Glen Powell doesn’t want for much these days, after co-starring in “Top Gun: Maverick” and watching his new film, the romantic comedy “Anyone but You,” cross $100 million at the worldwide box office. Still, for the past few months, there was one little thing he felt he had missed out on.
It has to do with “Hit Man,” a comedy Powell co-wrote with the director Richard Linklater that casts him as a hapless teacher who must pose as an assassin for hire. I first saw it at the Venice Film Festival in September, where it proved so crowd-pleasing that the audience broke into applause midway through the movie. A week later at the Toronto International Film Festival, the response was also through the roof.
But for months, Powell had only heard about all that secondhand. Since the Screen Actors Guild strike was still going strong during the fall tests, Powell wasn’t able to attend a premiere of “Hit Man” until it played Monday night at the Sundance Film Festival. Afterward, he called me from a car that was speeding him toward celebratory drinks.
“I’m buzzing right now, man!” he said. “It was my first time watching it with a real audience.” Even waiting in the wings with Linklater had put Powell in his feelings. “It was hitting me ‘Walk the Line’-style, where he’s about to walk on the stage.”
He explained, “Rick’s looking out at the audience and he’s telling me this is where ‘Boyhood’ premiered. It just felt so full circle to be there standing with him.”
Though he knew “Hit Man” had played well in previous screenings, Powell still admitted to some apprehension before the premiere.
“It’s a weird, vulnerable thing, putting your creative instincts on trial,” he said. That involvement in the screenplay made Sundance seem more fraught than other movie premieres he’d been to: “It feels like it’s my child for the first time, rather than just getting to be an uncle.”
But as the movie began and the audience started reacting, Powell flashed back to crafting the screenplay in his living room with Linklater and predicting how some scenes might land.
“They’d be on the edge of their seat and laughing at certain moments, and I’d be like, ‘Oh my God, that was so intentional,’” he said, though the midmovie applause, which carried over to Sundance, still caught him by surprise. “To be there when everyone erupted, I’ve never been a part of something like that. It was so cool!”
Netflix has set a June release date for “Hit Man,” though Powell said they were still negotiating a theatrical rollout that would come first. “They’ve been such a strong supporter of that,” he said. “I’ve also shown this to people at home just to get their eyes on it, and it really works at home as well. No matter where people get to see this movie, it’s really amazing to see how it’s playing.”
He paused. “Sorry, we’re backing up a bit. About to go into a snowbank. Sundance!”