Baz Luhrmann Says Austin Butler Helped Revive ‘Elvis’ After Shutdown

For the first time since 2020, the Palm Springs Film Festival returned to an in-person event this year, with events including Thursday evening’s starry awards gala and Variety’s annual 10 Directors to Watch and Creative Impact Awards brunch.

The Friday brunch at the Parker Palm Springs honored “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” actor Angela Bassett with the Creative Impact in Acting award; “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” writer-director Rian Johnson with the Creative Impact in Screenwriting award; “Elvis” director Baz Luhrmann with the Creative Impact in Directing award and “Causeway” actor Brian Tyree Henry with the Breakthrough Performance honor.

Luhrmann’s award was presented by Austin Butler, who introduced Luhrmann as “a filmmaker who knows how to create a spectacle like no other.”

Accepting his award, Luhrmann said that like children, he loves all his films equally but differently. But “Elvis,” he said, was different because “We almost lost that child.”

“During the pandemic, Tom got some cold thing,” Luhrmann recalled. “And the film fell apart – I couldn’t keep the cast together.”

“I went to Austin and said the film’s over,” Luhrmann said. But Butler had an incredible connection to the movie, and he said “I’m not going,” Luhrmann remembered. “He inspired me to go back to Tom and say, ‘You’ve got to do this.”

“We held this child like a precious, precious thing because its mission was to get born and bring audiences back into theaters, and the fact that it actually happened is why I’m standing here now,” Luhrmann said.

Costume designer Ruth E. Carter introduced Angela Bassett, quipping, “I can think of two numbers that haven’t changed in over 25 years – my mom’s phone number, and Angela Bassett’s measurements.”

She went on to laud Bassett for being “Angela is “effortless in her passion for telling stories about strong Black women.”

Bassett explained, “This work is my destiny — a gift, especially for a little Brown girl who grew up in the era when everything came to a halt when you paid attention to Black people on TV.”

Thanking her “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” team, Bassett said, “We felt Chadwick’s presence every day on set, and to see how that beautiful energy radiated throughout the film, is something I will always be proud of. Once again we were able to demonstrate what Black unity, joy and love on film looks like both in front of the camera and behind.”

Henry, who Danielle Deadwyler introduced as “the top tier member of the three-name club,” recalled how during his early years, his family had a camcorder but somehow no footage of him exists.

“But now I come here and you do see me,” he said. “When people see you, you have to believe them. Thank you for seeing me!”

“Glass Onion” star Kate Hudson introduced Johnson, saying, “He does not tread water, he does not stay in place.”

“Telling a story is one thing, telling a story with something on its mind is another,” Hudson said of Johnson’s films.

Thanking his cast and crew, Johnson said, “The movie is all these people coming together. Now it feels like we’re all emerging out into the sunlight.”

Each year, Variety editors and critics select 10 film directors likely to make an impact in the coming years. This year’s 10 Directors to Watch were Maggie Betts (”The Burial”); Elegance Bratton (“The Inspection”); Elijah Bynum (“Magazine Dreams”); Alice Diop (“Saint Omer”); Eva Longoria (“Flamin’ Hot”); Nida Manzoor (“Polite Society”); Laurel Parmet (“The Starling Girl”); Saim Sadiq (“Joyland”); Jingyi Shao (“Chang Can Dunk”) and Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”).

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