"I have so much love and care for her. It was in no way trying to erase anything," he said
“Oh, yeah, I learned a lesson with that one. 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," said Butler.
"I have so much love and care for her. It was in no way trying to erase anything," he added.
Butler said because "I value my own privacy so much, I didn’t want to give up anybody else’s privacy."
The actor referred to his ex while discussing his Oscar-nominated Elvis role during a 2023 Hollywood Reporter Actors Roundtable conversation: "The month before I heard that Baz [Luhrmann] 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.' I said, 'Oh, that's such a long shot.' "
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"A couple of weeks later, I was playing the piano," he continued at the time. "I never really sang for any of my friends or anything. That same friend was there and I was playing the piano. She said, 'I'm serious. You gotta figure out how you can get the rights to a script.' Then my agent called and said, 'So Baz Luhrmann is making an Elvis film.' "
Fans online connected the dots, though, finding that Hudgens shared a nearly identical story years ago when the two were still together.
"Last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then an Elvis Presley Christmas song came on," Hudgens said on a 2019 episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. "He had just dyed his hair dark. He's a natural blond, and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, 'Babe, you need to play Elvis.' "
"Then in January, he was sitting at the piano," she added. "And he's playing and he's singing and I'm like, 'I don't know how, but you need to figure out how you can play Elvis. Like, I don't know how we get rights or what we do, but you need to play him.' "
Butler and Hudgens were spotted together for the first time in 2011, and they made public appearances at red carpets after that. A source confirmed to PEOPLE that the two broke up shortly after, officially splitting in January 2020, citing demanding work and travel schedules.
Butler gave a rare comment about his relationship with Gerber, 22, telling Esquire simply: "I'm happy."
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