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Glen Powell stays down to earth despite soaring success

Updated May 30, 2024 - 10:28 am

Glen Powell refuses to go Hollywood. The Texas-bred star of “Top Gun: Maverick” and the upcoming “Twisters” is warm, friendly and not swept up in the hoopla.

He will even mock his own fame. When Powell returned to his hometown of Austin this month to be inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame, he got his parents to play a prank on him.

“My mother held up the sign saying, ‘Stop trying to make Glen Powell happen,’ ” Powell recounts with a chuckle. “My dad’s sign read, ‘It’s never gonna happen.’ ”

But it undoubtedly has happened for the 35-year-old.

His romantic comedy “Anyone But You,” co-starring Sydney Sweeney and now on Netflix, has earned a staggering $219 million at the box office. And Powell’s Hangman saves the day in the $1.4 billion-grossing “Top Gun: Maverick,” with a sequel looming.

Now comes his much-awaited comedy “Hit Man.” Inspired by a true story and co-written by Powell, the Richard Linklater-directed Sundance hit is in theaters now and debuts on Netflix on June 7.

He portrays Gary Johnson, a straight-laced professor who discovers he has a knack for impersonating a contract killer, helping the cops nab folks who think they’re hiring a hit man. He finds his own world turned upside down by the mysterious Madison (Adria Arjona).

“He’s just a guy who gets in a little too deep,” Powell says. “But that’s the draw.”

He shares his good life advice:

Find inspiration

Powell hit on the source material for “Hit Man” in the pages of Texas Monthly. “I read about this guy, a psychology professor who moonlighted with the police department and was a Zen Buddhist. He became the Laurence Olivier of fake hit men. … He took his skill set to a whole other level.”

Lean on friends

“Hit Man” gave him a reason to team up again with Linklater, a fellow Texan who directed Powell in 2006’s “Fast Food Nation” and 2016’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” “I thought, who is the best person on the planet with character in movies? Richard Linklater. I called him up and said, ‘I just read this amazing article.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I read that article when you were in seventh grade. Let’s do it,’ ” Powell recalls. “It was off to the races creatively. … When friendship and work blend together in this effortless way you’re very fortunate.”

Buck norms

“When we took this movie out to sell it, no one in Hollywood got it,” Powell acknowledges. “We were so excited about it and what it said about identity, but no one responded to it. That’s because it just doesn’t fit in one box. It doesn’t subscribe to any genre. It’s always good in life to try to do something original.”

‘Nice in real life’

Powell’s biggest hit teamed him with Tom Cruise. Powell says the A-lister’s advice helped inform his “Top Gun: Maverick” character. “Tom said, ‘You play a person who is unapologetic about his swagger. You, as a person in real life, are very apologetic. You don’t want to hurt people. You want to treat people well, and apologize even when you don’t need to. You can’t have any of that in your eyes for this character. But it’s nice in real life.’ ”

Cut it out

Powell knew that he would have to make some lifestyle adjustments once he hit 35. He cut back on beer and doesn’t eat 40 ribs in a sitting, one of his previous claims to fame. “I don’t say never, but I’m at the age where you put on the brakes just a bit,” he says. “It’s about staying healthy, but still having fun. You can go crazy. Just not every single day.” To that end, he says, “I add in the vegetables and eat my salmon.”

Keep moving

Powell says he likes to shake things up, residentially speaking, which is why he moved from L.A. back to Austin recently. “I don’t think drinking the water of any one place for too long is healthy,” he says. “I like that feeling of moving somewhere new and making new discoveries. It’s good to feel a bit uncomfortable. I’m always interested in reinvention.”

Stay grounded

Powell says that the move back to his home state has been key for him. It’s not just all those Texas Longhorns games that he can easily attend in his downtime. “It keeps me pure and doesn’t pollute my brain,” he says. “In Texas, you march to the beat of your own drum. You know how to trust your instincts.

His dream? “I’d like to have my own ranch eventually where I bring people to rehearse and write and film. The more you stay on your own and cook up stories off the beaten track, well, that’s how you have a long run and stay grounded.”

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