Austin Butler’s life changed with Elvis, but to some he’s the guy who cut his teeth on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon fare. To others, though, his breakthrough was as Tex Watson, convicted Manson murderer, in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. As the killer, he’s alternately terrifying and pathetic, even before he’s gruesomely dispatched by Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth. (Note: In real life Watson is still very much alive and still very much incarcerated.) It’s not a huge role, but it was juicy enough that Butler shot down another big, very different movie.
“I ended up having to choose between going to the screen test for Top Gun: Maverick or saying yes to Quentin Tarantino,” Butler revealed on a recent live episode of the podcast Happy Sad Confused (as caught by IndieWire). “I’d already met with [Tarantino], so I did that.”
Butler didn’t reveal which Maverick character he would have tested for. Was it the gung ho show-off Hangman, ultimately played by Glen Powell? One of the others with fun code names? Whatever the case, he would have had to undergo some truly painful-sounding training and flown in actual planes? Instead he got to have Brad Pitt fake-beat the crap out of him while one of the 2019’s best movie dogs gorged on his nuts.
Besides, he got to do some piloting later anyway, in Apple TV+’s new show Masters of the Air, so it all worked out in the end.