Glen Pow­ell’s ca­reer has gone high-ve­loc­ity this year with a break­out role in Set It Up. Now he’s get­ting his need for speed in Top Gun: Mav­er­ick and co-star­ring with Chan­ning Ta­tum in an ac­tion-com­edy. Watch his ca­reer go sky-high…


Feel­ing the need for speed.

The first time To­tal Film met Glen Pow­ell, aka The Hottest Ac­tor In Hol­ly­wood Right Now, was at Austin’s South By South­west fes­ti­val in March 2016. Col­lege dram­edy Ev­ery­body Wants Some!! had opened to rave re­views the night be­fore, and writer-di­rec­tor Richard Lin­klater was sprawled out in a sun-soaked suite at the Four Sea­sons Ho­tel with all of his hunky cast, watch­ing them slurp down cof­fee and fork scram­bled eggs to ward off hang­overs.

Pow­ell, who stole the movie as Fin­negan, the smooth-talk­ing older stu­dent who coins the term “fuck­with­ery” and picks up dates by boast­ing of his av­er­age-sized pe­nis, wan­dered over and started chat­ting, thank­ing To­tal Film for the fea­ture on the movie that broke a cou­ple of days be­fore. Un­par­don­ably hand­some, Pow­ell was also im­pos­si­bly charm­ing, invit­ing To­tal Film to party with the Ev­ery­body Wants Some!! cast in Lon­don when they flew in for the film’s UK re­lease.

Fast-for­ward two-and-a-half years and the pre­dic­tion made in the afore­men­tioned TF fea­ture – that Ev­ery­body Wants Some!!, the “spir­i­tual se­quel” of Lin­klater’s Dazed And Con­fused, would do for its young cast what that movie did for then-un­knowns Matthew McConaughey, Ben Af­fleck and Milla Jovovich – is com­ing true for Pow­ell. Last year he im­pressed as as­tro­naut John Glenn in Os­carnom­i­nated drama Hid­den Fig­ures, and this year he be­witched as Lily James’ fi­ancé in ro­man­tic-drama The Guernsey Lit­er­ary And Potato Peel Pie So­ci­ety

– so much so, you wanted James to stay with him and not fall for dash­ing potato farmer Michiel Huis­man.

But it was Net­flix orig­i­nal Set

It Up, which dropped in June, that sud­denly made Pow­ell a star and led to his cast­ing along­side Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Jen­nifer Con­nelly and Miles Teller in Top Gun: Mav­er­ick

(more on which later).

“It’s weird be­cause there’s no num­ber,” say Pow­ell in Los An­ge­les, glow­ing af­ter his morn­ing jog. “Y’know, you can make a bil­lion dol­lars at the box of­fice and go, ‘Oh, yeah, that was a suc­cess.’ But you can’t do that with Set It Up [be­cause Net­flix doesn’t re­lease view­ing fig­ures]. But the amount of peo­ple who have come up to me in the street! It’s their new favourite movie. I can feel how many eye­balls have been on that movie.”

Likely to be­come known, in a cou­ple of years’ time, as the movie that sin­gle-hand­edly res­ur­rected the ro­man­tic com­edy, Set It Up sees cor­po­rate as­sis­tants Pow­ell and Zoey Deutch (the fe­male lead in Ev­ery­body Wants Some!!) agree to set up their re­spec­tive bosses – both worka­holics, both iron-handed – so they might get them­selves the odd night off. Pow­ell’s Charlie and Deutch’s Harper do not, ini­tially, get on, but this work-mar­riage of con­ve­nience nat­u­rally blos­soms into a ro­mance that is of course ham­pered when their bosses latch on to their plan. Which is to say, Set It Off plays by genre rules. But that is part of its plea­sure. The other part – and a huge part it is, too – is the nu­clear chem­istry be­tween Pow­ell and Deutch. With the movie a hot topic both in Hol­ly­wood and on so­cial me­dia, Pow­ell’s phone must be ring­ing off the hook…

“Yeah, which is re­ally great,” he chuck­les. “When com­mer­cial and crit­i­cal line up, it’s great. Some­times, in this busi­ness, you feel like you’re on a tread­mill and you’re not go­ing any­where. And now sud­denly it’s, ‘Hey, I’m mov­ing, I’m jog­ging!’”

To pre­pare for his role as ha­rassed as­sis­tant Charlie, Pow­ell manned the desk of his own agent for three days, and now jokes, “The only rea­son my ca­reer has been bet­ter is be­cause I for­warded all the stuff to my in­box. No­body works harder for you than you. I was the hottest client at the agency – for three days.”

Less of a laugh­ing mat­ter is that he man­aged to cut off Ron Howard dur­ing his stint. “I thought I was go­ing to pee my pants and get fired,” he gasps. “I’ve never been more de­stroyed.”

If Ev­ery­body Wants Some!! got Pow­ell no­ticed, Set It Up made him an overnight suc­cess, al­beit one who’s been plug­ging away for years. “I’ve been do­ing this since I was 12,” says the 29-year-old ac­tor, point­ing to his big-screen de­but as ‘Long-Fin­gered Boy’ in Robert Ro­driguez’s Spy Kids 3: Game Over, in which he’s cred­ited as Glen Pow­ell Jr.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, to a Pol­ish fa­ther and Bri­tish mother, Pow­ell was an All-State lacrosse player (Lin­klater only cast sporty ac­tors in Ev­ery­body Wants Some!! as they had to con­vince as a base­ball team) who put aside his stick to con­cen­trate on act­ing. Mix­ing TV and movies, his most no­table cred­its pre-EWS!! are as Har­vard De­bater #1 in Den­zel Wash­ing­ton’s

The Great De­baters, Trader #1 in The Dark Knight and Thorn in The Ex­pend­ables 3, while a small role in Fast Food Na­tion fired up his re­la­tion­ship with Lin­klater.

“I know what it is to feel like the un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated, in­vis­i­ble per­son in the room,” says Pow­ell, who worked min­i­mum wage jobs to get by and pressed his shoul­der to the Hol­ly­wood door by be­com­ing a script reader on the Sony lot. “But things are starting to come around and I’m get­ting to work with peo­ple I’ve been dy­ing to work with my en­tire life.”

One of these peo­ple is Tom Cruise. With the news of Pow­ell’s cast­ing in an as-yet un­spec­i­fied role in Top Gun: Mav­er­ick drop­ping pretty much as To­tal Film hangs out with him, Pow­ell is banned from mut­ter­ing so much as the words ‘Gun’ or ‘Top’, let alone dishing any goss. What we do know is that the be­lated se­quel to the 1986 smash will fo­cus on fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers and drone tech­nol­ogy, with the rise of the ma­chines sig­nalling an end to the era of dog­fight­ing. We also know that, for a few weeks, it looked like Pow­ell had missed out – up against Miles Teller and Nicholas Hoult for the role of Goose’s son, the golden as­sign­ment was gifted to Teller, with Pow­ell again demon­strat­ing his grace and charm by tweet­ing: “I’m tak­ing down all of the Tom Cruise posters in my bed­room. Maybe,

I’ll leave one. Two for sym­me­try. OK, the posters are staying.”

To­day, all that an apolo­getic Pow­ell can of­fer is how stoked he is to be work­ing with Cruise, who he re­gards as a ter­rific ac­tor and some­thing of a role model. “No­body in Hol­ly­wood works harder; that’s the kinda guy I want to be,” he shrugs. And is Top Gun: Mav­er­ick the kind of movie he wants to make now that his ca­reer has taken off, or does he wish to lever­age char­ac­ter pieces like Set It Up?

“I don’t think those things are mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive,” he starts, “but there are ca­reers that I’ve stud­ied and movies I got into the busi­ness to make. I’m work­ing with Ron Howard at the mo­ment, and Apollo 13 is one of my all-time favourite movies. When I was shoot­ing Hid­den Fig­ures, I would lis­ten to the Apollo 13 sound­track dur­ing my jog in the morn­ing. I love Tin Cup. Char­ac­ter pieces. That’s why I have to give Net­flix credit for Set

It Up; the stu­dios are mak­ing these movies less and less. They don’t nec­es­sar­ily pan out at a stu­dio where you have to put a cer­tain amount of star power into the movie, and then pre-sell it, and then mar­ket it with twice the bud­get. The stakes get high.” He grins. “When you’re wear­ing

‘i know what it is to feel like the un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated, in­vis­i­ble per­son in the room’

span­dex and fly­ing around, you’re at a stu­dio. When you want to tell an in­ti­mate story, you go to the stream­ing plat­forms. The movies I’m de­vel­op­ing are real char­ac­ter pieces.”

Care to share? “De­vo­tion is a book I read a cou­ple of years ago and I kept both­er­ing the au­thor [Adam Makos] for the rights,” says Pow­ell, who’s keen to also im­i­tate Cruise in be­com­ing a pro­ducer. “It’s about the pilot Tom Hud­ner in the Korean War: he and his co-pilot Jesse Brown, who was the first African-Amer­i­can pilot in the Navy, were wing­men who looked over the hor­ren­dous, bru­tal North Korean front. They were pulling these in­cred­i­bly dar­ing ma­noeu­vres in these new planes that were very dif­fi­cult to fly, sav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives, and Jesse Brown ended up get­ting shot down be­hind en­emy lines. Tom Hud­ner crash-landed his plane in or­der to save him. It’s a re­ally beau­ti­ful true story that we’ve been de­vel­op­ing for a while and the script just came in and it’s sen­sa­tional.”

With Top Gun: Mav­er­ick and De­vo­tion lined up, Pow­ell’s ca­reer re­ally is sky-high at the mo­ment. And those two films are only the be­gin­ning of his starry fu­ture. “There’s an­other movie I’ve been de­vel­op­ing with Chan­ning Ta­tum for the past year-and-a-half that we’ll shoot next year,” he says. “Ron Howard is pro­duc­ing it. I can’t re­ally talk about it other than to say that Chan­ning and I are go­ing to have to get in very, very good shape.” His laugh is in­fec­tious. “It’s an ac­tion­com­edy in the vein of 21 Jump Street and it’s re­ally fun.”

Just don’t ex­pect Pow­ell to lose his head in the clouds. This is, af­ter all, the guy who walked his grandma up the red car­pet at the Set It Off pre­miere, and who’s south­ern charm in­forms every­thing he says and does. “I re­ally, re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate you talk­ing to me; I’m a big fan of you guys,” he says as we con­clude our chat, and there’s no sense of him play­ing the game, just sin­cer­ity and ci­vil­ity.

Glen Pow­ell: the high flier whose feet are planted firmly on the ground.


couPling uP Pow­ell with on-screen fi­ancée Lily James in The Guernsey Lit­er­ary And Potato Peel Pie So­ci­ety (be­low); match­mak­ing with Zoey Deutch inSet It Up (above).

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