Austin Butler has revealed he questioned if he should leave acting and if it was a “noble profession” after his mother died when he was in his early 20s.
The Hollywood star, 31, has been nominated for a Golden Globe award and is tipped for an Oscar nod for his critically acclaimed portrayal of Elvis Presley in the musical biopic Elvis.
Butler started as a child actor on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, then moved on to teen dramas before making his Broadway debut in the 2018 revival of The Iceman Cometh.
Speaking to Hollywood Reporter, Butler recalled: “I started at about 12. I just stumbled into extra work. I was an incredibly shy kid.
“If that kid knew that I was sitting around all my heroes right now, talking like this in public, he wouldn’t believe it. But being around other actors, suddenly I felt like I’d found my tribe.
“I started wanting to be around other people. My mom saw that in me, and I owe her for everything because she quit her job and drove me to auditions and took me to acting classes.”
He said that when his mother died of cancer in 2013 he had “never experienced pain like that before”.
“I started to question,” he added. “Suddenly I was around doctors and people that were hurting a lot in hospitals, and I thought, ‘Is acting a noble profession? Should I be doing this or should I give myself in some way that can help people who are dealing with cancer or something like that?'”
The actor said that after her death he went to New Zealand to film a young adult TV show but admitted he would “go home and cry every night”.
“I was dealing with grief, but it was also this feeling that I wasn’t aligned with something that felt truly fulfilling,” he said.
“I got done with that show, once they cancelled it after two seasons, and I said, ‘I would rather not work as an actor than ever do something like that again’.”
He added that at the age of around 24 or 25, he took time off from the profession but started “sinking into a deeper and deeper depression” for around six or eight months.
His break came when he was encouraged to audition for The Iceman Cometh revival and landed the role, describing it as “the moment that changed my career”.
Butler’s portrayal of the late King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis has brought him worldwide recognition.
The actor said that once his agent told him about Luhrmann’s plans he hired a movement coach, singing coach and dialect coach and started working like he already had the job.
He added: “I met with Baz after about a month. And we spent five months trying things.
“And then eventually I had to do a screen test. I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have the job?'”
Butler was among the star-studded panel for the Hollywood Reporter for its Oscar contenders roundtable, which also included Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, Jeremy Pope, Ke Huy Quan and Adam Sandler.