Austin Butler chose Tarantino meeting over Top Gun: Maverick screen test

Austin Butler ended up landing the role of Tex Watson in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Last Updated on January 29, 2024

Austin Butler Tarantino

Austin Butler could have had an even more successful 2022 than he already did, that year nabbing numerous accolades and an Oscar nomination for playing Elvis Presley for Baz Luhrmann. As it turns out, he could have had a role in one of that year’s highest-grossing movies, Top Gun: Maverick…if Austin Butler didn’t bail on it to meet with one of Hollywood’s top directors, Quentin Tarantino.

Austin Butler revealed his dilemma on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, saying, “I ended up having to choose between going to the screen test for Top Gun: Maverick or saying yes to Quentin Tarantino.” But Butler’s decision to side with QT wasn’t a slight against the Tom Cruise movie, saying it came down to having already met with Tarantino prior to lining up the potential Maverick gig.

Tarantino would cast Austin Butler as Manson Family member Tex Watson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which began filming not long after Top Gun: Maverick in 2018. Hollywood would hit theaters in the summer of the following year while it took another three years for Maverick to make it to the big screen, with delays primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the wait was apparently worth it, as the sequel took in $1.5 billion worldwide, thus making it one of the biggest hits of the decade so far. Hollywood, meanwhile, would be one of Tarantino’s highest earners. (Elvis wasn’t exactly treated cruelly, either, with a worldwide haul of $280 million.)

Austin Butler has spoken about his pre-production process with Quentin Tarantino before, recalling a 12-hour audition where he didn’t even know he was being considered to play one of the most notorious criminals of the 1960s. He also had about as much fun as you can on a Tarantino set, saying they are like no other in the business.

Personally, I’d say Austin Butler made the right choice between the two, not just out of loyalty to Tarantino but that it gave him a chewy role to help launch his career. Had he focused on Top Gun: Maverick instead, he may have gotten lost in the celebration of Tom Cruise.

While he may not land a role in Tarantino’s 10th and final film and he didn’t go to the danger zone with Tom Cruise, Austin Butler has taken to the skies in Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air, which premiered on January 26th and will run through mid-March.

Do you think Austin Butler made the right decision in choosing Tarantino over Cruise? What do you hope to see from the actor in the future?

Source: People

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.