Austin Butler explained why he called ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens a "friend" in a past interview.
Butler told Esquire he was "respecting her privacy" and wasn't trying to downplay their relationship.
"I have so much love and care for her," he said.
Austin Butler is aware of the backlash that resulted from calling his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Hudgens an unnamed "friend" who encouraged him to pursue his career-defining role as Elvis Presley in "Elvis."
"Oh, yeah, I learned a lesson with that one," Butler said in a cover story for the March issue of Esquire, released on Tuesday.
"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," he continued. "I have so much love and care for her. It was in no way trying to erase anything."
The actor added that he wanted to respect Hudgens' privacy because he personally values that, too.
"The month before I heard that Baz 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, and I was singing along, and my friend looked over at me and goes, 'You've got to play Elvis,'" Butler recalled. "I said, 'Oh, that's such a long shot'"
"Then a couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano. I never really sang for any of my friends or anything," Butler continued. "That same friend was there, and I was playing the piano. She said, 'I'm serious. You've got to figure out how you can get the rights to a script.'"
Although Butler didn't name Hudgens, fans quickly identified her as the "friend" in the story because she shared the same anecdote during an appearance on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" in 2019 prior to their breakup.
The Oscar nominee confirmed that he was indeed referring to Hudgens during an interview with The Los Angeles Times, published weeks later.
"I was with my partner at the time," Butler said.
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