"[This role] seemed as though it was this impossible mountain to climb in front of me. There were so many pitfalls and so I just was focusing on one step at a time," Butler told The Hollywood Reporter. "And that’s why those moments when Lisa Marie and Priscilla [Presley] got to see the film and then I first saw them after… nothing I would do would ever top that. And especially with Lisa Marie not being here with us. I just wish she was here to celebrate today with us."
He said that Lisa Marie "was the most straightforward and supportive person," adding, "I know from all the times that we got to celebrate together how we would celebrate today, you know, and I wish she and Elvis were here to get to experience this time."
Butler finished by reflecting on what her support meant to him as he put some much time and effort into bringing her father back to life onscreen. "The thing I’m most grateful for is that I was able to spend the time that I had with Lisa Marie, and also the time that I had in getting to live for three years exploring the life of her father," he said. "When I see moments like today or when I feel moments like today, I have to really take a second to go, 'Okay, this is this is something to be really grateful for.' But nothing compares to that moment I looked in her eyes after she first saw the film, where she told me how much it meant to her. I’ll really cherish that for the rest of my life."
While speaking to Deadline, director Baz Luhrmann noted, "We’ve had some really difficult days... And it was good to just get away and be here for this."
In a statement shared with ET following her death, Butler said his heart was "shattered" over the shocking news and unexpected loss of Lisa Marie. "My heart is completely shattered for Riley, Finley, Harper and Priscilla at the tragic and unexpected loss of Lisa Marie," the 31-year-old actor said in his statement. "I am eternally grateful for the time I was lucky enough to be near her bright light and will forever cherish the quiet moments we shared. Her warmth, her love and her authenticity will always be remembered."
Butler was last joined by Lisa Marie at the 2023 Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 10, in what would end up being her last public appearance. At that event, Lisa Marie told ET that Butler's performance was "truly mind-blowing," adding, "I hope he wins."
Butler, who worked closely with the Presley family and has received public praise from them leading up to and after the release of the biopic, most recently thanked them for their support when he won the Best Actor prize at the Golden Globes. "Thank you, guys. Thank you for opening your hearts, your memories, your home to me. Lisa Marie, Priscilla, I love you forever," he said.
Two days prior to the announcement of the 2023 Oscar nominations, Butler was one of many who attended Lisa Marie's memorial at Graceland. The memorial, which was live-streamed from the front lawn of the Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee, saw speeches from Lisa Marie's loved ones as well as a tribute to the late singer-songwriter.
The 95th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be handed out live at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on March 12 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Oscars coverage.