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EntertainmentJanuary 12, 20230

Austin Butler refers to ex Vanessa Hudgens as his unnamed ‘friend’

Who needs ex-girlfriends when you can have friends like Vanessa Hudgens?

Austin Butler — who dated Hudgens for nearly nine years — repeatedly referred to the actress as an unnamed “friend” while discussing how he landed the role of Elvis Presley in the 2022 titular biopic.

“The month before I heard that [director] Baz [Luhrmann] was making the [“Elvis”] movie, I was going to look at Christmas lights with a friend,” the Golden Globe winner, 31, explained during this year’s Hollywood Reporter’s Actor’s Roundtable.

“And 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 gotta play Elvis!’”

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
“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 gotta play Elvis!’” Butler said in part.
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C

Butler said he brushed off his pal’s suggestion, calling it a “long shot.”

“And then a couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano,” he continued, cautioning that he “never really sang for any of [his] friends.”

“That same friend was there, and I was playing the piano,” he went on. “She said, ‘I’m serious — you gotta figure out how you can get the rights to a script …’”

Austin Butler and Vanessa Hudgens in 2017
Hudgens told a nearly identical story in 2019 when the two were still together.

The actor said his agent called him days later to inform him of Luhrmann’s project. “And the hairs just stood up on my arms,” he recalled.

Though Butler did not identify his ever-encouraging companion, Hudgens, 34, told a nearly identical story during an August 2019 appearance on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” — a month after her then-boyfriend had been announced as the film’s star.


Butler and Hudgens began dating in 2011 and broke up in January 2020.

Austin Butler as Elvis Presley
Butler recently won a Golden Globe Award for his performance in the movie.
©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C

Though the actor is now making out on red carpets with girlfriend Kaia Gerber and Hudgens is madly in love with MLB star Cole Tucker, fans still feel Butler should have given the actress the “respect” of identifying her properly while recounting the tale of his success.

“Her name is Vanessa,” one upset TikToker commented on a clip of the moment, while someone else added, “I absolutely love him. Think he did an amazing job in this movie, but I absolutely hate that he referred to her as a friend.”

Another critic argued, “[He] could [have] at least said ex-girlfriend as it’s Vanessa so you know 😏.”

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler in 2019
Hudgens and Butler dated from 2011 to 2020.
Getty Images

But others disagreed, as one seemed to think that Butler “would have got [sic] hate either way.”

“Y’all saying he should have said nessa bye that would have been a pr nightmare all the attention would have been on their former relationship,” another social media user argued.

But to the aforementioned, someone responded, “I think he could have said ‘my GF at that time’ just a little bit of respect of the person she was for him for so many years.”

Butler went on to win the 2023 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the King of Rock and Roll on Tuesday.

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