Elvis star Austin Butler finds a new voice for The Bikeriders, Latest Movies News - The New Paper

Elvis star Austin Butler finds a new voice for The Bikeriders

LOS ANGELES – American actor Austin Butler is best known for his uncanny performance as American singer Elvis Presley in the biographical drama Elvis (2022), which earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

The 32-year-old California-born star so immersed himself in the role, for which he perfected the late rock and roll legend’s husky Southern drawl, that he still sounded like Presley in many interviews and appearances a year later.

Fans briefly wondered if Butler’s voice was forever altered, but he ditched all traces of Elvis when he played Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, one of the antagonists in the science-fiction epic Dune: Part Two (2024).

And he has transformed his voice again for the new crime drama film The Bikeriders, which is showing in Singapore cinemas.

Co-starring Tom Hardy and Jodie Comer, it is a fictional story inspired by the rise and fall of a real-life 1960s Chicago motorcycle club, which slowly transformed from a community of speed-loving outsiders into a dangerous gang.

Adapted from the 1968 non-fiction photo book of the same name, the movie blends fictional and true elements and is told from the perspective of a young woman, Kathy (Comer), as she falls for a charismatic and reckless biker named Benny (Butler).

Benny is taken under the wing of the club’s leader Johnny (Hardy) and becomes one of his lieutenants. But his loyalties are torn when Kathy begs him to leave the increasingly violent group.

At the film’s recent Los Angeles premiere, Butler says he carefully considered “how thick to go with the (Chicago) dialect” for his character, especially as he did not have voice recordings of the real Benny to work with.

“I spent some time thinking about it beforehand. I wanted to figure out where Benny fits into the tapestry of the film.”

Butler eventually decided to match Benny’s accent to Kathy’s, which Comer – the Emmy-winning British star of spy thriller series Killing Eve (2018 to 2022) – had come up with after listening to a recording of the real woman.

“Once I’d heard Jodie’s audio, then I tried to find something that felt suited to that.

“I feel like I went subtle with it, but I worked with a dialect coach to do that work,” says the actor, who was accompanied to the premiere by his girlfriend Kaia Gerber, a 22-year-old American model and the daughter of former supermodel Cindy Crawford.

The Bikeriders’ writer-director Jeff Nichols says Butler managed to come up with a voice and accent that worked for the role.

“I gave him examples of other people talking, and he had to absorb the world around him and come up with a voice that kind of fits his own body and the character,” says the 45-year-old American film-maker, who also directed the biographical romantic drama Loving (2016).

Asked to compare this with his voice work on Elvis, Butler hints that this was much less stressful.

“When you’re playing someone whom everybody knows, there’s the pressure of knowing that people can watch interviews with that person.

“So it puts a different kind of responsibility on it.”

But the star tries to find things he has in common with every character he plays, he says.

“You can work only with yourself, so you’re trying to find different parts of yourself, and he’s definitely a part of me.”

One thing Butler does share with Benny is a passion for riding motorbikes, something the actor’s father taught him to do as a teenager.

“It planted a seed in my mind at a young age of loving motorcycles,” he says.

Nichols was thrilled that Butler and other members of the cast were already comfortable on motorbikes when they showed up on set.

“But I just considered that a bonus. The film is really about people, so you need actors who can bring to life the eccentricities of a lot of these characters – that’s the first priority,” he explains.

“The fact that a lot of them rode bikes just made my life a lot easier.”

  • The Bikeriders is showing in cinemas.