Glen Powell and Matthew McConaughey Tell the Truth About Movie Stardom

Glen Powell

Glen Powell wears Suit and Shirt Brioni. Sunglasses Tom Ford.

Just when you thought movie stars were over, here comes Glen Powell. A matinee idol in the classic mold, Powell clawed his way up the Hollywood ladder with a combo of screen presence and business savvy. Not only did he charm his way through the hit rom-com Anyone But You, but he and costar Sydney Sweeney marketed the hell out of it. Now, the proud Texan is using his newfound clout to headline summer blockbusters like Twisters and launch passion projects like Hit Man, the dark comedy he cowrote with director Richard Linklater. To help him navigate this new reality, Powell called on another Texas boy who knows a thing or two about the Hollywood head trip, Matthew McConaughey.



MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY: Sorry, man. I just hit a snow-storm out here.

GLEN POWELL: Where in the world are you?

McCONAUGHEY: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

POWELL: Oh, hell yeah. Is this for the Paradise movie?

McCONAUGHEY: Yup. How are you, man?

POWELL: Dude, I’m doing great.

McCONAUGHEY:Good to run into you the other night.

POWELL: Two Texas boys in the middle of Hollywood.

McCONAUGHEY: That’s it. Let me ask you this, man. What ideas did you have about Hollywood that, now that you’re in it, have changed?

POWELL: You know what the weird part is? Those thoughts were hitting me in the middle of seeing you at that Vanity Fair party. My entire career, I’ve kept my head down, trying to get the next job and make good choices. Then I lifted my head up in that party and it was a lot of the people that I’ve respected and modeled my thing after, people I’ve wanted to collaborate with, coming up to me for the first time, and it was pretty surreal.

Glen Powell

Coat Emporio Armani. Tank Top Tom Ford.

McCONAUGHEY: Isn’t it cool when that happens?

POWELL: It’s cool. It’s the first time in my life where I’m like, “This is falling into gear in a way that I never really contemplated.”

McCONAUGHEY: Right. So we start off as actors, do the job well, emulate humanity, and then all of a sudden, we get famous, some version of a movie star or a celebrity. Is there any rub in the road in your mind, between that and acting?

POWELL: It’s an interesting moment, where you go, “Okay, I feel like the guys that chased the movie star thing, it’s the wrong path.” But I’m becoming hyperaware that if you don’t have a movie that people show up for, you don’t get to keep spinning the roulette wheel. But if you’re just thinking about the box office results, that’s where it becomes a scary dead end. So what does both?

McCONAUGHEY: So, you’re chasing things that creatively turn you on that also have a chance of hitting a populous nerve.

POWELL: Yeah, because at the end of the day, you’re spending other people’s money, and it’s not good to go to Vegas, blow it, and have to report that to somebody. So I guess with the political capital I have right now, I’m trying to be as responsible with other people’s money as possible.

McCONAUGHEY: You did something really interesting that I’ve admired. As soon as you got more successful on a popular level—would that be [Top Gun:] Maverick?

POWELL: I’d say so.

McCONAUGHEY: So you get that, it’s a big hit, you’re in everyone’s eye line, more options are coming, but at the same time, you go and write something with Linklater for yourself to act in and him to direct. That was a very proactive move.

POWELL: That’s a movie that doesn’t fall in your lap. You have to create it. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, always wanting to create jobs rather than asking—growing my own food, so to speak. You’ve worked with Link many times, and I don’t feel like he sees Hollywood hierarchy. It’s not about business models or foreign sales. He’s like, “Does that get me creatively energized and up in the morning?” I felt like the hemispheres of our brain lined up at the right time at the right moment.

McCONAUGHEY: Yeah, but you jumped on it and said, “I’m going to make my own food at a time when I’m invited to more proverbial dinners than ever before.”

POWELL: [Laughs] I like that. That’s the other thing. When you’re trying to make it in Hollywood, you feel your mortality on a day-to-day basis. It’s missing out on jobs, your bank account gets lower, people are moving past you. You’re wondering, “Is this thing actually going to happen?” So, the only thing you have control over is what you create and how to prevent your mortality from happening tomorrow.


POWELL: This is a bit of a tangent, but being born and raised in Austin, and watching your career, has been such a cool thing for me to see and emulate. There’s no nepotism in your blood. No shortcuts. You had to hustle.

McCONAUGHEY: I appreciate that. Linklater is an example of that. He’s got his ranch out there. Today more than ever, you can dispatch your creativity from wherever you are and just go to places where you can still dream.

POWELL: You guys have managed to be sane and steady in this business, and steadiness is underrated, because Hollywood rewards flash.


Glen Powell

Jacket, Shirt, and Pants Tom Ford.

POWELL: You gave me a great piece of advice when we ran into each other at Linklater’s ranch. I’m going to misquote you, but you basically said, “Hollywood is the Matrix. Nothing is real, you have to go back home to Texas and unplug. But in order to know the difference between Hollywood and home, you have to figure out what is the game and what is reality.”

McCONAUGHEY: Yeah. Once I felt like I was in Hollywood, I felt comfortable enough to go back home. You can really be an honest observer of humans in Texas. It’s tough to do that in Hollywood, because everyone’s a voyeur. Instead of going someplace to eat, a lot of Hollywood’s going to that place to see who’s coming to that place to eat.

POWELL: [Laughs]

McCONAUGHEY: You’re not necessarily observing natural behavior, which is where our homework comes from. This leads to my next question. Now that you’ve lost your anonymity, has that been tough, or are you leaning into that question by saying, “That’s why I got a home in Austin?”

POWELL: Yeah. L.A. is a place where the importance of this job just feels a little louder. The temperature in the room feels a little hotter. You’ve been feeling this for decades, but this is the first time I’ve walked into a place and been very aware that people are aware that I’m there. There’s a bit of a ripple effect that I’ve never felt before, like there’s something amiss in the force.

McCONAUGHEY: It’s true. It’s awesome to become objective when the world’s become a mirror, but it can also be a fool’s errand, because our job is so subjective, to not pander to an expectation that someone has for us.

POWELL: Totally. I think that’s why I was like, I have to spend as much time in Austin as possible. If life feels like a press tour, like I’m on too much, like there’s a presentational aspect to my day-to-day—I don’t want to become a derivative of myself.

McCONAUGHEY: Yup. It’s easy, too.

POWELL: I’m sure you felt like this sometimes, where it’s like, you’re a household name, people do impressions of you, there’s a character that goes along with who you are, and there’s an expectation when you walk into the room of what they want you to be. At a certain point, you feel like you’re a character. How do you serve up McConaughey without becoming a derivative of McConaughey?

McCONAUGHEY: I never became cynical about playing my greatest hits. [Laughs] People go, “Alright, alright, alright.” Then, “I suppose you hate that.” I’m like, “No, I know the author.” [Laughs] I try to never rely on it, but also you shouldn’t have a problem playing Born to Run if you’re Springsteen.

POWELL: [Laughs] Totally.

McCONAUGHEY: I’ve usually zigged when I felt like Hollywood wanted me to zag. When I had my rom-com years, there was only so much bandwidth I could give to those, and those were some solid hits for me. But I wanted to try some other stuff. Of course I wasn’t getting it, so I had to leave Hollywood for two years.

POWELL: What does that look like when you’re in it? Are you aware it’s going to be a two-year break?

McCONAUGHEY: Dude, it was scary. I had long talks with my wife about needing to find a new vocation. “I think I’m going to teach high school classes. I think I’m going to study to be a conductor. I think I’m going to go be a wildlife guide.” I honestly thought, “I stepped out of Hollywood. I got out of my lane.” The lane Hollywood said I should stay in, and Hollywood’s like, “Well, fuck you, dude. You should have stayed in your lane. Later.”


McCONAUGHEY: It was scary. The days are long—the sense of insignificance. But I made up my mind that that’s what I needed to do, so I wasn’t going to pull the parachute and quit the mission I was on. But it was scary, because I didn’t know if I was ever going to get out of the desert.

POWELL: For sure. Watching my heroes and being a student of Hollywood history, I’ve tried not to listen to ghost stories. Because if you pay too much attention to people who stepped out of Hollywood and then all of a sudden the train left and it never came back, you’re like—

McCONAUGHEY: There’s plenty of those stories.


Glen Powell

Sweater Versace. Pants Tom Ford. Watch Omega.

POWELL: At the end of the day, I do believe that there’s a natural breathing pattern to Hollywood where you give it all you got, you’re in everybody’s faces, and then you disappear for a hot minute and let them miss you, and then you come back. You have to buy into the longer journey. Trust in the decades-long career rather than the short and intense one.

McCONAUGHEY: Lean horse, long ride. I don’t know about you, but for me, going back to A Time to Kill, after I first had a big success in a major studio picture and became famous, I remembered that the Thursday before that movie opened, there’s 100 scripts out there that I would’ve done, and 99 of them I could not book. Over that one weekend, 99 noes became 99 yeses. I was like, “What? Three days ago, I’d have done any of these! And now you’re asking me which one I want to do?” It was a hell of a shocking thing. I chucked on a backpack and went to Peru for three weeks just so I could hear myself think. Have you had to go, “I would’ve done any of these roles, but now I’ve got to be discerning?”

POWELL: I had a small role in Hidden Figures, but I had such a good feeling about that movie and what it would become. It’s that point in your career where you’re barely getting by. I think I made $35,000 on that movie, and it was the only movie I made that year. There’s a lot of things I could have done in terms of guest spots, but basically, I made a decision to use my old UT economics class, which is just supply and demand, and take supply out of it and hope demand would follow. Just letting the town know I’m not going to take those things that are the obvious choices that guys take at this moment in their career. That was the hardest part for me, because I was dead broke. But I remembered at that moment trying to be discerning and not go down the wrong path.

McCONAUGHEY: Yeah. I’ve had similar runs where I’ve said no to things, where I’m like, “Am I being too safe, or am I ferociously chasing what I want?” Because sometimes you can get paralyzed in the noes. I’ve had plenty of times in my career where I’m like, “I don’t know what I want to do, I just know I don’t want to do that.”

POWELL: There’s this imposter syndrome that goes along with it, where you have to act like you’re the guy, but somewhere deep inside of you is the struggling actor—the guy that knows that you’re lucky to be there. It’s important that it never leaves you, because it keeps you human, but at the same time, it can also inspire fear-based decisions, which are the death of a career.

McCONAUGHEY:Yup. Final question for you on that is: You get in the position you’re in, and I’m sure you’ve noticed people around you have changed. What I always heard was, “Oh, my god. You’ve changed so much, Matthew.” My first reaction was always, “No, I haven’t. You have!” Then my second reaction was, “Well, you’re damn right I’ve changed! But maybe not in the way you’re telling me.” Have you run into any of that?

POWELL: Yeah. It’s hard, because I could be a people pleaser, the hospitable side of being a Texas kid. I know you’re the same way, because you’re a consummate host. Even by playing your greatest hits, that’s a good indication that you’re there to make people happy. I’ve realized there’s a group of people—your friends, your family, the people that are there for you in the highs and lows—those are the people that I will go out of my way for at all costs to make sure they feel loved and happy. Then there’s the runoff. It’s the people that are in the orbit, but they can’t affect you in a way that’s going to change your chemical makeup on the day-to-day. That’s been the hard part—being very aware you’re disappointing people and yet having to make a differentiation between who is trying to make you feel bad about it and who understands that you can’t play that game all day every day. That’s been a really hard transition this past year, because I feel like I’ve disappointed a lot of people with the amount of time I’m able to give.

McCONAUGHEY: It’s that Sammy Davis Jr. line: “I don’t know what success is, but I know what failure is, and that’s trying to please everybody.” You’re more than a nice guy. You’re a good man. That means standing for things and also standing against things. I hope you just keep it up, man. It’s an awesome business, to create and share and dispatch and put something out there that’ll outlive us.

POWELL: It’s pretty cool, man.

Coat, Pants, and Shoes Emporio Armani. Tank Top Tom Ford.


Grooming: Michelle Demilt using Armani Beauty and Sisley Paris at TMG

Tailor: Macy Idzakovich

Photography Assistant: Nicholas Caiazza

Fashion Assistant: Ariel Leon-Coeur

Production Assistant: Cecilia Alvarez Blackwell

Location: NYA Studios

Special Thanks: Short Stories Hotel