He Is Glenough


Written by jen on November 14 2023

Glen is the cover boy for the December issue of Men’s Health! Pick up a copy next week!

Photoshoots > Outtakes > Session 038

MEN’S HEALTHHype is swirling around Glen Powell, the star of ‘Anyone But You,’ but he has other things on his mind—like getting in the best shape of his life, making great movies, and maybe even . . . finding love?
It has become trite compare friendly, happy men to golden retrievers, but actor Glen Powell’s retrieverdom is clinical. This man cannot help but look warmly, excitedly, and adoringly at whoever is near. Onscreen, such as when he played Hangman in last year’s Top Gun: Maverick, the role that brought his career from a simmering breakout to a boil, he can be a dick. Offscreen, he is hopeless.

While Powell was in Australia this past spring filming Anyone but You—a romantic comedy that he will not discuss when we meet in September, out of solidarity with the actors’ strike (any reflections on specific projects included here were gathered during an interview conducted after the strike ended)—he joined his costars in taking in the sights. He got caught in the rain. He rode atop a double-decker bus. He went to the zoo and fed a giraffe a carrot. In every photo, Powell had a wide grin on his face, like a kid on a roller coaster—this, he tells me, is called “the Powell face,” and his whole family is prone to it. In shots with his costar Sydney Sweeney from their Australia interlude, along with one well-documented appearance at CinemaCon in April, he looked overjoyed—he looked, many thought, very much in love.

These photos were coupled with news of Powell’s split from model and designer Gigi Paris; specious reports from the Daily Mail of strife between Sweeney and her fiancé, Jonathan Davino (who in spite of being “photographed carrying a bag and a dog bed out of their shared L. A. home” is still engaged to Sweeney); and an Instagram post from Paris, who had evidently unfollowed both Powell and Sweeney, captioned “know your worth & onto the next.” Suddenly everyone was certain that Powell and Sweeney were having a passionate affair, chaperoned by an Australian giraffe. The evidence was in their eyes.

Except that Powell looks at everyone like that. (Sweeney, too, suffers from resting baby-bunny face.) I experience this myself on an early fall afternoon on the patio of the restaurant at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. It’s a gloomy day and the restaurant is thinly populated and subdued, but when Powell bounds in behind the hostess, the few other diners perk up. He’s wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the logo of Caliwater (in which he is an investor), a Speedmaster watch from Omega (for which he is a “friend of the brand”), and a navy polo shirt from Brioni (for which he is the face of a new campaign), as well as jeans and beige suede shoes (no apparent affiliation). He looks lovingly at the hostess as she seats him, and then he looks lovingly at the server who takes his order for the first of three iced coffees with almond milk that he will consume in the next few hours. He cannot possibly be having a secret affair with all of them. His default facial expression seems to be simply “I love you.”

Getting into dick mode for Top Gun: Maverick required significant forethought and research, in fact. He and his co-star Tom Cruise discussed the role extensively: “We would watch movies and talk about certain actors that he was kind of like, what the body posture was,” he recalls. Cruise pointed out that while every other character in the room was worried about carrying out their assigned mission–a rollercoaster flight conducted at sweaty-palms speeds–Hangman had to have total confidence in his abilities, and had to be totally unapologetic about that swagger. “He was like, You as a person are very apologetic. You don’t want to hurt people, you want to treat people well, you apologize even when you don’t need to. You can’t have any of that in your eyes.”

But ack, those eyes! Powell has wild-card features. Any one of them, arranged or deployed differently, could have looked nondescript. But his mouth, with its barely there upper lip, and his eyes, with their overhanging lids, somehow come together in a face that can switch instantaneously from jocular to flinty, from sly to severe. He says he used to be concerned about his small eyes, worrying that they disappeared onscreen, but now he thinks they might be his most recognizable feature. (His abs may beg to differ.) “There was an era of actors back in the day who just all had these squinty eyes. It was like the cowboy films—the tough, steely-eyed guys.” He squints and makes his mouth into a thin line, and instantly he does evoke Clint Eastwood, looking critically at the blanched horizon. Then he reanimates back into retriever mode.

Powell is often compared with stratospheric movie stars: Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey, George Clooney, and Cruise (“There will never be another Tom Cruise,” he says when I bring this up: Cruise, he says, had a mechanical issue on an F-18 while shooting Maverick. “He and the pilot landed the plane with a wire,” he says. “He smiled, got out of the plane. I was like, That guy almost died, and he’s smiling.”) In recent years, streaming services have overwhelmed Hollywood, throwing more films, shows, and bright young actors at viewers than ever before and shortening the contrails of fame. Meanwhile, Marvel and its ilk have been flinging a parade of chiseled action heroes at audiences for the past decade. Under these conditions, many in Hollywood are asking what a leading man in 2023 is. But even those who can’t confidently define a leading man feel comfortable calling Powell one.

“Character actors—they can be great actors, but you might not follow them everywhere. A leading person. . . it’s just ‘I like them,’ ” says Richard Linklater, who directed Powell in Fast Food Nation (2006) and Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) and who cowrote and produced the indie film Hit Man with him. In Hit Man, which leaped from the festival circuit to Netflix, Powell stars as a nerdy professor who goes undercover as a hit man; this required him to play roles within a role. The challenge of delivering such a layered performance, he explains, is choosing moments to reveal the “real guy.” He had to litter his acting with strategic imperfections. “The audience is still oriented to the fact that this is a performance, and that there are flaws in a performance, always,” he says. “That’s sort of the joy for the audience, is wondering if he’s gonna get caught–wondering if he’s gonna get found out.”

Linklater admires how even when his character’s actions are morally questionable, Powell doesn’t lose his antihero quality. That’s the real test of a leading man, the director says—“you literally let your leading people get away with murder.”

What has been obvious to everyone else has snuck up on Powell, who has only recently started to feel like a star. For the most part, he says, the shift has been subtle, “just like the weather has changed a little bit.” But then there was the time, while he was scrolling on his phone in an airport in Atlanta, that he felt the primal prickle of being watched, and he looked up to see that everyone in the terminal (“the entire terminal,” he says; “it was like a Black Mirror episode”) was filming him on their phones. And at a concert not long ago, he noticed that the man at the urinal next to his was attempting to take a midstream selfie with him.

It was during the frenzied analysis of his photos with Sweeney in Australia, however, that he realized he had entered a new galaxy. “When all that stuff happened, you know, publicly, it felt disorienting and unfair. But what I’m realizing is that’s just a part of this gig now,” he says. The affair (“the alleged affair,” Powell corrects when I allude to it) has become another book in the vast library of fame’s small inconveniences. For now these moments don’t disturb him. He regards them as reminders to focus on what is important and real: namely, his family, his friends, and work that he’s proud of making. Yet in Hollywood, a prophecy is congealing around him. Powell is looking down at his phone, but everyone in the proverbial terminal is watching him.

At a time when the idea of the leading man seems imperiled, many in Hollywood are looking at Powell as the one who might pull the sword from the stone and define the next generation of leading actors. He has earned this attention just by being Glen Powell—pleasant, talented, funny, motivated Glen Powell. (And he is of course in amazing shape: Check out his full weekly training schedule in this exclusive workout story.) These are the prerequisites to leading-manhood, but they’re also the things that Hollywood tends to leech out of its chosen ones. As the adjustments demanded by stardom metastasize from slight shifts in the weather to full-blast tempests, can he hold fast to the qualities that make him so likable?

Powell is entertaining this complex new stratum of his career right as he is entering a complex new stratum of his 30s. He just turned 35, and this, too, has required some adjustments. He has begun to recognize, for example, that certain foods and habits make him feel like shit. He can’t drink beer like he used to. He has also seen the folly in consuming 40-plus ribs in a sitting, which he claims to have done at the Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas.

As a small-eyed man, he explains, he has to be careful around ribs. If he eats too many. . . He holds up his fists in front of his face and squeezes them tight, mimicking puffy peepers. “I can eat so much, and I think just for me, on a health level, it’s not necessarily taking the fun out of your life; it’s just riding the brake. Because I can go nuts if I want to.” Today, because he has a photo shoot tomorrow, he is not taking any risks, eye-wise. When the server returns, he orders a hummus platter—he eats the vegetables, I eat the flatbread—and salmon. (Before shooting the beach football scene in Maverick, he tells me, he and his fellow actors ate carefully. After they had shot the scene, spending hours doing push-ups in the sand, frolicking Abercrombie & Fitch-style, and struggling to throw a football with hands slippery from coconut oil, everyone went out and celebrated with beer and tater tots. Later they learned that the camera had actually only been on Cruise all day; they would have to re-tone, re-frolic, and re-shoot.)

Dating is also more fraught for Glen Powell than you might think. The logistics of meeting people are among the “little checkpoints where the world has shifted a few degrees” with his recognizability, he points out after we place our orders. “If you talk to a girl or something like that, and you’re like, We have a really great connection, we’re having a really great interaction, and then they ask you for a selfie, it’s like, Oh. . .”

The logistics of his career can feel like another obstacle to dating. Powell grew up in Austin and has been visiting his family there often, but he is otherwise nomadic, driving between Los Angeles, Austin, and various movie sets in his Chevy Silverado High Country. “I just don’t think drinking the water of any one place for too long is healthy,” he says. (He has been thinking about buying a house in Austin or New York.) He admires Linklater, who primarily roosts in a magical outpost in Texas. But for now Powell prefers to wander the earth, “being a little uncomfortable and not letting roots grow too deep, you know?”

Sitting at Chateau Marmont, Powell looks simultaneously “of L. A.” and not “of L. A.” His polo feels decidedly un-Hollywood; the biceps emerging from it, which are so defined that they look like they’d make a wooden thunk if whacked, are ultra-Hollywood. (Powell began working with Ultimate Performance, which he calls “rip-roaring strength training,” after an ex-girlfriend profiled Kevin McHale, detailing the actor’s post-Glee transformation with the trainers.) When he first moved to California, he recalls, armed with polos and jeans—“basically what I’m wearing now”—he felt some pressure to adopt the actor uniform of the time: tank top, leather jacket, beanie. “After going through all these little identity crises, you slowly circle back to your truest form,” he says with a shrug. He tries not to spend too much time in Hollywood, because he finds that when he’s here he focuses on the fluff around the business rather than his growth as an actor. He explains this via a stream of metaphors: Angelenos are “heat-seeking missiles”; in L.A., “the chorus in your play is too loud.” When he leaves California, and particularly when he’s at home with his family in Austin, he feels that he approaches his work with more purity.

But he acknowledges that his rootlessness could be frustrating for a hypothetical wife and any hypothetical children. At this stage of his career, he says, he might get a call on any given day summoning him to Bulgaria for five months.

“That’s why I became a dog dad,” Powell says. Over the summer, the actor adopted a rescue dog named Brisket, a medley of small breeds (with, Powell qualifies, the soul of a bear) who earned his name from the white lines around his face and along his back, which resemble marbling. While shooting Twisters in Enid, Oklahoma, he saw a photo of Brisket when he had hit his “low of lows”—more likely in Oklahoma than in other places, I’ve found, there being little on the horizon to distract someone from their despair—after the end of his relationship with Gigi Paris. “I needed to put love into something. I saw Brisket’s face and fell in love.” Should he be dispatched overseas for the role of a lifetime, Brisket is more portable, in both size and temperament, than most women. But he would like to meet someone—a human—with patience for his lifestyle.

“I think that’s the thing that has been on my mind the most recently,” he says. Being surreptitiously photographed at the airport is one thing; not having the bandwidth to be a good partner looms larger. “When the sun is shining, you gotta make hay. And you gotta chase this while you got it. And on a romantic level, you gotta find a teammate who is down for that adventure, down for that uncertainty, down for that thing. It’s a lot to deal with. Honestly, I really try to be a great partner. When I love, I love hard. I also understand that the speed and uncertainty of my life is a very hard thing to put up with.”

Once Powell has finished eating, he turns himself perpendicular to the table, sinks a bit in his chair, and stretches out his long legs until he is as close to horizontal as possible while remaining technically upright. He crosses his arms, foregrounding the biceps. Our interview has stretched beyond the allotted hours, and when I ask him whether he needs to leave, he says he may have to go feed his parking meter but makes no move to do so.

He can be, as he puts it, a people pleaser, a personality type that is less tenable now that more people want more from him. “What I’m realizing right now is that you have to give yourself grace for not responding to everybody right away, and not texting everybody back, and not having to be there at every single thing. Because I was known for saying yes to three dinners in a night. I would go to a five o’clock, a seven o’clock, a nine o’clock. I would just try to make everybody happy.”

I wonder if this instinct to not be a dick is what those who extol his “leading-man qualities” are referring to, and I ask Powell about it. “What is a leading man? What is a leading woman? I don’t know—it’s not a thing,” he says with a laugh. “It’s just people who continue to work.”

I’m disappointed in the answer, and when I say so I see Powell begin cleaving for a less cynical response. “When I first moved out to L. A.,” he starts off, then he pauses for a long moment, buffering, and starts again. “When I first moved out to L. A., there was a guy named Ed Limato, who signed me.” The agent had also signed Antonio Banderas, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Matthew McConaughey, Meryl Streep, and Denzel Washington, Powell explains; he had looked up to Limato as a guardian angel until his death in 2010. (At that point the agency dropped Powell and left him, for two years, on his ass.) “Ed told me,” he continues, qualifying that he is almost certainly misremembering the phrasing, “the definition of a movie star is somebody you want to grab a beer with, and when you get too drunk and leave the bar, you can trust him with your wife.”

He’s describing a decency deeper than golden-retriever niceness—a golden retriever is gonna be all over your wife. Powell is friendly, to be sure, but he is also very intelligent and profoundly grounded. (He attributes this to having two sisters who lovingly but constantly check him.) He brings to mind the high school golden boy who easily drifts into the popular crowd but who is somehow immune to their insecurities and competitions. In Linklaterian terms, he’s a Pink (Dazed and Confused): the big man on campus who is still chill, still principled.

“I don’t worry about Glen at all. As far as I can tell, there’s no bad habits there,” says Linklater, laughing. Besides, Powell seems to have a genuine enthusiasm for the work. He’s now an actor, a producer, and a cowriter: Hit Man is an auspicious forerunner for future multihyphenate projects. “You gotta love it enough that you like every part of it,” Linklater adds—and Powell does. “Ben Affleck had a certain quality like that. He just thought big, even as a young man. It was like, ‘Oh, he has a big picture.’ Glen does, too.”

When it’s time to leave the restaurant, it takes a while to exit as Powell navigates a gauntlet of beautiful women. He poses for a photo with a duo at a table nearby, then stops to say goodbye to one of his acquaintances, with fabulous blond waves, and her friend, with fabulous brunette waves and a small white terrier who is fully extended on the chaise next to her, apparently dead. “He’s very old,” the woman says apologetically, as though the dog might otherwise stand to pay his respects. (Is there a more satisfying pairing than a glamorous young woman and a truly decrepit dog?) The terrier senses eyes upon him and lifts his head slightly, revealing a curly Mohawk—bold styling for a geriatric.

After a quick hug during which I, unfortunately, dissociate, Powell hurries away to finally feed his meter. I meander down to street level in a daze, then jolt back to cognizance and race back up to the restaurant. So tipsy on Powell’s charms was I that we had inadvertently dined and dashed at Chateau Marmont. I still don’t feel qualified to diagnose a leading man, but I suspect that’s a symptom.

SPEED ROUND

What you bought with your first major paycheck?
“A sauna.”

Favorite book?
“Devotions, by Mary Oliver.”

Favorite book when you want to sound cool?
“[Laughing] The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand.”

Workout anthem?
“A playlist of random house music Daisy Edgar-Jones gave me.”

Frenemy workout?
“The sled. It kills you. It’s a full-body thing—it prevents you from being the guy who just wants to look good.”

Most exciting phrase in the English language?
“One thing I learned from a costar is to say ‘Here it comes’ right before a take. It’s a sense of anticipation. It’s a sense of ‘Let’s get after it.’ ”

Weirdest fan interaction?
“Signing body parts not appropriate to sign.”

Euphemism for sex?
“Smokin’ the brisket.”

Comments are closed

005.jpg
004.jpg
006.jpg
001.jpg
005.jpg
006.jpg
007.jpg
008.jpg
009.jpg
010.jpg
002.jpg