Austin Butler wasn't "trying to erase" his relationship with Vanessa Hudgens by labelling her a "friend."

The Elvis star dated the High School Musical alum for nine years until they split in 2019 and he seemingly downplayed their romance in a roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter last year when he explained a "friend" told him he was destined to play Elvis Presley on screen, but Austin is adamant he simply wanted to protect his ex-girlfriend's privacy.

He told Esquire magazine: "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. I have so much love and care for her. It was in no way trying to erase anything.

"I value my own privacy so much. I didn’t want to give up anybody else’s privacy.”

Austin, who is now dating actress/model Kaia Gerber, previously sparked a social media debate when he seemingly referenced Vanessa in the 2023 interview by saying: "The month before I heard that Baz [Luhrmann] was making the [Elvis] 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.'

"I said, ‘Oh, that’s such a long shot.’ Then my agent called and said, ‘So Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film...'"

After making the film about the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Austin went straight into filming his next project Masters of the Air and he recently revealed his Elvis co-star Tom Hanks recruited him while they were working on the movie together.

During an appearance on the U.K. TV show This Morning, Austin explained: "I knew [I'd got the Masters of the Air job] right towards the end [of 'Elvis']. I didn't know what was going to happen with Elvis so I was looking for my next job and Tom said I've got this World War II thing that we're working on and that was how it came about."

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