Austin Butler is well aware of the backlash he received last year for referring to Vanessa Hudgens as a “friend.” During a new interview, the Masters of the Air actor, 32, clarified that he was only trying to respect his former girlfriend’s privacy when he made that statement in a past interview.
“Oh, yeah, I learned a lesson with that one,” Austin told Esquire in an interview that was published on Tuesday, February 6. “I felt that I was respecting her privacy in a way and not wanting to bring up a ton of things that would cause her to have to talk.”
The Dune: Part Two star also pointed out that he has “so much love and care for her” and emphasized that he “was in no way trying to erase anything” he had with her in the past.
“I value my own privacy so much, I didn’t want to give up anybody else’s privacy,” Austin concluded.
Last year, fans noticed a similarity between a story that Austin had been telling and one that Vanessa, 35, had also told in the past about him being cast as Elvis Presley in Elvis. The only difference was that Austin referred to her as a “friend” during a 2023 interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“The month before I heard that [director] Baz [Luhrmann] was making the movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend, and there was an Elvis Christmas song on the radio,” the Oscar nominee said at the time. “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.’ 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.’”
Shortly thereafter, social media users criticized Austin for omitting Vanessa’s name from the conversation, accusing him of discrediting their past relationship.
During her 2019 interview on Live With Kelly and Ryan, Vanessa recounted the same story, revealing that it was, in fact, her boyfriend at the time whom she encouraged to play the “Heartbreak Hotel” artist.
“Last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then an Elvis Presley Christmas song came on,” the High School Musical star said at the time. “He had just dyed his hair dark. He’s a natural blond, and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, ‘Babe, you need to play Elvis.’ Then, in January, he was sitting at the piano. And he’s playing and he’s singing and I’m like, ‘I don’t know how, but you 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.’”
Austin and Vanessa dated for nearly a decade from 2011 until 2020. Both have since moved on with their respective partners — Austin is doing model Kaia Gerber, while Vanessa just married her new husband, Cole Tucker.