How Denzel Washington Led Top Gun: Maverick Star Glen Powell To Take A Chance On A Hollywood Career

You may be familiar with Glen Powell from movies like Everybody Wants Some!!, Hidden Figures and Set It Up, or perhaps you remember his time as Chad Radwell in the TV series Scream Queens, but in a few weeks time, his recognizability will rise. Powell is part of Top Gun: Maverick’s ensemble cast, and naturally getting to act opposite Tom Cruise would be a big deal for any actor. However, when it comes to Powell’s Hollywood endeavors, he has Denzel Washington to thank for taking his acting career out west.

One of Glen Powell’s earliest movies was The Great Debaters, which Denzel Washington both starred in and directed. This was Washington’s second time holding the helming reins, having previously done so for 2002’s Antwone Fisher, and he saw potential in Powell taking his performing to the next level. Powell recalled to EW:

Denzel was the guy that said, ‘Hey, I think you should really give this a shot.’

The Great Debaters was Glen Powell’s fourth movie, having made his theatrical debut in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and then appeared in The Wendell Baker Story and Fast Food Nation. After hearing Denzel Washington’s encouraging words during his time playing Preston Whittington, Powell decided to go to Los Angeles, and his film and TV credits in the immediate years afterwards included small roles in The Dark Knight Rises, The Expendables 3, Rizzoli & Isles and NCIS. Powell has since graduated to more substantial roles, and Top Gun: Maverick is arguably his biggest film appearance yet. If Powell hadn’t listened to Washington about bringing his talents to Hollywood, who knows where his acting career might have ended up instead?

Glen Powell stars in Top Gun: Maverick as Hangman (he originally auditioned for the role of Rooster), one of the Top Gun graduates whom Tom Cruise’s Pete “Maverick” Mitchell leads for a special mission. Because it’s taken longer for Maverick to arrive than expected, that’s given Powell extra time to hype up the upcoming movie. Back in early 2020, the actor shared which of his scenes in the sequel will be turned into a gif, and in late April, he talked about what it was like working with Tom Cruise during production. Since it won’t be much longer until Maverick is released to the public, I wonder if Powell’s invited Denzel Washington to an early screening as a thank-you for the wonderful advice he gave all those years ago.

Tom Cruise is joined in Top Gun: Maverick by Val Kilmer’s Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, who is now the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The lineup of new faces accompanying Glen Powell include Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Lewis Pullman, Monica Barbara, Charles Parnell, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez and Manny Jacinto. Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski directed the sequel, and Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie all worked on the script. 

Top Gun: Maverick premiered at CinemaCon on April 28 and hosted a global premiere in San Diego on May 4; regular moviegoers will be able to check it out starting May 27. The sequel will also eventually be made available to Paramount+ subscribers after some time exclusively in theaters.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.