It’s been over 24 hours since Spotify Wrapped dropped, and Glen Powell seems to be the only person left on the planet who has yet to open his. Granted, he’s had some obligations that might have taken precedence over gazing at a personalized portrait of his own music taste: celebrating the holidays (at his old friend Paris Hilton’s #Slivmas last night), filming a Twister sequel (for which he’ll decamp to Oklahoma tomorrow), and promoting his latest film, Anyone But You (via photo shoots like the one we’re on the set of today). But because Powell is a famously polite, infectiously enthusiastic, self-proclaimed people pleaser, he’s willing to undergo this intimate ritual in front of me.
Sitting in a rented house in Laurel Canyon — with record-lined walls, vintage oriental rugs, and imposing wood beams — Powell whips out his phone. As the slideshow begins to load, I guess what Powell’s listening data will reveal. The actor, 35, is a proud Austin native and a Texas Longhorns superfan. He’s also a writer and film nerd, who instantly recognized Francis Ford Coppola’s lesser-known drama, Rumble Fish, when it came on in the background of the shoot. A soulful, introspective guy who’s not afraid to say things like, “The older I get, the more I look at my parents with awe at the fact that it's really hard for love to survive 40 years in this world.”
So maybe Zach Bryan will clinch the top spot? Or he’ll endear me with some Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris?
Alas, the first song to be highlighted is “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield. Also known as The Hills’ theme song.
“I had to learn every word of this for Anyone But You,” Powell insists as the song blares off his phone. (I can confirm it is one of the movie’s best bits.) “Oh God, that is truly embarrassing if it wasn’t.”
Exposure to soaring, feel-good anthems is one of the hazards of being America’s current Top Rom-Com Guy. His big break was Set It Up, the 2018 Netflix movie that inspired countless think pieces saying that the rom-com was back after a long drought. After that, Powell was cast in Top Gun: Maverick, which inspired countless think pieces about how Hollywood was back post-pandemic. Now he’s in Anyone But You, a modern take on Much Ado About Nothing out Dec. 22. Co-starring Sydney Sweeney, whom he was briefly rumored to be dating (he’s not), it’s a classic enemies-to-lovers tale that sees a pair of arch-nemeses reunite at a destination wedding, where they pretend to be a couple.
But you will not hear Powell dissing romantic comedies, as The Kissing Booth star Jacob Elordi did recently. That’s partly because Powell is a scholar of the genre. He grew up watching The Wedding Singer with his two sisters, who teased him for sharing a name with the film’s villain, Glenn Guglia. (“When you look at movies, Glen's always the asshole or the weird neighbor. I'm like, ‘God dang, man.’”) One of his first jobs in the industry was working for one of Hollywood’s most accomplished female producers, Lynda Obst, who was responsible for Flashdance, Sleepless in Seattle, and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. He started off as her intern, then was promoted to script reader, where he provided feedback on the many, many rom-coms that came across her desk. He became a student of the Hollywood system, understanding what makes a good script and what he had to offer to one.
So years later, when he discovered a rom-com that he knew checked those boxes, he didn’t care that the Washington Post had recently declared, “The rom-com is dead. Good.” He put his all into landing a role in Set It Up. (The movie was also the breakout for writer Katie Silberman, who went on to be Olivia Wilde’s go-to screenwriter. Powell and Silberman are still close. “I just talked to her last night,” he says.)
“Love is unpredictable and you don't know what's going to have an expiration date and what's not.”
“I chased Set It Up so hard. I was working with the same producers on a movie called Sand Castle, but they didn't really see me in the role [because] I don't think anybody in my life would summarize me as a dick. I try to treat people well.” Powell’s executive assistant Charlie had to be cocky enough to represent his high-powered venture-capitalist boss, but kind enough to be an eligible match for Harper (Zoey Deutch), a far more earnest assistant. Powell says that the aggression he brings to set compensates for disposition: “As an actor, I am best on my front foot and I think that sometimes feels dickish on screen.” Meanwhile, Powell’s natural sweetness is what makes you root for Hangman, his Maverick character, in spite of his douchebaggery.
“I always liked masculine characters that took a punch, got back up, would bleed, and still fight. I always found that the characters that I liked were not necessarily the most badass characters on screen but guys like Harrison Ford or Kurt Russell,” says Powell, whose filmography is littered with military men, including John Glenn in Hidden Figures. (A rare, good Glen.) While making that movie, Powell says, “I went to a baseball game with Kevin Costner. He told me, ‘Choose the roles carefully, because at the end of the day, people sometimes can't discern between who you are on the screen and who you are outside the screen. So make sure those two things line up as close as possible together.”
Powell’s magnetism is not what one might call “effortless.” His charm is dogged and earnest; it lies in the care and exertion he puts into every facet of his life. It’s there in the way he humors everyone on set by talking to them about their own Spotify Wrappeds, in the obvious work he puts into his eight-pack, and in his 20-year pursuit of this moment. “Hollywood, for some people, it serves it up,” Powell says. He mentions Charlize Theron getting discovered by an agent while arguing with a bank teller. “It's not my path. I had to kind of fight a little longer and harder for it.”
Alongside Powell on the journey were his parents, with whom he is very close. His father, Glen Powell Sr., recalls the roller coaster of emotions that he and Powell’s mother, Cindy, felt when their son lost the role of Rooster in Maverick to Miles Teller, and then found himself in contention for another part in the project. They were driving up to Glacier National Park on a wedding anniversary trip and talking to Glen on the phone when he got the news. “He said, ‘Tom [Cruise] is calling. I got to take this.’” But Glen Sr. and Cindy were about to leave cellphone range. “So we pulled down and we found a place before we crossed over into Canada and sat alongside the road for about an hour,” says Powell Sr. “Then he called us and he goes, ‘I'm going to do Top Gun!’ I mean, [we were] literally, on the edge of the road and on the edge, but you never stop being a parent."
John Stamos, who befriended Powell after filming a shower scene together on Scream Queens back in 2015, says that Powell has also long had many cheerleaders in the industry. “We’re all just like, this guy’s going to be the biggest star. It took a while, and then he did Top Gun and we thought, ‘Oh great.’” But Top Gun: Maverick began filming in 2018; it would be another four years before the movie came out. “It was starting to get like, ‘Oh sh*t, are we wrong about this guy? We can't be wrong. He's too f*cking talented. He's too handsome. He's too nice.’ And I'm glad to see that we weren't.”
When Stamos took his family on a trip to the Powell family ranch in Texas, he learned that Powell takes throwing parties as seriously as his career. “Every day there was some theme party with 20 to 25 people, and when we got there it was '80s day. I go, ‘I am the f*cking '80s. Why do I have to dress up?’ But anyway, we’re out on this pier by a lake and the dude walks up, tackles me, and throws me into the water. I'm like, ‘Why?’ He goes, ‘Welcome to Texas.’ I'm like, ‘Go find my sunglasses.’”
Back in Laurel Canyon, Powell and I make our way through the backyard, up a set of stairs carved into a hill, to the house’s on-site music studio. They’re treacherous for a reporter wearing heeled loafers, and he springs to action assessing the terrain, then hovering behind me, advising me on the best route. Later, when he finds me standing too close in the road to a sweeper truck, he gently taps me on the shoulder and advises me to join him back on the sidewalk. None of these gestures feels showy or patronizing.
Powell, who broke up with his longtime girlfriend, Gigi Paris, this spring, grows slightly wistful when talking about relationships. He’s enjoying many of the fruits of what he calls having been “relentless and ruthless up until this point in my career.” Particularly, that he can now get writing projects of his, like the forthcoming Hit Man, which he co-wrote with Richard Linklater and stars in, off the ground. But he sounds a little like Drake at his mopiest when he elaborates on how lonely it is to be single and famous. “I've been talking to some people in my life and they're like, ‘Glen, you're a single guy. I know you're trying to do all the right things in all the right ways, but you just have to embrace that those failures will be a little more public, a little more hurtful than maybe most people, maybe a little more embarrassing, but it's OK. But when you're going to fall, and you will inevitably fall in love, it'll work,’” he says. Powell is not on Raya, and he says the only person he’s sharing his bed with these days is his rescue dog, Brisket.
When I mention to Powell’s dad that it can’t be all that hard for Glen Powell to get a date, he’s not blind to the irony. “[He’s] coming from a different angle, a different experience in life,” says Powell Sr., chuckling. “It will happen, for sure, but it's a hard thing to see from his perspective. It's hard [for him] to know what's real, what's not.”
It’s clear, talking to Powell, that he isn’t just a student of the rom-com as a film genre. He also thinks the pursuit of love is a serious, worthwhile subject matter. “There's this study where they were talking about the difference between cornerstone and capstone relationships. Cornerstone relationships are where you get married young and you grow together so the relationship is the cornerstone of that. Then there's capstone relationships, where you become two separate strong people, and the marriage is the capstone,” he tells me. “They were talking about what is more viable in terms of longevity. And the truth is there's no difference, right? Love is unpredictable and you don't know what's going to have an expiration date and what's not.”
Powell Sr., who is an executive coach, also gets in on the relationship analysis. “Glen has always, in his relationships, asked me to do some assessments for him to better understand himself and how he's wired, but also for whomever he's dating,” Powell Sr. explains. The actor’s goals are “to be honest with who he is, what his strengths are, where some blind spots might be.” “But not everybody's open to that,” Powell Sr. adds.
Recently, Powell was invited to a celebration of the Tuskegee Top Gun in Washington, D.C., where his parents lived when they were dating — and where his dad proposed to his mom during their weekly picnic at the Jefferson Memorial. And the event just happened to coincide with the 40-year anniversary of their engagement. Powell couldn’t resist. He brought them along. He served as photographer for the moment when his dad got back down on one knee. He posted his own photo, beaming in a selfie with the pair after his mom said “yes.”
“It's really fun to see your parents be romantic,” he tells me. “I know that sounds weird, but they’re goofy and really fun.” He says his parents tell him that’s the key to a lasting relationship, making sure to enjoy each other, finding the humor even in the dark stuff. “If I could have what my parents have, I’d be really, really happy.”
Top Image Credits: Brioni coat, Hanes T-shirt, Berluti pants, Omega watch, David Yurman ring, Falke socks, GREATS sneakers
Photographs by Beau Grealy
Styling by: EJ Briones
Grooming: Sydney Sollod
Talent Bookings: Special Projects
Photo Director: Alex Pollack
Editor in Chief: Charlotte Owen
SVP Fashion: Tiffany Reid
SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert
This article was originally published on