Austin Butler thanks ex girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens "for always believing in him"

"I owe her a lot"

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler were one of the most beloved millennial couples of the last decade, dating from 2011 to 2020, breaking up that January after eight years together.

This month, the former couple are making headlines once more as Butler becomes one of the undeniable stars of award season for his role in Baz Luhrmann's biopic Elvis - something he says he couldn't have done without ex girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens.

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hudgens opened up about Butler playing Elvis Presley back in 2019, explaining in an interview on Live with Kelly and Ryan: "He had just dyed his hair dark… and I was like, 'Babe, you need to play Elvis. I don’t know how, but I’m serious. You need to play him.'"

She continued: "Then in January, he was sitting at the piano – he’s a musician – and he’s playing and he’s singing and I’m like, 'I don’t know how, but we need to figure out how you can play Elvis. Like, I don’t know how we get rights or what we do, but you need to play him.'"

This was an anecdote that Butler recounted himself this week during his Oscar buzz - he has been nominated for Best Actor, but the internet exploded when Butler referred to Hudgens as a "friend".

"The month before I heard that Baz was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend," he recalled this week. "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.' I said, 'Oh, that's such a long shot.'"

He continued: "A couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano - 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.'"

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a interview since with the LA Times however, Butler clarified that the "friend" in question was in fact Hudgens, confirming: "I was with my partner at the time."

"And people have been saying you must have been with Vanessa Hudgens. So that's right?" asked the journalist.

"That's right," confirmed Butler. "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."

We will continue to update this story. 

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.