Beauty and Fashion

How Glen Powell Charmed Hollywood

How Glen Powell Charmed Hollywood

Glen Powell might just be the busiest man in Hollywood right now. Not only does he star this month in the splashy, Shakespearean rom-com Anyone But You opposite Sydney Sweeney, but his 2024 is already teeming with projects like the action-comedy Hit Man, which he co-wrote and produced in collaboration with Richard Linklater, as well as Twisters, a follow-up to the 1996 Helen Hunt-led disaster epic. When he’s not starring in blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick, however, he’s surprisingly grounded—splitting his time between New York City (where he finished setting up his Wi-Fi mere minutes before our interview), Los Angeles, and his family’s ranch in Austin, Texas. “Every time I come to New York, it kind of fills me up, and I just don’t feel that way about Los Angeles anymore,” the 35-year-old actor, clad in a white T-shirt and jet black baseball cap, says over Zoom from his new Manhattan apartment.

But Powell is perhaps most at home meditating on craft, doing Legally Blonde impressions (“Don’t stomp your little last season Prada shoes at me, honey!” is a favorite—and shockingly accurate—line reading), or riffing about future rom-com plots. As he’s found more success, Powell has tried not to lose himself in the process, something he credits to his family of “goofballs.” “I spend most of my time in Austin, Texas around my family,” he says, flashing a million-dollar smile. “It’s where I feel the most like me.”

While Powell has been cutting his teeth in Hollywood since he was 10, it wasn’t until 2015 that he landed his breakout role as the scene-stealing frat bro Chad Radwell in Ryan Murphy’s campy horror series Scream Queens. Soon, he was starring in films like Linklater’s unofficial Dazed & Confused sequel Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), the historical drama Hidden Figures (2016), and the Netflix rom-com Set It Up (2018), minting his status as one of Hollywood’s most charming heartthrobs. But Powell, while aware of the attention, tries to avoid feeding into it. He’d much rather be creating.

In an interview with Vogue, the actor opened up about his history with rom-coms, working with Richard Linklater, and the musical he’s developing with Murphy.

Vogue: Were there any archetypal rom-com leads that informed how you portrayed Ben in Anyone But You?

Glen Powell: There’s nobody specific that I modeled anything after, but I do think that growing up, one benefit I’ve had in my life in general [is] being the middle child between two girls, and in a family of a lot of female cousins. I can’t blame my affinity for rom-coms on them—it’s separate from all of them. This is a very specific tonal sandbox you get to play in, and I feel like as a man in particular, you occupy a very specific function within these—almost like a father in a sitcom. You occupy a very specific tone in a very specific comedic gear. Because, really, the story is told through Bea’s eyes—Sydney Sweeney’s eyes—my gear is really to have the douchebag beat out of me, so to speak.

What were your favorite rom-coms growing up?

One of my favorite rom-coms growing up was My Best Friend’s Wedding. On road trips, my family would play the soundtrack so much. If you and I played that soundtrack right now, I would put money on [it] that I could do every word of that. There’s so much joy around rom-coms, and I think My Best Friend’s Wedding is a really good example, in that it sort of sticks with you—it lasts. It kind of says something about love. We actually got to screen My Best Friend’s Wedding right before we started [filming], and Dermot Mulroney had not seen the movie since the premiere of My Best Friend’s Wedding. He said, at the time, it was really hard for him to own being a romantic lead and being a rom-com man. And he said, “Dude, just embrace it.” He’s like, “There’s no better privilege than to represent love in movies.” And I’m really glad he said that. I was already excited about the movie, but it put me in a real state of gratitude before starting this process.

I loved How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 10 Things I Hate About You, the list goes on. Obviously When Harry Met Sally. I don’t don’t know if you consider Legally Blonde a rom-com, but one of the most starstruck I think my family’s ever been was meeting Karen McCullah, who was one of the writers of [the movie]. Karen got to come hang at the ranch, and she’s loved by the whole family.

Did you ever tell Dermot that you knew the My Best Friend’s Wedding soundtrack by heart?

I actually never told Dermot that. When you start working with people, sometimes you try not to fangirl as much as humanly possible. You don’t want to be like, “I’m obsessed with you. I listened to that [soundtrack].” But Dermot’s a nerd in his own right. He’s one of the most tender, sweet, open books of a man I’ve ever met, and there’s a reason why he’s so lovable.

Why do you think you initially charmed the internet as a heartthrob after starring in movies like Set It Up and Everybody Wants Some!!?

I appreciate you saying that because I have no sense of any of these things, and I try to stay off of that stuff, because the internet is full of mixed reviews across the board. You’ll be very liked one day and very not liked the next. I’m just trying to make movies that I’d want to see, and I think Everybody Wants Some!! will be my favorite movie I’ve ever made in my whole life. There’s not going to be a more charmed, lovely experience. When that movie ended, I sobbed as I was shaving off my thin mustache. When it comes to making rom-coms, there’s no better way to show up on set than just being goofy and trying to make people laugh—and I come from a very goofy family. Anybody that knows me knows that my family is a bunch of goofballs. So I feel very comfortable in that space, making fun of myself a bit.

For your role in Anyone But You, you had to learn the theme song from The Hills—Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”—for a needle drop. Had you ever watched the show?

I actually didn’t know it was the theme song for The Hills. Obviously I’ve heard that song a thousand times. I don’t know if you can walk through life without hearing that [song] at some point. It is now my most played song of 2023. I bet most people think they would know the lyrics to “Unwritten,” but you know zero of those lyrics. When I first moved out to LA, I actually lived at the apartment complex that they shot The Hills at. That’s as close as I’ve gotten to The Hills. I don’t think I’ve ever watched an episode, but I’m sure it holds up.

Since you’ve been in a handful, what’s the key to having good chemistry in a rom-com?

I thought about this recently, because with Syd and I, the word “chemistry” has been thrown around a bunch. The real key is that it’s someone who shows up to work ready to play. If you have somebody who’s willing to play ball, and they’re willing to look as silly as you are and they’re actually listening and responding, that’s where you have real chemistry. When you’re dancing, you’re present and you’re not thinking about the dance moves or how you look. I think one thing that makes Syd really powerful as an actress is her lack of self-awareness. She is extremely aware as a businesswoman, and yet onscreen very unaware, which is, I think, the essence of what makes her really likable in everything she does. She’s totally fine with making herself look silly.

Powell and Sydney Sweeney in Anyone But You.

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection

You’re about to have a busy 2024. You co-wrote and co-produced the movie Hit Man with Richard Linklater, which is your fourth movie together.

Hit Man was something that Rick and I cooked up during the pandemic. I used to write movies growing up, and a creative writing class was my favorite class. Everybody else would do poetry and prose, and I’d be writing screenplay pages for the class to read out loud. And when I first moved out to LA, I sold a couple screenplays that floated the boat for a bit. Not great screenplays, but decent enough ideas to not have me get evicted. The fact that my first, actually produced writing credit is with Richard Linklater is as cool as it gets. This one is Rick’s brain and my brain. I don’t think it’s the normal type of movie that Rick necessarily makes, and it’s not the type of movie I would necessarily cook up by myself. But the two of us together, it makes for a really interesting cocktail. I don’t think [the movie] follows any rules. It’s sexy, flirty, and fun, but it’s also got thriller and action elements. It’s dark, twisted, demented. It’s just a Molotov cocktail of all the great things about Rick. At any given point, you could be, like, Oh, it’s the Coen Brothers, or It’s Soderbergh. It’s got all these really interesting gears, and I think that’s what makes Rick such an impressive filmmaker.

Richard Linklater and Powell at SXSW in 2022.

Photo: Getty Images

Tell me about how you came up with the idea for Hit Man.

I read this article in the early pandemic called “Hit Man” in Texas Monthly, and it was about this guy named Gary Johnson who basically worked for the New Orleans Police Department as a fake hitman in sting operations for murder-for-hire cases. So, if you’re trying to kill your husband, because professional, retail hitman don’t actually exist, you’re going to sit down with somebody who you think is a hitman, and it’s actually an undercover guy that works for the police department that’s going to take you to jail as soon as you hand over the money. What made Gary Johnson really interesting is that he was a psychology professor who really became fascinated with why people kill people. He would embody what he thought their fantasy was of a hitman. So when I was reading this article, I was like, Wow, this guy’s kind of going through an identity crisis while he’s setting all these people up in these murder-for-hire cases. And there was this one specific line in the article about this woman who was trying to kill her husband, and it turns out she was actually in danger. She was trying to get him before he got her. So Gary Johnson ended up meeting with this woman, convincing her not to do it, but then continuing a relationship with her. She didn’t know that he worked for the police department. We dug in a little bit more and talked about what that relationship was, and then took fact and kind of made our own little fiction about where that story could go.

Why were you, in particular, so drawn to this story?

Sometimes you just start writing and you don’t know why something strikes a chord with you. You don’t know why you are so excited to wake up every day and write on it. And I think with Rick and I, it was really an exploration of passion and identity. And I think that was what a lot of people felt during the pandemic. There was a real sense of people feeling stuck in their identities, and the pandemic gave you this really interesting pause button. On the other side of it, a lot of people were like, I can be anything and I can be anybody. That was an exciting idea, taking what we felt was a universal emotion at the time and really trying to explore that. In my own life, being an actor is a little bit of an identity crisis on its own. You have to be everything to everybody. You have to occupy all these different identities to succeed at [acting]. So it was an interesting thing for me to explore at the time—not only what I was going through in my own life, but also what the world was feeling.

Powell and Adria Arjona in Hit Man.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

A recent profile revealed that you began as a script reader for Lynda Obst, who is behind some of Hollywood’s most beloved rom-coms, including Nora Ephron’s. How did that help you find your niche in Hollywood?

Lynda was such a trailblazer as a producer in general—feisty and smart. To work for her was a serious Hollywood education. But one thing that really defined Lynda is her ability to make really compelling, awesome rom-coms. As a script reader for her, I had the real benefit of reading several rom-coms a day for submissions. I was just sitting on the Sony lot reading rom-coms day after day. I started getting a chance to see how people played within that genre, because there are tropes that you have to honor. The reason rom-coms last is they’re comfort food. You don’t want a rom-com to completely reinvent the wheel, because then it stops being comforting. You have to honor the tropes to a degree. So, reading these scripts and seeing how people played within that sandbox, that was really satisfying. I really got a chance to understand how she saw the genre and to get a world-class education in producing.

Who do you dream of collaborating with?

I really enjoyed the process of teaming up with a filmmaker and having that process with Rick. I would love to do that again. I’d love to be able to write something with Edgar Wright, Bradley Cooper, and Ben Stiller.

You’re also going to star in an update to the 1996 classic Twister next year. It’s not a sequel, exactly, is it?

We just wrapped it a couple nights ago. It’s definitely not a reboot. We’re not trying to recreate the story from the first one. It’s a completely original story. There are no characters from the original movie back, so it’s not really a continuation. It’s just its own standalone story in the modern-day. I don’t think anyone has brought up this movie in forever, but talking to people, they’re like, “That was one of my favorite movies growing up. That movie terrified me.” When I was working on Top Gun, [Tom] Cruise brought up a really interesting thing, where he’s like, “If you want to make movies of a certain size and scope and scale, you have to figure out what can connect with everyone around the world in every territory.” And humans versus weather is a very universal idea—how powerless we really are in the face of these cataclysmic forces.

Obviously, you were amazing in Scream Queens. Have you ever considered collaborating with Ryan Murphy again?

Ryan Murphy and I, we’re actually making a musical together. We don’t really have any plans to be back in the television world together, but we’ll be on Broadway together.

It’s not for a musical version of Scream Queens, is it?

The Chad Radwell Musical. That’s the funniest idea. Just the Dickie Dollar Scholars. The amount of people that come up to me about Scream Queens is shocking, probably more than anything else I’ve done. Maybe it ages like a fine wine.

Personally and professionally, where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

I’ve been dreaming about doing this job for my entire life. Anybody that knows me knows that I carried a video camera around my neck and would create movies with people, write stuff, and have them perform it. I’d still love to be doing this. There is no finish line when it comes to this job. I don’t think there’s any sort of goal outside of continuing to collaborate with some of my heroes and continue to do this job at the highest level and push myself as much as possible. This is the first time in my life where when I walk around LA I’m a little bit more on the radar. I’m a little bit more watched than I’ve ever felt before. And as a person, I’m not that guy. I’ve been compared to a golden retriever.

This conversation has been edited and condensed. Anyone But You is now in theaters.

Written by
Jackson Fashionista

Greetings, fashionistas! I'm Jackson, setting trends and redefining beauty in the world of fashion. Join me in exploring the latest styles, beauty tips, and the art of expressing individuality through fashion. Let's make every day a stylish adventure!

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