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The One Reason Harry Styles Could Never Play Elvis, Biopic Director Says

The singer auditioned to play The King in Baz Luhrmann's upcoming movie.

On June 24, Baz Luhrmann's long-awaited Elvis Presley biopic will finally hit theaters, with Austin Butler in the title role. The actor won the desirable part in 2019, and before he was announced, there was talk of other famous faces possibly stepping into The King's spangled jumpsuits. One of those potential Elvis stars was Harry Styles, who has since opened up about his interest in playing the part. Now, in a new interview, Luhrmann has explained why Styles didn't land the role—and it has nothing to do with his talent. Read on to see why that casting was never meant to be.

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There was one unavoidable downside to casting Styles.

Baz Luhrmann at a screening of "Elvis" in London in May 2022
Cubankite / Shutterstock

During an interview with Australia's Fitzy & Wippa radio show, Luhrmann was asked why Styles didn't make the cut to play Presley.

"Harry is a really talented actor," Luhrmann said. While Styles is best known as a singer, he's also had roles in Dunkirk and Eternals and will star in Don't Worry Darling, out later this year. "I would work on something with him," the director continued. "The real issue with Harry is, he's Harry Styles. He's already an icon."

Luhrmann added that Styles was very interested in the role. "Harry and I came to a place, genuinely. I mean, he was just desperate to put the suit on and explore. He's such a great spirit, and I have nothing but great things to say about Harry Styles," the filmmaker said.

Styles explained why he was drawn to the role.

Harry Styles performing on "Today" in 2020
lev radin / Shutterstock

In May, Styles talked about not getting the part in Elvis on The Howard Stern Show.

"Elvis was probably the first person I knew besides my family when I was a kid," the 28-year-old star said (via The Independent). "For that reason, there was something incredibly sacred surrounding him, so I thought I should try to get the part."

But, when he didn't get it, Styles had no hard feelings. "I feel like if a director feels like I'm not the best person for the role then it's better for them and it's better for me," he said. "If they think the movie's going to be better with someone else then I don't want to do it because I don't want to be the not-as-good version."

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Several other name actors were considered.

Austin Butler at a screening of "Elvis" in London in May 2022
Cubankite / Shutterstock

In 2019, when the Elvis casting was underway, reports came out about various actors who were being considered for the lead role. In addition to Butler and Styles, hopefuls included Ansel Elgort, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Miles Teller, according to Entertainment Weekly. Butler ended up scoring the part, and he stars alongside Tom Hanks as Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker and Olivia DeJonge as Presley's wife Priscilla Presley.

Luhrmann said Butler was "born to play" Elvis.

Austin Butler, Baz Luhrmann, and Tom Hanks at a screening of "Elvis" in London in May 2022
Cubankite / Shutterstock

In the Fitzy & Wippa interview, Luhrmann said that it was undeniable that Butler should be the one to embody Presley in his movie.

"I didn't pick him, it's as if the role drew him in," the Romeo + Juliet director explained. "He was almost born to play it. We can talk about it now, he loses his mom at the same age Elvis did." Luhrmann added that Butler was "non-stop two years living and breathing as Elvis … He's now going through this sort of deprograming thing, because it's been a long time since he's known who he was."

Butler's previous work includes roles in the movies, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and The Dead Don't Die, and in the TV series, The Carrie Diaries and Switched at Birth. Now that Elvis has debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, Butler has begun receiving critical praise for his performance.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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