Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell Are Reviving the Rom-Com
It seems like Zoey Deutch is everywhere these days. Between the meet-cute comedy Set It Up, the biting social media satire Not Okay, and crime thriller The Outfit, the Los Angeles native has found herself at the center of an impressively diverse slate of films as of late. Her newest project to hit streaming is Something From Tiffany’s, a sweet holiday romance, produced by Reese Witherspoon and adapted from the novel by Melissa Hill. To help her make sense of the madness, Deutch called up her former Set It Up beau Glen Powell, currently starring in the film Devotion, to talk about finding that elusive work/life balance, the peaks and pitfalls of working with your heroes, and driving the rom-com renaissance together.
GLEN POWELL: Hey.
ZOEY DEUTCH: Oh my God. Are you exhausted, Glen?
POWELL: This is the first time that I’ve woken up where I was like, “I got enough energy to work out and it’s gross outside.” But instead I was like, “No, I’m going to stay in bed and chill.” I’m good though.
DEUTCH: I feel terrible that I’m taking an hour of your time.
POWELL: No, I’m so happy we’re doing this. We’re the tail end of it. You’re about to start your press gauntlet, and I’m just wrapping up mine.
DEUTCH: Oh my God, your movie is so beautiful. I know how long you’ve been working on it, and how hard you worked on it. It’s insane. What, in 2018 or something, 2017 [when you started]?
POWELL: 2016 I read the book. Yeah, so it’s taken a long time. And it’s actually crazy, I was thinking about it. When I was shooting that movie, you were starting rehearsals for The Outfit.
POWELL: And I remember that conversation we had when I was down there. We were talking about all the games that you were playing, but we were both scared to go into it.
POWELL: Now, being on the other side of it. Because I remember being like, I don’t know if I have what it takes to do this movie. You felt the same way about The Outfit.
POWELL: And The Outfit is fantastic. It’s a good movie.
DEUTCH: Thank you.
POWELL: In terms of this journey where we both are, how are you feeling about where you are in this whole thing? I think it was a fun check in a couple years ago to talk about that, and then just being here where you have three movies coming out in the same year, it’s bananas.
DEUTCH: Isn’t it interesting how that happens? I just put my head down, was just trying to work and get things made, and do things I was excited and passionate about, and then it happened that they all aligned in the way that they were supposed to. I’m so grateful because I feel like I was able to exercise a lot of different muscles that I hadn’t in a long time, obviously because we were all unable to be on set. It was cool to go from The Outfit, where I was intimidated to work with these great stage actors, one of the greatest actors of all time. It triggered the “insecure I have an eighth grade education and no theater background” in me. And then to go from that to Not Okay, which I produced, and I had been working on for a while, and it was a really fun, high octane, loud and insane character, to Something from Tiffany’s, which was so sweet, and lovely, and feel good, and really healing in so many ways after doing Not Okay. As self indulgent as that sounds, it was. Yeah, I guess if I were to summarize how I feel at this moment, I feel really grateful, more than ever. Really grateful. Yeah, how do you feel?
POWELL: It’s crazy because Rick [Linklater] and I just finished a movie down in New Orleans.
DEUTCH: I know.
POWELL: We watched Not Okay together while we were down there. We finished the movie and legitimately we were both like, “Zoey is freaking fearless.” It’s crazy. That character is unapologetic in every way. When you look at The Outfit, and then you look at Not Okay, and then you look at Something From Tiffany’s, there’s literally no common thread in terms of character. We were like, “That’s not the same person.” It was wild. We were both just so impressed because every actor can be so indulgent, and wanting to be likable, and wanting to choose characters that are this and this, and you were so likable because you didn’t care about being liked in that role. It was such a cool thing to see.
DEUTCH: I will take it from the man who is the most likable person on planet Earth. Your barometer for likability is trustworthy, so I’ll take it. Thank you. How did that movie go?
POWELL: Oh my God! It’s going to be crazy. Rick seems really excited. I talked to him yesterday about it, but that was another one where going back to our conversation where we talked about just throwing yourself into the deep end and doing things that scare you, that’s a movie where I’m playing 12 different characters. I wrote it and produced it with them and we were in the trenches the whole time. I remember the feeling, again the same feeling right before Devotion, where you go, “I hope this is in me. I hope I’m good enough for this.”
DEUTCH: I guess that people say you’re always supposed to feel that way. It’s definitely daunting. People can say whatever they want about us, but we hustle.
POWELL: There is no doubt.
DEUTCH: When I think about us meeting each other.How old were you? I was 19. I was 19 or 20, and you were 25?
POWELL: 25. Yeah, something like that.
DEUTCH: Yeah, Austin. Making Everybody Wants Some!! Just the sheer ambition we both shared, and the curiosity, and the interest to create, and to make things, and to work. It’s just really cool to see how much you’ve done. We’ve done.
POWELL: I remember there was a moment where you were always fearless. I remember you came in, and just with a force, you just came into the bunk room, you were talking to everybody. We were like, “Damn, that girl’s got force. That girl’s not going to be stopped.”
DEUTCH: Imagining though myself at that age, it was nine years ago or 10. I don’t know how long ago it was really, but it’s just so funny too. I was obviously overcompensating and trying to be perceived as being super tough, and I could handle myself because I was the only girl amongst 12 guys. Our tour director, I hadn’t ever worked with anyone in that space. I felt so insecure.
POWELL: Other people, fastball is probably their sweet spot, but for me, it’s not.
DEUTCH: With these two movies that you’ve done most recently, what has been your journey, and you were kind of just talking about this, with calibrating, giving it a hundred percent as a producer or a writer and then the day that you get on set, letting go of that? Who do you give out the things that you would’ve otherwise been in charge of? Because I have a difficult time with that. I want to be a hundred percent producer and a hundred percent actor when I’m on set, and you absolutely cannot.
POWELL: No, but I think a lot of that trust comes down to hiring. For instance, on Something From Tiffany’s, you’re with one of the best production companies in town.
DEUTCH: Everybody was incredible. It was a me problem of relinquishing control.
POWELL: I had a conversation with [Jonathan] Majors about this on Devotion. I think the best thing a producer can do, is make sure that an actor, especially an actor/producer feels absolutely like, “Hey, we got this” so they can dive into that role. I even remember with Rick, it was an awkward point on this last movie where we’re rewriting, rewriting, rewriting, and we’re putting out fires on the producing side, and then he’s literally like, “Hey, you need to stop. Just be an actor. That’s your role now.” That gear shift is awkward.
DEUTCH: My mom said one time she was like, “I always felt like when I was making movies and I had two babies, I was either a great mom one day or a great actress. I was never both.” I know it’s different than having a child, but it sort of resonates. Something’s got to give, and what’s the priority? It’s of course, the performance. But when you love something, hold it too tight, it cracks in your hand. Hold it too loose, it falls on the ground. How do you hold the cup just enough that it just stays in your hand?
POWELL: I feel like you have been amazing with the fact that you spin all these plates, and you’re a good friend to people, you’re close with your family. This is the first time in my life where I feel like plates are dropping.I don’t know if you feel like that, when you try to do a million things. I’m trying to figure out, how are you okay with yourself while dropping plates?
DEUTCH: That’s amazing awareness. I totally understand that. I’m really bad at spinning all the plates while I’m shooting. I’m very close with my sister, I’m very close with my family, as you are. I would come home after being gone for three months, laser focused on shooting, and I’d be like, “How are you?” She’d be like, “I’m resentful. I needed you at times and you could’ve needed me. We’re supposed to just jump back in?” Obviously, these aren’t direct quotes. This is an idea of what I took from the conversation was that you can’t expect to come back and everything be back to the way that it was. “If you cannot hold space for me while you are working, that’s something you need to be able to relay and we have to be able to talk about that, but don’t come back and expect that everything’s going to be a hundred percent the same,” which was really hard for me to grasp. I’ve been trying to do a better job of spinning those plates better and being present and holding space, while also having boundaries and taking care of myself. Which is the ultimate challenge, as someone who wants to have it all right. I know you want to have it all. You want to have great relationships, and partnership, and friendships, while also being ambitious? And we don’t even have kids, fuck.
POWELL: That’s the other thing that actually scares me. That’s a thing that’s not even on the horizon and I feel like I don’t even have time. How does someone like Reese do that? She spins a lot of plates. Did she give you any advice on that?
DEUTCH: I would love to ask her how she does it. One thing I will say at least that I’ve observed from her, similar to what you said, it’s about who you hire. Reese is somebody who I’ve witnessed is so fantastic at hiring the best of the best and letting them do their jobs.
DEUTCH: People are empowered by that. Of course, when you are trusted, and you are able to do your job well, and not micromanaged. She has an extraordinary team around her and I think that there has to be a lot in that. I need to expand and grow because I want to and I have so many things that I want to do, and I just can’t do it alone.
POWELL: Definitely not. It’s one thing that I’ve seen, like Cruise on Top Gun, if you say a nice thing to Tom, if you do something for him, whatever, you’ll see a thank you note in your trailer the next day. And he’s doing all of it and starring in the movie.It’s that level of thoughtfulness that I’m trying to get to, where you don’t feel overwhelmed by any of this stuff. You can make it look easy, and you can be thoughtful, and you can be present, you can be a good partner to everyone around you. Everybody just wants your time a little bit more, and you just don’t have as much time, and you just have to be deliberate about what you quiet, and what you silence, and what you give your attention to, and what matters.” It’s a hard thing, especially with the pace that you’ve been going recently, to probably quiet anything because there’s just no time.
DEUTCH: I don’t know. Last night I got home from [Jimmy] Kimmel [Live!] and I had a lot to do, but I came home, and I immediately decorated the tree, and then I went to dinner with my partner and our friends, and then I walked my dog. I feel like there’s a lot of quiet time I find, maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t know. Yeah, definitely that makes a lot of sense. The bigger you get, the louder things get. It’s interesting you say that because you’ve always been such a thoughtful person. You always remember everybody’s name, you always remember their cousins, dogs, even their dog’s favorite toy. You remember details and really care too. It’s not strategic and it’s felt. In an industry where there’s a lot of strategy, and there’s a lot of games being played, and a lot of politics, you genuinely care.
POWELL: Wow, this has been a great therapy session, Zoey. I really, really needed it. All right, well let’s talk about your movie because I fricking loved it.
POWELL: Tell me, this is your fourth movie you produced, right?
DEUTCH: Yes, it is. And it started because of us, actually this one. About four years ago, when Set It Up came out, I know you remember this, Reese Witherspoon tweeted that she saw our movie, and she loved it, and wondered why aren’t there more great feel good romantic movies? And again, remember, and this is not to toot our own horn, when Set It Up came out, there was not a single rom-com on the scene. Nobody was making rom-coms, nobody wanted to, it was a dirty word, a dirty genre. Set It Up came out, was an accidental huge hit for Netflix. A couple weeks after, they were like, “Want to go to New York and do press?” We’re on talk shows and there’s billboards in Times Square and we’re like, “This doesn’t feel normal for a movie after it came out to get this huge push.” After that, it spawned this renaissance of the rom-com. And anyway, Reese tweeted she loved it, and that spurred a conversation between her and I, and her company Hello Sunshine, how do we make something that makes people feel good? Something From Tiffany’s, from my perspective, is less rom-com and more romantic holiday. It’s just feel-good, and warm, and positive, and the movie that you go to watch year after year during Christmas.
POWELL: That is wild. I remember meeting Reese at a party, who said she loved Set It Up. I was so shocked that Reese Witherspoon was talking to me, that I got unbelievably awkward, and I don’t even remember what I said. I just blacked out.
DEUTCH: Of course. I still black out. I have no cool. She must think I’m crazy because the way that I text her—I’m casual, and then I see her in person and I’m like looking at my shoes. You’re so beautiful. Totally a different vibe when there’s a computer in front of me, versus when there’s the Reese Witherspoon, who is my idol in every way, shape, or form.
POWELL: It looked like a very wonderful experience. There’s a glow to that movie and a glow to everyone in that movie, that seems like there’s genuine warmth in it.
DEUTCH: It was so lovely. Were you okay by the way seeing me kiss another guy? Was that hard for you?
POWELL: [Laughs] No, no, no. I wasn’t okay with it. The fact that I even had to stomach through this movie, you doing a rom-com with another man was really tough for me. But look, again, I root for you. It’s just seeing your ex run off and be happy. It always hurts.
DEUTCH: You’re a great man for being able to handle it. I don’t know if I could do it for you. It might be too hard.
POWELL: It was me just holding onto the TV and just crying hard tears and then getting on this interview. [Laughs] Anyway, I’m so freaking proud of you. Your movie’s fantastic. All three of your movies this year are fantastic. I’m coming up from this. After you come up for air from your press tour, let’s actually kick it.
DEUTCH: Yes. Love you. Thank you for doing this. I know you have so much going on. I’m really proud of you. And are you going to something tomorrow?
POWELL: Got a car pick up at 3:00 A.M. tomorrow.
DEUTCH: You are a rockstar. Go get them. I love you. I’m very proud of you.
POWELL: Love you, proud of you.
Hair: Bridget Brager
Makeup: Alex Babsky using Dior Beauty
Production: Krista Worby
Manicure: Emu Kudo
Fashion Assistant: Leila Kyriacos