Glen Powell Is Proof That Investing in Film Beyond L.A. and New York Pays Off

Glen Powell’s journey to superstardom began in a creative writing class at Austin’s Westwood High School. He was the only one of the kids who was trying his hand at writing screenplays.

“My teacher, Dr. [F.J.] Schaak was like, ‘Hey, you love writing screenplays. There is no better guy than Richard Linklater. Study all of his movies,'” the actor told IndieWire.

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Through Schaak, Powell, who’d already been pursuing acting — his name is still written on the dressing room wall of Austin’s Paramount Theatre, where he performed in “The Sound of Music” as a teenager — met Linklater as well. And Linklater’s longtime editor Sandra Adair spoke to his class.

“I remember watching ‘Waking Life’ in his class, and obviously ‘Dazed,'” Powell said. “And we were sitting there going, ‘Man, this guy can do ‘Before Sunset,’ all these things,’ and we were just like, ‘This guy can kind of do anything, and even when he’s doing nothing, it’s doing everything.'”

Now, Powell’s appeared in four Linklater movies. His latest, which he co-wrote with the director via a year of phone calls and Zooms during the pandemic, is “Hit Man,” which had its hometown premiere in Austin May 15, where Powell was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame.

In attendance at the Paramount Theatre was Dr. Schaak, as well as Powell’s high school football coach, and the guidance counselor who helped him be able to take time off from school to attend auditions. And of course his parents, who he has cameo in all his movies and cheekily waved “Stop making Glen Powell happen! It’s never gonna happen!” signs at the premiere’s red carpet.

Talk about a full-circle moment.

Austin Film Society presents the Netflix premiere of HIT MAN at The Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas. / Photo by
Glen Powell with his parents, and their amazing sense of humor, on the ‘Hit Man’ red carpetHeather Leah Kennedy

Powell’s ascension to the highest ranks of Hollywood is a testament not only to his talent, charisma, and extraordinary collaborative spirit, but to what happens when a community invests deeply in its own film culture.

“All of Glen’s early opportunities in film were with Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater and even Kat Candler, whose first film ‘Jumping Off Bridges’ was made with a grant from Austin Film Society,” said Holly Herrick, head of film and creative media at the Austin Film Society. “There was a place for that kind of talent to go [here]. It’s not just that he’s from here: it’s that the community enabled his talent to grow.”

In fact, Robert Rodriguez, who gave Powell his first film role, as “long-fingered boy” in 2006’s “Spy Kids 3D” when Powell was 14, gave the speech to formally induct Powell into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. Before taking the stage, he spoke to IndieWire about the importance of growing a film culture beyond Los Angeles and New York.

“Rick [Linklater] and I have been in the business so long, we’re now giving the people whose careers we started awards,” Rodriguez said. “And it just feels good because both Rick and I made our first films here in Austin, and we decided, ‘Hey, we don’t need to go to L.A., let’s try and build our community here. Instead of building that community, let’s build our community.'”

He added, “It’s the way original filmmakers would do, like George Romero in Pittsburgh or John Waters in Baltimore. We’re thinking on that level, but it blew up. This is a big, gratifying moment, not just for myself, Glenn and Rick, but for just Texas film in general, that we just invested in ourselves.”

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell
Powell with his ‘Hit Man’ co-star Adria ArjonaMichael McKinney

The future for film in Texas is looking brighter than ever: The state legislature just approved a $200 million grant to incentivize film and TV production in the state that’ll cover productions through August 2025. In the words of Austin Film Society CEO Rebecca Campbell, it’s “the biggest raise” for film production ever. “It’s really obvious how much business and acclaim this will bring to Texas,” she said. It comes from Governor Greg Abbott’s economic development fund — and First Lady Cecilia Abbott was present at the second night of festivities for Powell in Austin, a Toast to Texas tribute gala, where Powell actually received the Hall of Fame statue.

“This is so much cooler than an Oscar, and I didn’t even have to campaign for it,” Powell, who’s also recently moved back to Austin, said while holding the award. “I love Texas so much. Anyone that’s met me for five minutes knows I’m a Texan.” (His “Twisters” co-star Daisy Edgar-Jones paid tribute to her “favorite Texan” in a tribute clip, as did Tom Cruise, who also honored his “Top Gun: Maverick” costar in a video: “Glen, I have to say, your Texas-sized talent is only matched by your Texas-sized heart.”) The day before the festivities, Powell visited Austin Studios, run by the Austin Film Society, where he had done some of the earliest filming in his career. He’s committed to growing production in the state and making as many movies there himself as he can.

“Rick lives out on his ranch in Bastrop, Texas, and he’s one of those filmmakers who’s managed to keep his creative integrity over the course of decades,” Powell told IndieWire before the “Hit Man” premiere. “He’s made some of the best movies of all time, and he’s doing it all out of Texas. And look, Hollywood’s an amazing place with amazing people. And everybody comes there because they share the same love. But I live in Austin because I see the people who’ve been able to stay sane and stay a little bit out of the noise. They can quiet that noise and think clearly and hopefully dream clearly in making the movies they want to make.”

Glen Powell: Doing what he loves to do, and doing it his own way. That’s a Texan indeed.

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