The Glen Powell Network

16 May

The Rise, Rise, Rise of Glen Powell

Photoshoots > Outtakes > Session 041

VANITY FAIRBetween Anyone but You, Hit Man, and Twisters, he’s seen all kinds of action.
When he was 19, Glen Powell made a bad decision straight out of an ’80s teen comedy: He threw a party in somebody else’s house in Beverly Hills without asking permission. Denzel Washington had recently cast him as Harvard Debater Number One in The Great Debaters and told him he had promise, so Powell had left the University of Texas at Austin and moved into a Los Angeles pool house belonging to a college friend’s mom. Powell was mannying for cash and self-taping auditions. Occasionally he’d land a guest spot on a CSI or Rizzoli & Isles thanks to the support of Washington’s late agent, Ed Limato, who used to say Powell was a cross between William Hurt and Richard Gere. Otherwise, Powell didn’t have much going for him—except access to a house in 90210. “I came from that college-party mentality where there are no boundaries,” he says. “Nobody gives a fuck about you in Hollywood if you can’t offer them something. I made a mistake and offered the house.”

You’ve seen enough movies to know what happened next. Seventy-five uninvited strangers flooded the party, the pool, and the main house. Then his friend’s younger sister came home. She evicted Powell on the spot, adding, in her fury, that he’d never make it in Hollywood. “She laid into me that night and rightfully so,” Powell says. “But I’ve probably been told, ‘You’ll never make it in this town’ more than any individual alive. The odds are so slim that people hand that quote out like candy.” Powell had to relocate out by the airport in hot, gusty Van Nuys. “I was like, ‘You know what? This is where you deserve to be, you piece of shit.’ It was like the worst hangover ever. But every major turning point in my time out here has always come from a hit in the face.”

Fifteen years later, Powell is reportedly the second most bankable young actor in the business, thanks to Top Gun: Maverick and the romantic comedy Anyone but You, with Sydney Sweeney, which TikTok turned into a $219 million global smash. This puts him behind only Timothée Chalamet. While Chalamet zigs with bilingual allure and boyish androgyny, Powell zags with all-American brawn, leavening it with goofball energy and southern charisma. This month, he nails a sly, chameleonic turn in Richard Linklater’s action comedy Hit Man on Netflix. And in July, he will recklessly court danger in Universal’s disaster movie Twisters. Powell recently had dinner with executives from the major theater chains. Like his flight instructor Tom Cruise, he’s got an old-fashioned conviction about putting bodies in seats, and the chains need him as much as he needs them.

Early one Sunday, Powell picks me up at home in a “big ol’ honkin’ truck” that a studio hooked him up with while he’s in LA. At the height of his career, Powell has actually moved back to Austin to be with family and friends. His parents are on the speakerphone when I get in the truck. They tell me they’re “just over the moon” that their son is based in Texas again, even if he’s invariably on some far-flung set anyway.

We stop by a flea market to look for furniture for his new place. Powell came here for years, but life is different lately: Even in a ball cap and blue jeans, everyone recognizes him. Before the move back to Austin, an Uber driver had turned into a stalker, a woman who’d never looked his way was now aggressively interested, and friends he’d known forever suddenly had scripts they needed him to read. “I literally felt like a commodity for the first time,” Powell says. “I started to think, This may be a problem.”

Powell got his first taste of attention overload while shooting Anyone but You in Australia, when paparazzi photos of him and Sweeney on the set were taken out of context to stoke rumors of an affair. It didn’t help that Powell had just broken up with his long-term girlfriend. Sweeney’s fiancé was a producer on the film—and present for the entire shoot—but the tabloids and social media ran with the story they wanted to hear. Powell tries to make sense of it all, even as he is stopped, almost comically often, by fans for selfies. “I went straight from Australia to Oklahoma”—to film Twisters—“and all that social media attention started happening as soon as I landed,” he says. “When you’re in Oklahoma, all that stuff feels louder because you’re away from your people. All you’re left with is your thoughts.”

“Excuse me,” says a young woman. “Can I get a picture?”

Powell happily agrees, and when she’s moved on, he continues: “At the end of the day, I don’t give a fuck anymore. At the time, I did give a fuck. I gave a lot of fucks. And it felt shitty and personal. I don’t think people realize that I am very sensitive because I am a guy that jokes about stuff. The gamification of this gig is that you basically have to—”

“Mr. Powell,” says a teenager in a golf shirt.

“Yeah?”

“Oh my gosh. You’re in Maverick, right?

“Yeah.”

“Can I have a selfie?”

“Yeah, of course. Nice meeting you, man.”

The boy’s mom tells Powell that they’re in LA for college tours.

“Where are you touring?” Powell asks.

“We’re touring USC tomorrow, and UCLA,” the boy says.

“Oh, that’s awesome, man,” Powell says. “Well, good luck at college. You’ve chosen the right state for it.” Then, to me, without skipping a beat: “It’s almost like creating a wrestler alter ego. It’s like you’re Bruce Wayne and Batman. Nobody has the full picture, so you have to be okay with them not having a full picture. It’s entertainment. I’m okay now with my personal life being part of the entertainment.”

When Anyone but You came out this past Christmas, it initially bombed. But over the holidays, the social media buzz ramped up. Videos of fans singing Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” (the movie’s theme song) as they left theaters became a trend. Plus, the affair rumors resurfaced. “So we leaned in,” Powell says. In March, he even popped up on SNL when Sweeney was hosting to lampoon the speculation. “We leaned into the chemistry, we leaned into the fun, we leaned into all of it—and the movie benefited. The fun part with Syd was figuring out what’s going to be noisy and sticky. People talk about TikTok as a thing that is cannibalizing the theaters, and what we saw is that they feed into each other: It becomes more eventized and more fun. Glen, the person, would not have been comfortable with that a year and a half ago. Now I can put myself in a different place and be a character.” Audiences have loudly requested an Anyone but You sequel, and ideas are being batted around.

As we navigate the flea market, Powell tells me not to let him near anyone selling candles. He’s a sucker for them, particularly high-concept ones like Goop’s iconic This Smells Like My Vagina and the Saltburn keepsake known as Jacob Elordi’s Bathwater.

So we steer clear of candles. Instead, Powell buys some David Sedaris books to read on set, and we head off to brunch. The restaurant is filled with women in bandage dresses and high heels having bachelorette parties and baby showers. Soon iPhones start coyly popping up as people try to capture a movie star in the wild. This is why dating in the era of Deuxmoi is taxing. The week before we met, Powell left a comedy show and was walking next to someone he’d never even heard of. The internet immediately insisted they were dating. “People are creating constellations,” he says. “You look at the stars and you draw lines and create a picture. In the past I would’ve been like, ‘That’s not the right constellation. That’s not Orion’s Belt!’ And now you’re sort of like, ‘Oh, that’s fine. Let them connect the dots however they want.’ ”

Professionally, Powell’s life is at high tide. He’s heading to Cape Town to star in a revenge thriller called Huntington for A24, then there’s Edgar Wright’s remake of The Running Man for Paramount. Powell will presumably be in the mix for Top Gun 3, which is reportedly in the works, and is set to do a sports comedy series for Hulu in which he will play Chad Powers, an undercover superstar quarterback that Eli Manning created when he tried out for Penn State in a wig and prosthetics. After Powell collaborated with J.J. Abrams on the documentary The Blue Angels, there’s buzz that the pair will be reteaming for Abrams’s next movie, this time with Powell onscreen. With all these projects, I ask Powell how he finds time for himself—or for a relationship that isn’t a tabloid creation. “I don’t want to be that guy that wakes up 50 years old and didn’t let anybody along for the ride,” he says. “I don’t think it’ll ever be me because I look at my parents—and I want kids. I really want that. So I don’t think that’ll happen, but I understand how it could happen.”

Powell isn’t looking to emulate any particular actor’s career, though he’s grateful to have Cruise and Matthew McConaughey as mentors, and admires the way Matt Damon has handled family and privacy. Until then, he’s happy to be living close to his parents, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. In May, he’ll be presented with an award from the Texas Film Hall of Fame by his fellow Austinite, Linklater. “I got a plus-45,” Powell says. “The squad rolls deep. It’s going to be a party.” This time at his own house.

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