Glen Powell Wants to Sell Out—and That’s a Good Thing

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix

The year 2024 has been a great one for Glen Powell. The Hollywood Reporter named him one of the new A-list alongside Timothée Chalamet and Austin Butler. Anyone But You, his rom-com co-starring Sydney Sweeney, was a box office hit grossing over $220 million from a mere $25 million budget. The Netflix action-comedy Hit Man, directed by his regular collaborator Richard Linklater, has earned him some of the best reviews of his career, as well as a major streaming hit. It’s been a long time coming for Powell, who’s been referred to as a rising star for several years now and has finally broken out into the mainstream. Up next? Megastardom, and he’s not shy about letting the world know how much he wants it.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Powell got surprisingly candid about how heavily he’s strategizing his career to become an undeniable star. “I find the gamification of the business fun,” he said. “To be a lasting success in Hollywood, you have to make people money. You have to go, ‘Who is the audience for this? Are you giving people a reason to buy tickets?’ And if you don’t have a very clear answer, move on, no matter how much you may love the script or want to work with the director.”

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell sit at a table in 'Hit Man'

Adria Arjona as Madison and Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in Hit Man.

Brian Roedel/Netflix

He talked about how he wants to make himself appealing to wide audiences because that's how you get the power to make your passion projects: “Rewatchable is an important world. This is where I think actors who want to be serious get it wrong. Flogging yourself and showing how tortured and serious you can be—people often don’t rewatch, which takes all of the power out of it.”

It’s extremely rare to hear an actor of any kind, much less one still getting a grip in the industry, be so open about how he’s working specifically towards being popular, powerful, and likable. We’re more used to hearing actors talk about how stardom is an undesired side-effect of the work, or that they’re not interested in doing those blockbusters unless it’s something they truly care about. Powell has no such qualms. He wants to be famous and will do what it takes to achieve it. Is it selling out? Sure, but we should welcome it.

We’re skeptical about people who enjoy fame, especially if they’re a “serious artist.” Even the most guileless of audiences sinks into cynicism when they see their favorite indie actor sign onto a franchise that requires more abs than craft. It’s the same sort of disdain we have when someone is a touch too eager about wanting to win an Oscar. You’re not supposed to embrace the commercial and self-serving aspects of art, dang it. You’re meant to pretend the money and glory doesn’t matter, and that everything happens based purely on talent. Glen Powell has no time for that, and neither should we.

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney hug in a still from 'Anyone But You'

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney star in ANYONE BUT YOU.

Sony Pictures

Powell is a hot white guy with muscles for days, so it’s not as though he’s an outcast to the entertainment world. But as many a C-list himbo can attest, hot dude privilege only gets you so far. You need to be able to keep up with the changing times, work like the devil, and make it look easy. Powell’s effortless charm coupled with his acting chops are getting the job done. He’s savvy enough to pick projects that he knows will have mass appeal: a romantic comedy at a time when audiences are eager for more classic love stories; a funny hit man movie with a true-crime slant that shows off his range through a variety of personas; a stunt-driven blockbuster sequel. The grosses and reviews speak for themselves in regards to his choices.

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Acting isn’t enough these days and Powell knows that. He co-wrote Hit Man and is attached to write and star in a Captain Planet movie. A weird choice? Sure. Is it very sell-out-adjacent to align yourself with an IP that seems doomed to end up on a future How Did This Get Made? episode? Yeah, but as a business move, it’s sharp stuff from Powell. Be a team player, have multiple hustles, and go where the audiences are.

It takes a lot of work to maintain stardom too, and Powell’s happy to do the grunt work. As he told The New York Times, “I always find it lame when actors are like, I just want to act in the movie. I don’t want to promote the movie. If you want this career, part of your job—a big part—is doing everything you can to help sell your movies. Doing publicity matters. You’ve got to give people a reason to care.”

Glen Powell stands in front of a helicopter in 'Top Gun: Maverick'

Glen Powell in 'Top Gun: Maverick'


Admit it, it’s pretty refreshing to hear this. It helps that Powell is committed to the grind as well as being very good at it. He’s a charming interviewee, he’s got a good sense of comic timing, and he will gladly take his shirt off whenever asked. Even his parents are in on the fun, mocking him at premieres and letting us know they don’t take their movie-star son too seriously (and neither does he.)

He’s also happy to play things up for a hungry audience. The press went wild with speculation about his relationship with Sydney Sweeney during the making of Anyone But You because, on top of their impeccable chemistry, they were happy to perform for the cameras. As viewers lament the lack of heat between stars in major franchises, Powell and Sweeney subverted those expectations and got people excited for a relatively conventional rom-com based on their sexy savvy alone. Would that more actors get us hyped in such a way!

The movie star is a dying breed. Over the past 15 years, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe rewrote the rules of Hollywood, brand name recognition has taken audience and industry precedence over the might of the A-lister. It’s often been lamented that we don’t have that kind of universal idols who can guarantee a worldwide hit based on their presence alone. Being a superhero doesn’t translate to such clout as many a Chris has proven.

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Last year, the National Research Group compiled a study on audiences' favorite movie stars who they most want to see in the theater, and only one of the top 20 was under the age of 40. Hollywood needs more Tom Cruises, more Will Smiths, and more stars who can sell a film to the masses without the panic of a $300m+ budget or irrelevant IP attached. The biz can’t afford to keep making Madame Webs!

So, let’s welcome Glen Powell’s thirst. He knows what the business needs, what audiences want, and why he’s the person to make it happen. If selling out is what it takes to give us some old-school star appeal and classic leading man-driven movies then so be it. Would you rather have Powell the movie-star or ten Morbius rip-offs?

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