Who wouldn’t want to be Glen Powell today?
By Moonah Ellison
Photography by Randall Slavin
Glen Powell is a straight shooter. A Texas boy in fact, Austin. Just talking to him and hearing his voice speak from the heart, I can tell he’s not the type of person to make things up. Not possible. But I have to say I’m the lucky one here because I know Powell is going to break millions of hearts when he finally ties the knot.
But for now, we’ll concentrate on his latest project, Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to the 1986 Tom Cruise megafilm, Top Gun. Powell will star alongside Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer. For Powell, it’s personal. The release date has been set for May 27th, 2022.
“Top Gun has been one of three seminal movies that made me want to be an actor. And Tom Cruise is the guy that I looked at as that’s who I want to be. And so knowing that Top Gun was coming down the pipeline, I was preparing and over-preparing. I went and lived with a bunch of pilots, I went to Edwards Air Force Base. I went to Miramar. I was like a full fighter pilot by the time I auditioned for Tom Cruise and did the test with them. And the test was to play Bradley Bradshaw, who is Goose’s son [Goose was played by Anthony Edwards in the original film]. And it was me, and it was Miles Teller, and it was Nicholas Hoult. And essentially I auditioned and we really laid it all on the field and I felt so good after it. I got calls from the casting director saying it looks like it’s going in my direction.”
“… I love this job and I understand it’s just a business and when you get a role it just happens. It’s not personal and nobody’s trying to hurt you…”
Then he got the call he didn’t get it. Went to Miles Teller. “I love this job and I understand it’s just a business and when you get a role it just happens. It’s not personal and nobody’s trying to hurt you. But this one felt like a drum roll my entire life, this is the movie I wanted to make since I was a kid. Since I saw it when I was 10 years old. And so and that’s when I became an actor literally. I saw this movie when I was 10. And I became an actor and I wanted to be in acting classes when I was 10. So this one felt particularly personal and my favorite holiday is basically July 4. I’m very a patriotic dude. I come from a patriotic family and I basically spent that July 4 in a fetal position. And I’ll never forget it, I couldn’t even muster myself up off the ground. And that’s never happened to me before.”
As soon as he made peace with it, Powell started tweeting, saying that he was going to “take down all the Tom Cruise posters off my walls. Maybe I’ll just keep a couple. Fine, the posters are staying.” A lot of people thought that was really funny and a week later he got a call while at a friend’s wedding in Napa, an unknown number, and it was Tom Cruise.
“He’s like, ‘Hey man it’s Tom, are you around? I just wanna talk to you about what you did in the room. It was unbelievable. It was such a hard decision to make. You are fantastic and I want to find something to do together. Find something to build together.’ He’s just such a good guy for making this call. No one does that. It’s what makes Tom Cruise so special as a person.”
Still smarting, Powell then had one of the most Hollywood moments of his entire life. He was in a development meeting with Ron Howard, sitting there talking about a script he wrote. And then he gets a call from Jerry Bruckheimer and three missed calls. He walked outside and Bruckheimer tells him Tom would love to talk to him.
So he drives to that meeting straight over to go meet Tom. Powell walks into the room and Tom’s in a room full of Navy top brass of the Navy, going over the test footage of the interior cockpit of what all the actors are going to get to do in Top Gun. Cruise winds up talking to him about how he approaches roles, how he approaches movies, how Powell views movies, his career. Powell was getting a masterclass in acting. A few days later on the day that Mission Impossible Fallout came out, he was walking into the theater to see the Cruise film when he got a call from Cruise himself and writer Chris Macquarie. “I was like ‘I’m actually walking into your movie right now can I call you in a couple hours?’ And they were like ‘Absolutely. That’s a better use of your time.’” They talk about a new character and what became his character, Hangman. “I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live because it’s like me sort of being on the losing side of something and then sort of having kind of this amazing second resurrection of sorts and getting to kind of develop this role with all these guys who are my heroes. So that’s how I got the role and yeah it’s a wild story.
“It’s not an easy movie to make. It’s a movie with a lot of expectations and everybody wants different things from the movie,” insists Powell. “It’s a tone that sometimes doesn’t really translate to this decade. And you know the question of does anybody under 30 even care? But then you look at the pilots that impact this movie made on their lives, and these are guys that are protecting our country right now, and that’s pretty damn cool. That we get to be you know in the midst of these guys when you would normally just kind of fill a place with warm bodies, we’re getting to fill it with real life heroes that we are trying to emulate. Which was kind of awesome.”
Powell is no stranger to taking flight. You’ve seen Powell before as John Glenn in Hidden Figures with Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janell Monáe, the 2017 film about three African-American women at NASA who were the brilliant minds behind launching astronaut Glenn into orbit. It’s also worth noting that Powell has his pilot’s license and as soon as he got it he texted Cruise and the next day received a stunt driving course in the mail as the next “dangerous” thing to do.
“…then you look at the pilots and the impact this movie made on their lives, and these are guys that are protecting our country right now, and that’s pretty damn cool…”
Next up on Powell’s plate is a movie with Jonathan Majors (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Lovecraft Country) called Devotion. The story is set in 1950 after World War II and told during the Korean War, a white pilot played by Powell and a black pilot (Majors) who is the first African-American Navy aviator. “It’s sort of this unconventional friendship that ended up leading them to becoming the most famous aviator duo in the Korean War. Talks about the definition of what being a wingman is. And it’s weirdly oddly so topical. It sort of culminates in this you know moment where Jesse Brown [Majors] ended up getting shot down 40 miles into North Korea and my character had to save him.” Glen Powell, straight shooter. I told you he’s not the type of person to make things up. It’s just not possible. As for love, he has a very romantic aspect of what that is and what that means through an example: his own family.
“I have a great mom and dad and a lot of big family who have chosen the right partners so it’s really a great example. I do. And all the different chapters in life that you have to navigate with someone. I definitely don’t take it lightly. I think maybe sometimes to a paralyzing degree, I want to do it once.”
Photography: Randall Slavin, Styling: Molly Fishkin; Grooming: Barbara Guillaume; Location: Monks Space Los Angeles.
Fashion labels used for this shoot include: Les Hommes, Nordstrom, Ted Baker, All Saints, John Varvatos, H&M, Scarosso, Dzojchen, James Perse, Citizens of Humanity