Friday, April 12, 2024

Austin Butler Is Getting Heat for Calling Then-GF Vanessa Hudgens the ‘Friend’ Who Encouraged Elvis Role

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

Footage of Butler discussing who inspired him to pursue the Elvis role that just won him a Golden Globe at The Hollywood Reporters roundtable 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 song on the radio and I was singing along and my friend looked over at me and goes, ‘You’ve got to play Elvis.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s such a long shot.’”

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

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Butler didn’t specify who that friend was, but fans found footage of Hudgens telling the same story on Live With Kelly and Ryan in 2019, when she and Butler were still dating. Hudgens appeared on the show, gushing about her then-boyfriend and her excitement for him.

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

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Hudgens and Butler’s breakup was reported in January 2020. A Cosmo UK interview with her was published that same month, where she spoke about Butler as her boyfriend. “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 sucks! You start hating 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 thought Butler calling Hudgens a friend suggested things were amicable, others weren’t amused by the move, or thought it was just plain awkward. Then there were those who didn’t understand the Twitter drama at all. (Butler and Hudgens do not follow each other on Instagram, for what it’s worth.)

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the way austin using the words ‘my friend’ when referring to women is so so funny to me like babe vanessa has told us all the blue christmas story three times we know it was her!! it’s okay!!!

— mollie (awards szn brainrot version) (@bcofl0ve) January 8, 2023

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the way everyone is crying and throwing up i thought austin butler had insulted vanessa… turns out he called her a friend and that’s got everyone clutching their pearls 😭🫥

— valerie (@adriftallmylife) January 10, 2023

One user summed it up simply, “I promise you Vanessa don’t care and neither does Austin like y’all need to stop this.”

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I promise you Vanessa don’t care and neither does Austin like y’all need to stop this🤣🤣🤣

— k | FLOWERS (@keonaaa_w) January 10, 2023

A source told E! at the time that distance contributed to the split. (Butler was filming Elvis in Australia and spoke about not seeing his family for three years while doing 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’re split for now, [they’re] going to see what happens,” a second source added. “They have such a history and deep connection they could find their way back to one another.”

They ultimately didn’t. Hudgens is now dating Cole Tucker, and was first linked romantically 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 pretty vaguely. “Life is full of changes, and you’ve got to find a way to constantly be evolving and growing,” he said.

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Alyssa Bailey

Senior News and Strategy Editor

Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.

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