"It's like meeting royalty, and meeting your hero from Training Day at the same time!" Butler shared, laughing during a January 31 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. "It's really intense." (Watch the complete late night appearance above.)
Butler, who was in his 20s when he made his Broadway debut opposite Washington in the 2018 revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, remains in awe of the legendary performer, declaring that he "changed my whole career". Following the completion of their Broadway run, Washington privately called director Baz Luhrmann to advocate that Butler be cast as Elvis Presley in Luhrmann's biopic, which went on to become the highest grossing non franchise film of 2022, netting Butler a Golden Globe, and pending nominations at the Academy Awards, the BAFTA's, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and more.
Says Butler: "The moment that changed my whole career was doing the play The Iceman Cometh with Denzel here in New York. It shifted my whole career in many ways. He was so kind to me, and being in that rehearsal room with him... he will go down in history as one of the greatest actors to ever live. He was so generous to me."
The production, which received eight Tony nominations, was an intimidating experience for the young actor. "I was so scared. I memorized the entire four hour play, I memorized the entire thing before the first table read!" Butler stated emphatically, leaning forward with intensely remembered emotion. "That way I could sit right next to him and not look at the script the whole time. I knew I had to give it everything I had."
Check out the video above to hear more, as well as Butler's memories of the late Lisa Marie Presley, the stress of remembering an awards speech in the face of a timer, and the costume pieces he took home from the ELVIS set.