Why Baz Luhrmann didn't want Harry Styles to be Elvis

The ‘Moulin Rouge!’ director says that the pop star auditioned for the part alongside Austin Butler and Miles Teller.

by Jenna Mahale
07 June 2022, 10:53am

Sometimes you’re just overqualified for a job. It happens to all of us, even pop gods like Harry Styles who, it was recently revealed, lost out on the titular role in Baz Luhrmann’s glitzy biopic Elvis due to his celebrity stature. With Harry vehicles Don’t Worry Darling (think The Stepford Wives for the 21st century) and My Policeman (his much-anticipated bi cop movie) coming to cinemas this autumn, as well as a forthcoming part in the MCU, the “As It Was” singer is booked and busy as they come in 2022. But he’ll never be Elvis. Why, Baz? Why?

The filmmaker gave his answer this week in an interview with Australian radio hosts Fitzy and Wippa, explaining that Harry Styles is a man, myth, and legend in his own right, and so simply too iconic to play a fellow industry king: “Harry is a really talented actor. I would work on something with him. The real issue with Harry is, he’s Harry Styles. He’s already an icon.” I mean true, but he’d also wear the hell out of those rhinestone jumpsuits. Chosen Elvis star Austin Butler, implicitly not an icon by this admission, can at least make use of any potential resentment accrued in his Dune: Part 2 role as story villain Feyd-Rautha. Everyone wins!

During the audition process, which Baz describes as more of a “series of rich workshops”, our good friend Harry “was just desperate to put the suit on and explore.” Eventually, it became clear that there was only one man for the job. And he was not Whiplash star Miles Teller. “The role drew [Austin] in because he was almost born to play it,” Baz says, “I didn’t pick him.” Parallels between Austin and Elvis’ life experiences quickly became apparent. “[Austin] loses his mum at the same age that Elvis did,” the director adds. He describes the movie shoot as long and intense: “two years non-stop living and breathing as Elvis.” 

Well, we’re glad to have had Harry as Harry these past couple of years, cocaine, sideboob, and everything in between.

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Harry Styles