’s complex personality. “Elvis wasn’t so subtle” when it came to his “signature moves that he always used,” Basil told the outlet. “If you go back to his early days through his Vegas days, there were many signature moves — and it wasn’t a lot of different moves.”

“And he went through several decades of Elvis’s life. When you are doing the life of someone like Elvis, who everyone can go back and see on YouTube or go back and see his films, that’s really stepping in there,” she continued. “There’s a real fine line of, ‘Is it going to be a caricature of this person or a reality?’ You know, where is that fine line? Because Elvis was very broad.”

Toni Basil
at the “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers” Opening Night, Geffen Playhouse, Westwood, CA 12-05-13

Basil claimed that Austin learned to embody his character so well by watching performances of the late Elvis Presley. “You don’t tell. You can’t tell someone. It’s physical. But it’s so easy to look at all of Elvis’s old early videos, late videos,” the singer concluded. “There’s so much material on him. So, we’d grab a song and begin to imitate Elvis’s movement and put it on Austin. … First, we worked on the obvious movements. And he just took to the movement. In the beginning, it was foreign to him, but I never thought, ‘Ooh, I don’t know if he’s going to get this.’ He moved seamlessly. Moved through it by hard work.”

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