The actor previously referred to his former girlfriend as such in a discussion about getting the lead role in the film “Elvis,” which Hudgens encouraged him to pursue. Butler’s label drew the ire of fans, who thought he was downplaying Hudgens’ role in his life.
But in Butler’s mind, he was just protecting Hudgens.
“Oh, yeah, I learned a lesson with that one,” he told Esquire in a profile published on Tuesday. “I felt that I was respecting her privacy in a way and not wanting to bring up a ton of things that would cause her to have to talk.”
“I have so much love and care for her,” he added, explaining that he “was in no way trying to erase anything.”
“I value my own privacy so much,” the actor said. “I didn’t want to give up anybody else’s privacy.”
Butler referred to Hudgens as a “friend” during a Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview last year.
“The month before I heard that [director Baz Luhrmann] was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend, 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,’” he said.
“A couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano,” he added. “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.’”
Butler previously clarified in a Los Angeles Times interview that instead of a random “friend,” he did indeed mean Hudgens ― but he still didn’t refer to her by name.
“I was with my partner at the time,” he said. “We’d been together for so long and she had this sort of clairvoyant moment and so I really, I owe her a lot for believing in me.”
Butler and Hudgens dated for nearly a decade before splitting in 2020. Butler is now dating model Kaia Gerber, while Hudgens recently tied the knot with professional baseball player Cole Tucker.