As the world waits with bated breath for “Top Gun: Maverick” we chat with Glen Powell about being part of this cinematic masterpiece and delve into his past and previous works
Glen Powell is about to The original “Top Gun” was groundbreaking calls me over to his trailer with my mom ride into the danger zone as “Top Gun: Maverick” finally has a theatrical release date. In this highly- anticipated sequel to the 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun,” Powell plays as “Hangman,” one of the naval aviators set to take to the skies together with Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” in what is expected to be one of the most celebrated flicks of the year—if not the decade. Of course, Powell has several other upcoming titles that he’s happy to share with us, along with some unique insight into his profession in what is arguably one of our most engrossing interviews in a long time.
DAMAN: Hi Glen, thank you for having us and hope you’re doing great. So, what keeps you busy these days?
Glen Powell: As you know, Hollywood will kick you out the door as soon as you let it, so I’m spending a lot of time developing my own material so that I can build the career and make the movies that got me into this business in the first place. Learning from my heroes like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Kevin Costner and Robert Redford: They didn’t rely on luck; they created their own luck. Hollywood may still kick me out, but at least I’m doing my part.
DA: Last we checked, “Top Gun: Maverick” is set to premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in May. How excited are you that the movie is finally being released?
GP: I think I would probably be a lot less upset every time the movie got pushed if “Top Gun: Maverick” wasn’t so damn good. This movie is like keeping the greatest secret of all time. It’s truly like nothing you have ever seen before. And I can’t wait to finally unleash it on the world. And think after this pandemic that everyone on this planet has gone through, we appreciate the theatrical experience more than ever. And my God this is going to rock every theater in the world.
DA: All in all, what can audiences expect from this movie when it comes out? Especially moviegoers who grew up with the original “Top Gun”…
GP: It is so rare that a movie like this comes along. A movie that is massive and still emotional. One that is adventurous and romantic. One that delivers you jaw- dropping spectacle but also will make you cry. This movie is why you make movies. for its time and turned Tom Cruise into a household name. This movie is over 30 years of Tom Cruise operating at the highest level of Hollywood leading men and taking all of that experience and putting it in one film. He said he would never make a sequel to “Top Gun” unless he could beat it. I am a huge fan of the original, but I think we beat it.
DA: Speaking of which, what is your impression of the 1986 original? And then, how would you describe the connection between “Top Gun” and “Top Gun: Maverick”?
GP: The original “Top Gun” is one of the reasons that I became an actor in the first place. It is really hard to watch that movie and not want to be a movie star or a fighter pilot. Tom Cruise set off a lot of young people on the path to both. The best part is we are not trying to reboot “Top Gun.” We are not trying to re-create the story of the first movie—you just can’t do it. This is a sequel following Maverick’s journey all these years later. He’s still completely a maverick and having to learn that he can’t go fast forever at some point even the greatest pilots have to land.
DA: Following the release of “Top Gun,” the number of young men applying to become naval aviators reportedly jumped up by 500 percent, while sales of aviator sunglasses rose 40 percent and bomber jackets also became a must-have fashion item. What kind of cultural—and fashion—impact do you think will follow the release of “Top Gun: Maverick”?
GP: I mean, Tom made being the best of the best look pretty damn good. I was definitely one of those people who bought the aviators and the bomber jackets. I think Maverick and Goose are still among the most common Halloween costumes I see every year. It’s impossible to not look cool. My character’s callsign in the movie is “Hangman.” So, I am really hoping that this Halloween I see a few Hangman aviators running around high-fiving each other.
DA: Filming for “Top Gun: Maverick” obviously wrapped up quite a while ago. What was your fondest memory of your time working on the movie?
GP: I think my greatest memory on the entire movie was the day in which my mom got to be in one of the scenes. There was a moment that we’re leaving set and Tom and asked to take a picture with her and we reminisced about the importance of mothers. And how special the time he had with his on sets growing up were. It was this really tender moment of one of the biggest movie stars ever, having such a real authentic, sweet moment with a woman I love more than anything.
DA: By the way, what kind of training did they put you through to prepare you to play a naval aviator? Especially with how there’s this higher expectation of realism in military-themed films, whether it’s the dialog or the action…
GP: If there is one word I would use to describe the training for this movie it would be: “immersive.” Tom is all about doing it for real. We trained tirelessly to fly real planes; we lived on real military bases; and we surround ourselves with real pilots. Honestly, shooting this movie felt more like joining the actual Navy then being an actor. And to sustain the extreme Gs on your body in these action sequences— that we shot for real—Cruise designed the entire training program to make sure that on game day when we were dog fighting in his F-18s, we were not puking or passing out while cameras were rolling.
DA: Meanwhile, on the streaming front, your new movie “Apollo 101⁄2: A Space Age Childhood” is set to premiere on Netflix this April. Can you give us a short rundown of this movie?
GP: “Apollo 101⁄2” is just completely magic. If you’re familiar with Richard Linklater, he is behind some of my favorite movies of all time: “Dazed and Confused,” “Before Sunset” and “Boyhood.” It’s about a young boy in 1969 who gets recruited off the kickball field to join the Apollo program because they built the space capsule too small for an adult. It blends real history happening in that moment with the fantasy elements of this boy. Linklater calls it a “fantasy memory.” And it’s just beautiful. Something only he could do.
DA: Director Richard Linklater is known to have quite a knack in creating nostalgic coming-of-age movies. What was it like working with him for “Apollo 101⁄2”?
GP: It’s Rick’s memory that is really the greatest secret weapon for creating unparalleled nostalgia. He remembers how things were said, how they looked, how they smelled, what he was listening to, what he was watching and—most importantly—how it all felt. This whole movie is from a young boy’s point of view and it’s told so honestly. Not like an adult trying to remember what it was like to be a boy, but what the magic and imagination of a kid authentically feels like. And working with Richard Linklater is like no one else. It’s truly just playing pretend with one of my best buddies. I would follow Rick anywhere—it’s just the best.
DA: The movie has been well-received by critics so far. What would you say are the key ingredients of the film’s success?
GP: Richard Linklater. Richard Linklater. Richard Linklater. This man is such a treasure to cinema. One of the last great auteurs. Someone who has played in every sandbox and appreciates the art of movie making more than anyone I have ever met. And he’s unpredictable in the type of movie he makes, but so predictable in the quality. And he’s just a joy. He loves being on a set as much as I do which is so rare.
DA: When we took a peek at your IMDb page, we saw that you were set to appear in—at least—a couple of upcoming films, one of which, “Devotion,” is also about U.S. naval aviators. Can you give us a brief intro to this movie?
GP: “Devotion” is so incredible. I cannot wait for the world to see this movie. It’s a true story about a unique friendship in 1950 set against the Korean War. A white pilot and a black pilot who became friends and the most famous aviator duo in naval history, saving thousands of lives. When one of the pilots gets shot down behind enemy lines, the other pilot crash lands his plane in order to save him. It’s just a beautiful story on what it means to be a true ally and true wingman. I think this is a message that is more timely today than ever.
DA: Moving from the future to the past, you made your acting debut in 2003, correct? Do you remember how long it took before you really felt that acting is what you’ll be doing for perhaps the rest of your life?
GP: I have been at this job for a very long time. And that is the greatest gift this business can give you: longevity. There is no peak, there is no end goal, there is only continuing to get to do the greatest job in the world. And I feel so privileged that this is what I get to spend my life doing. I think the moment in which my perspective on acting changed was after I did a movie called “The Great Debaters.” Denzel Washington directed the movie and he really convinced me that I should give this business a shot. I had known so many friends who had moved out to Hollywood and had come back with their tail between their legs that I only looked at acting as a fun hobby, not as a profession. Someone who is from Texas who had no connection to the business was never going to make it in the big city. Denzel was the one who gave me the confidence to chase those dreams. He’s a great man and I really owe him a lot.
DA: All in all, what was the role that really put you on the map? The one that really got you noticed?
GP: I played a character named Chad Radwell on a Fox show called “Scream Queens.” He was the president of the fraternity and boyfriend to Emma Roberts’ Chanel Oberlin in the show. Ryan Murphy is one of the smartest men in Hollywood. He created “Glee,” “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story,” and in “Scream Queens” he created the ultimate douchebag character for me to play and I had the greatest time ever coming to work. I think I’m a pretty nice guy in real life, so getting to try and make a monster sort of loveable, was really fun.
DA: You’ve appeared in everything from spy adventure movies to pre-MCU superhero movies, comedy slashers and animated sci-fi series. Do you have a favorite genre?
GP: All I have ever wanted to do is just make movies. It’s been a dream my entire life. And when the lights go down in the theater, and you watch something that blows your mind and changes your feeling of what is possible, there is nothing better. So, for me it doesn’t matter the genre, I love it all, as long as I get to do this job with people that make it fun and people that do it well.
DA: On the flip side, are there any particular genres you want to explore more of in the future?
GP: I really love people who challenge genres. Guillermo del Toro, Taika Waititi, Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright and Yorgos Lanthimos. These people are making movies that are reinventing storytelling and how audiences experience it. And honestly, it’s not the genre that drives me, it’s the captain of the ship. It’s the vision of the filmmaker that makes me want to be a part of some thing or not. Nothing is greater than when you feel lucky to be a part of someone else’s dream.
DA: What has been some of the biggest changes in the ways that actors do their work that you’ve observed and experienced throughout your career? GP: No one actor approaches the job the same way. It’s what makes it so fun to work with different people. Every film, every character and every collaborator make for a singular experience. And everyone does this job for different reasons. Some do it for fun, some do it to explore different parts of themselves, and some just do it for celebrity. You have to adapt to all of the styles, approaches, and personalities. but the one thing I love is that it expedites intimacy in friendships quicker than anything. You get to really talk about life and the human condition more than you would with any other person. Some of my greatest friends, I’ve met on film sets.
DA: And on a somewhat related note, what has been the best piece of advice that you’ve ever heard about acting?
GP: A piece of advice that Denzel Washington gave me. “Don’t look in the other lanes. You are running your own race.” It’s something I’ve really taken to heart as peoples careers go at different speeds and find success at different times. You are only competing against yourself and trying to wake up and be a better version every day. That’s all that it is about, in my business or in any other.
DA: When you’re not busy shooting or preparing for a shoot, how do you usually spend your time? What else are you passionate about besides acting?
GP: After “Top Gun: Maverick,” I got my pilot’s license, so I’ve been spending a lot of time up in the air. It’s really wonderful and so meditative. It’s so great to just be able to see the world in a new way. I feel like flying has made me more spontaneous and adventurous. I can just look on a map and fly to where I’m curious. And I love the community. Pilots are just built differently. Everyone who is drawn to aviation has a different reason for it. And it’s never a bad thing being able to see the world from a different vantage point.
PHOTOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN McCORMACK & IAN PHILLIPS
STYLING KIMBERLY GOODNIGHT
STYLIST ASSISTANT JAVON RHONE
GROOMING SONIA LEE FOR EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS MANAGEMENT USING CHANEL SKINCARE AND KEVIN MURPHY HAIR PRODUCTS
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