We’re barely getting to the end of January, and 2023 has already been a pretty successful year for Austin Butler.
Starting off with a Golden Globe win for his portrayal of Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of the singer, and this week the actor managed to outdo himself by bagging a coveted Oscar nomination for the role.
And while everyone is smitten with Austin, there are plenty of fans online who want to stress that this might not have happened without the encouragement of someone very special – Austin’s ex, Vanessa Hudgens.
Austin and Vanessa began dating in 2011 after meeting on the set of high school musical several years ago. They stayed together for almost a decade, during which time they cemented their status as a beloved power couple.
For some reason, Austin was cast as Elvis in July 2019 while he and Vanessa were still together.
A month later, Vanessa celebrated her friend’s big casting as an innkeeper Live with Kelly and Ryanreveals she had the idea of him playing the legendary singer even before they knew Luhrmann’s biopic was in the works.
“It’s so crazy because last December we were driving and listening to Christmas music and then an Elvis Presley Christmas carol came on,” she recalled.
“He had just dyed his hair dark — he’s naturally blonde — and I looked at him and he sang along and I was like, ‘Babe, you gotta play Elvis,'” she continued. “‘I don’t know how, but I mean it. You have to play him.’”
She continued: “Then in January he sat at the piano – he’s a musician – and he plays and he sings and I guess I don’t know how but you have to figure out how to play Elvis. I don’t know how we get rights or what we do, but you have to play him.
As we now know, Austin and Vanessa called it quits just five months later in January 2020 — around the time elvis was set to begin filming in Australia – with reports citing “a matter of distance” and different schedules as the reason for the split.
So fast-forward three years, and Austin reflected on how he got the coveted role, recalling that an unnamed “friend” of his actually had the idea — you guessed it — while they were in the car listening to Christmas music.
“So I was looking at Christmas lights and there was an Elvis Christmas carol on the radio,” Austin told The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month. “I was with a friend of mine singing along, and my friend kind of looked at me and said, ‘You have to play Elvis.'”
He continued: “A few weeks later I was playing the piano. I never really sang for any of my friends or anything. The same friend was there and I played the piano. She said: “I’m serious. You have to figure out how to get the rights to a script.’”
Of course, it didn’t take long for fans to connect the dots and realize that Austin’s version of events matched directly to the same story Vanessa told in 2019, leading many to wonder why he’d decided to date her to leave the game picture.
As the clip gained traction online, fans couldn’t help but express their outrage at Austin’s lack of credit for Vanessa, with some branding the lack of credit as downright “disrespectful” considering how long they’ve been together.
“If I had dated the same man for NINE YEARS of my adult life and then he called me ‘a friend’ on live TV after I predicted the role that would define his career…” someone tweeted in response.
However, others came to Austin’s defense, arguing that it was actually very kind of him to call Vanessa a friend, especially given that they’re both now dating other people.
And now, after weeks of criticism, Austin is finally giving Vanessa her dues.
Austin, who celebrated his Oscar nomination during an interview with the LA Times on Tuesday, was asked by reporter Mark Olson if he wasn’t able to “clear up” the confusion over exactly who inspired him to get the role to take over.
“You talked about a moment before you even got the role, it was Christmas time and an Elvis song came on and you were with a friend and you were singing along,” Olson began.
Before he could finish, Austin quickly chimed in and set the record straight. “I was dating my partner at the time,” he said.
When asked if it was Vanessa he was referring to, Austin eventually credited her for her involvement in the casting.
“That’s right,” he said. “We were together for so long and she had this kind of psychic moment and so I really owe her a lot for believing in me.”
While all of this is going on, Vanessa has remained fairly quiet about her ex’s busy career, and as such it seems unlikely that she’ll publicly respond to his nod.
Still, she took time out last week to poke fun at — or shade, as you choose — Austin’s lingering Elvis accent, which has been at the center of discussions for several months.
An Instagram user shared a meme about Austin’s mysterious Southern train and joked that he went to the “Lady Gaga School of Oscar Campaign Acting,” prompting Vanessa to comment, “Crying.”
And with that, justice is restored, and I think the Austin/Vanessa/Elvis discourse may finally be over. See you at the Oscars!