In 1968, after a decade in the doldrums churning out terrible films and soundtrack albums, Elvis Presley made a triumphant return to the stage in a televised comeback special. The black leather suit he wore for this performance lives long in the memories of his fans. A replica of it was central to the performance given by Austin Butler in Baz Luhrman’s smash hit movie of the Rock and Roller’s life.
Butler was thrown in at the deep end during the filming of the biopic of perhaps the most famous singer of the twentieth century. The first scene he shot depicted one of the most famous performances of Elvis’s career, the one that has become known as the 68 Comeback Special.
By all accounts, the performance went well and set the tone for the rest of the film’s production. So, to mark it, Butler kept the replica of the iconic black suit he wore in the scene.
Clothes were essential to Butler’s performance. Inhabiting them helped him inhabit Elvis’s character. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly he said: “Clothes change the way that you feel for any character that you play, but never more so than with him, because in the ’50s when I’m wearing a lace shirt, you move differently where the pants flow.”
“When you’re in leather pants, you feel a lot different than when you’re in flowy ’50s pants.”
It seems for some actors the performance is all in the (leather) pants.