WITH a thick southern drawl and dressed head to toe in black leather, Austin Butler transformed into The King for Baz Luhrmann’s hit Elvis biopic.
But beneath the jewelled jumpsuits and jet black quiff, the star — who is up for Best Actor at tonight’s Oscars alongside Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser — connected with the ghost of the Suspicious Minds singer to get into character.
Austin said he spent hours wandering around Graceland, the Memphis mansion which was once home to rock ’n’ roll legend Elvis, to feel his presence.
Speaking of meeting the chart legend’s former wife Priscilla, Austin said: “That time was less about the questions and more about trying to feel his energy, trying to feel the humanity of him.
“She took me over to Graceland and said, ‘This is where I believe his spirit is.’
“Then I just got to spend the day in Graceland by myself and sort of sit in different rooms and think, ‘This is where they had Christmas’ and, ‘This is where he used to sit and eat breakfast’ and just humanise him.”
Meanwhile Austin — who scooped Best Actor at last month’s Baftas — revealed he felt closest to the Hollywood icon through Priscilla and her late daughter Lisa Marie, who died from cardiac arrest in January.
Speaking to a class at LA’s Chapman University, he continued: “Just laying eyes on Priscilla for the first time and realising these are the same eyes that looked into Elvis’s eyes all those years ago and fell in love.
“You are the mother of his only child, the specialness of that.
“She was so generous and so kind to me. It was just being in her presence really.”
Austin also revealed that he felt a paternal love for Lisa-Marie after locking himself away for three years in Australia before filming to channel every fibre of her late dad.
Meeting the actress at Graceland for a special screening, Austin said: “We’re standing in front of each other and we’re looking into each other’s eyes and I felt so much love for her through him in that whole process.”
Austin — who was pictured with Lisa-Marie at the Golden Globes two days before she died — said: “I’ve never felt closer to someone more quickly than I felt with her.”
Hunk Paul goes with the Flo
FLORENCE Pugh and Paul Mescal got into the party spirit as they attended a glitzy pre-Oscars bash.
The Don’t Worry Darling actress sparkled in a shimmering green mini-dress as she posed alongside Best Actor nominee Paul, who is hoping to scoop a gong for his role in coming-of-age film Aftersun.
Elsewhere at the CAA party, hosted at the Sunset Tower Hotel in California, Rita Ora flaunted her abs in a cut-out ensemble as she cosied up to director husband Taika Waititi.
Olivia Wilde was also spotted ringing in her 39th birthday as she blew out candles at the star-studded event ahead of the 95th Oscars ceremony.
The awards will be hosted by comic Jimmy Kimmel, marking his third stint at the Academy podium.
Perks of the job
NOT only do Oscar nominees receive official Awards goodie bags containing a £105k haul, but lucky luvvies can also pick up fab freebies at the extra gifting suites cropping up all over La La Land.
The GBK Gifting Lounge kits out everyone in the running for a gong with a £40k Lush Africa safari, an £8k five-night stay in a Turks and Caicos villa plus a £10k four-night stay in the Bahamas.
It’s alright for some . . .
Priyanka turns up the glamour
PRIYANKA Chopra looked heavenly in a racy white ensemble as she hosted a pre-Oscars party.
The Citadel actress – who is married to singer Nick Jonas – turned up the glamour in a jewelled white skirt paired with a feathered jacket and bodice for the bash at the Paramount Studio Lot in LA.
Priyanka co-hosted the South Asian Excellence event alongside The Office’s Mindy Kaling and said: “To look around me and see my peers and colleagues that have hustled and pounded the pavement for years, and to be able to have them receive a moment that’s just theirs, makes me like, cry.”
Home front for Rylan
HE’S often showing off his lavish £1.2million five-bed Essex home on social media, and now I can reveal Rylan Clark is taking his passion for property to our screens.
The TV presenter, right, who fronts Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, has filmed a BBC pilot for a new housing series called County Hunters with Rumpus Media, the firm behind C4’s Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back.
An insider said: “Rylan is keen to take on a few more work projects and is excited to try a property show. Everyone was really happy with how the pilot went and Rylan is crossing his fingers the Beeb pick it up for a series.
“It’s a fresh idea and Rylan has a huge following keen to see what he does next.”
Meanwhile, fans can catch him on Rylan’s Big Red Nose Day Challenge on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC1 as he joins a group of celebs for a three-day hike across Mount Cairngorm.
The reality star is back on top form after taking time off in 2021 after his marriage break-up.
It’s good to have him back.
Spot the difference
CHANGING Rooms star Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen has revealed he constantly gets mistaken for an unlikely doppelganger – Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
And it happens in reverse too.
Flamboyant interior designer Laurence feels for the US rock star, who like him boasts a mane of shiny dark hair, saying: “It really is weird because we do look very similar and we tend to do the same beard/hair thing. Even our childhood photos look similar.
“Poor Dave gets really confused because loads of people have been coming up to him and asking him about wallpaper and he’s like, ‘Look guys, I’m just a drummer, I don’t know about wallpaper’.
“Meanwhile, I constantly get asked about Foo Fighters.”
Speaking on Monday night at the launch for the Great British Bake Off musical at London’s Noel Coward Theatre, Laurence added: “I feel really sorry for him.”
I must remember to ask them what conditioner they use.
Maya making waves
MAYA Jama has conquered Love Island and is fast becoming the darling of the fashion world.
I’m told that the TV host’s close pal, British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, is considering putting her forward to appear as a cover star for the fashion bible.
A source said: “Edward loves the idea of Maya appearing on the cover in the future. She definitely has the high-fashion credentials and oozes style.
“It’s an uber-coveted honour, but she deserves it.”
Meanwhile Maya – who was hailed by Victoria Beckham for her style – has sported nearly £20,000 of designer clobber during her eight-week stint on the ITV2 dating show.
Let’s hope Maya makes room in her packed wardrobe for the inevitable host of Vogue freebies heading her way.
Andrea blasts rigging
ANDREA Riseborough has slammed Oscar nominees who use their A-list connections to campaign for their movies, despite being at the centre of a celebrity endorsement scandal herself.
The Brit is up for the Best Actress award after the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron promoted her indie film To Leslie, which took just £22,000 at the box office.
But Andrea, inset above, has now appeared to condemn using wealth and status to try to bag a nomination.
She said on the Ladies Night podcast: “The idea that you can buy a voice is the most dangerous thing.
“It makes a judgment on the audience that they are only willing to consume one of five things rather than a plethora of many different things.
“How do we know what people want? It is important to offer everything up in a much less pushy way so that films like this get through.”
Andrea faced calls to be stripped of her nomination after many believed that having Hollywood’s rich and famous supporting her film violated the rules on campaigning in the run-up to the Oscars.
I’m still Cindy running
MICHELLE Collins has revealed fans still shout “Cindy Beale” at her, 25 years after she left EastEnders.
Asked if she still gets recognised as Ian Beale’s wife, the actress, who also starred in Doctor Who and Corrie, said: “Of course I do, but then there are a lot of Doctor Who fans. And Cindy was a very popular character.”
But Michelle, who has partnered with charity Barnardo’s and is calling on the Government to offer free school meals to all school pupils, said she never gets time to put her feet up in front of the telly nowadays.
She said: “To be honest I don’t really watch television that much.
“When you are working in the theatre you don’t get much time so I don’t really watch the soaps.”
But asked if she’d return to the soaps, she said: “I always say never say never, but that is what everyone says, isn’t it.”