They Don’t Make Them Like Austin Butler Anymore

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After Elvis and the Oscar-nomination, the 32-year-old actor is back with two buzzy projects: Masters of the Air and Dune: Part Two. He’s got a burning ambition and old-school Hollywood charm—and steely-eyed focus on just one thing.
Austin Butler is about to get his ass whupped.

Butler, towheaded and scrawny, not more than nine years old and painfully shy, cowers. The class bully is on the other side of his front door. Right there, on the lawn. Telling him to come outside so he can pound his face in. Butler looks to his mom. What do I do?

His mom is gentle. The least judgmental, most openhearted person he’ll ever know. Not a mean bone in her body. But she also understands how the world works—bullies included. So she looks her younger child dead in the eye and tells him what needs to happen next. “Lace up your shoes,” she says, “go out there, and beat the hell out of him.”

Butler does as he’s told. Of course, bullies are never as tough as they want to appear, are they? This one is no different; once Butler is outside, the bully tries passing his would-be victim’s beating off to the much bigger friend he brought along with him. But Butler, steeled with a new resolve, has an answer for that: “You came over. I’m taking you down.”

The bully strikes first—he tries to whack Butler with his skateboard—but Butler dodges. He tackles his opponent. Pins him to the ground. And then he just starts whaling. The bully relents.

It’s the end of the fight, but it’s not the last time Butler will scrap. A timid kid with no connections, he’ll force his way into Disney Channel and Nickelodeon stardom. As a young adult, he’ll overcome profound grief to find new depths in his craft. He will work harder and longer than anyone and everyone he meets to convince audiences that his leap from child actor to Hollywood leading man—perhaps the most terrifying jump in show business—is not just possible but inevitable. He will take this world in inches. And then, as a man, through sheer force of desire and artistic abandon, he’ll try to become the first movie star since Leonardo DiCaprio became the last movie star.

Doubt him if you will. But don’t underestimate his chances.

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