The same writer/director behind ‘Dazed and Confused’ re-imagines the 1980s for college baseball players discovering life without adult supervision.
Becoming the Internet’s favorite star usually takes a little something extra.
Benedict Cumberbatch had being British and playing super-detective Sherlock working in his favor. Tom Hiddleston had being British, dating Taylor Swift and playing Marvel supervillain Loki. Oscar Isaac jumped in a “Star Wars” X-wing and had an adorable droid for a best friend.
But remarkably, Glen Powell is doing it just by being a cool, relatable dude.
At 29, he’s gradually wormed his way into pop culture with significant supporting roles – as a philosophical college baseball player in “Everybody Wants Some!!” and pioneering astronaut John Glenn in “Hidden Figures” – and is now coming into his own as a headliner. He had a breakthrough role opposite Zoey Deutch in the Netflix sleeper romantic comedy “Set It Up” and returns for a streaming follow-up with Lily James in the World War II period flick “The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society” (premiering Friday).
In a very short time with this Texas native, it’s become obvious that everybody wants some. One example of his impressive rise in popular dudeness: When Powell lost the role of Goose’s son to Miles Teller in the “Top Gun” sequel, social media came to his defense. He impressed not only them but also apparently Tom Cruise: Powell ended up getting a beefed-up role in “Maverick” anyway.
So why is he so popular? Let’s start with Powell’s offscreen persona. He just seems fun-loving and unassuming, taking his grandma to movie premieres and posting wacky Instagram pictures hamming it up with his family and co-stars and flexing in a boat with buddies. (He also won Twitter the day he lost out on “Top Gun” and joked that he was going to take down his Cruise posters.)
There’s also crossover appeal: The leading-man good looks go a long way with female fans – he’s like an unofficial Chris just waiting for the right Marvel movie. But Powell is also mancrush-worthy as a guy’s guy you’d be all in with to grab adult beverages, take in a sporting event or trash-talk while playing “Madden NFL” on your Xbox.
Powell has an old-school vibe — a Matthew Broderick “Ferris Bueller” boyish quirkiness mixed with that Tom Hanks “Splash” everyman quality – which buoyed “Set It Up” as it brought the throwback rom-com back into favor. “Pie Society” has romance and comedy but also Nazis and drama, so it’s a definite change of pace, yet Powell makes the most of a small role. He’s the U.S. Army officer who becomes a part of a love triangle when his writer fiancée (James) becomes interested in a book club on a formerly Nazi-occupied English island, so there’s a bit of dashing machismo but also some vulnerable jealousy to explore.
While big roles are on the horizon – Powell was born to sit in a fighter jet – he’s found a knack for nailing small yet hugely meaningful moments. In “Set It Up,” he and Deutch wordlessly fall in love while chewing midnight pizza. “Hidden Figures” explores the constant racism felt by NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), though it’s Powell’s John Glenn who falls out of step with his white fellow space travelers to introduce himself and stick up for her skills in a meeting of gruff honchos.
And then there’s the unsolicited wisdom he spouts in “Everybody Wants Some!!” as upperclass mentor Finnegan to rookie Jake (Blake Jenner). When the two debate identity, getting girls and the “camouflage” of being out-of-place jocks at a punk show, Finnegan gives him the life lesson of adapting to your surroundings. “I actually don’t think that much. I actually don’t think at all. I just talk a lot,” he says. “It’s the jazz improv. You’re invited.”
If he keeps those kind of winning performances coming, Powell won’t be the Internet’s favorite star anymore. He’ll be Hollywood’s favorite.
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