Top Gun: Maverick’s Glen Powell Reveals Why Tom Cruise Had To Tell Him To ‘Lean Into The Douchebaggery’

From left to right: Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick and Glen Powell in Top Gun: Maverick.
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Top Gun: Maverick was one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year. One can imagine that the supporting players appearing alongside Tom Cruise in a massive sequel wanted to put their best foot forward in all things. An audience responding well to a character in a Top Gun movie could make them a movie star. But that meant Glen Powell, as the movie’s antagonist pilot Hangman, was at something of a disadvantage because audiences weren’t supposed to like him, at least at first.

In a recent conversation with Kate Hudson for Variety, Glen Powell says that he struggled with playing the film’s “bad guy” due to an, honestly completely understandable, desire to be liked on screen. Powell says that Tom Cruise actually spoke to him about it, and told him to “lean in to the douchebaggery” because it was what the film needed. Powell said…

Sometimes you can fall into the trap of wanting to be liked on camera. And in a movie like this, where you know there’s going to be a lot of eyes on it, you don’t want to be Draco Malfoy. But Tom gave me this advice: 'For the ending to work, you have to completely lean into that. Everybody else in the movie is questioning their own ability. You’re the only guy that’s not questioning it. So if there’s any sort of apology in anything you say, the movie doesn’t work. Lean into the douchebaggery of it all.

Hangman is the sort of role that we often see in films, where a character that starts out in an antagonistic relationship with the hero, and is therefore largely disliked by the audience, ends up coming around because they are a hero in the end. In the first Top Gun that role was played by Val Kilmer’s Iceman, and in the sequel it’s Glen Powell playing many of the same beats. 

Powell had additional reasons to want to be liked in Top Gun: Maverick. He says he grew up with jets on his wall, but he also admits that his love of planes, he’s now a pilot, is nothing compared to the way that Tom Cruise feels about flying, and also filmmaking. Powell continues…

I grew up with the Blue Angels on my wall. I’ve always loved planes. But when you see Tom’s love of flying, it’s the most infectious thing. He’ll fly on the set in his P-51, this old World War II plane. It’s that reality-distortion field where he can convince you that anything is possible. He goes to set like it’s his first day, every day. He’s talking about lenses. And he would text me at night about a scene that I was shooting the next day.

In the end, Glen Powell is almost certainly seen as a bigger star today than he was before Top Gun: Maverick, so he must have played that role just right. The fact that Maverick has made over $1 billion at the box office is also proof that, when in doubt, you should just listen to Tom Cruise.  

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.