Glen Powell's 'Hit Man' is a hit for Netflix with No. 1 debut — why experts, insiders agree he's a bona fide movie star

Glen Powell at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Glen Powell at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. (Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images) (Christopher Polk via Getty Images)

It's the year of Glen Powell.

The actor's latest feat comes courtesy of Netflix's Hit Man, which after a small theatrical run just debuted at No. 1 on the streamer’s English Films List with 10.8M views in its first three days. The dramedy-thriller has earned rave reviews, and critics seem to universally agree that Powell is a star. The 35-year-old actor already proved he's bankable at the box office with 2022's Top Gun: Maverick and December'sAnyone But You, which crossed the $200 million mark earlier this year. Twisters is sure to cement Powell as the leading man of the moment when it hits theaters next month.

So what's Powell's secret sauce? It's been a while since there's been a star who exudes this kind of charismatic and approachable energy. Yahoo Entertainment spoke with experts and industry insiders who break down why Powell's ascension in Hollywood is long overdue.

The Texas-born star's good looks are obvious — but it takes more than that to become a leading man. It's clear watching Powell onscreen and off that the actor is a "natural" when it comes to charisma.

"Glen Powell has a certain natural charm and wit," public relations expert Eric Schiffer tells Yahoo. "He's the boy American sweetheart — a human golden retriever with a great onscreen presence and extreme likability."

But Powell's charm is not a front, according to a friend of the actor who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. And if it was manufactured, Powell wouldn't have gotten this far.

"The Glen you see is really the Glen you get," the source tells Yahoo. "He really is the funny, charming, kind of boy-next-door guy. And yes, he is that hot in person."

Churning out back-to-back-to-back hits is not an easy accomplishment. Jason Squire, host of The Movie Business Podcast and professor emeritus at USC School of Cinematic Arts, says the actor's projects and the team he works with cannot be ignored in his success.

"What is crucial in any performer's life is how that performer chooses material, which is generated by the people around them — agents, managers," he explains.

Squire calls out 2016's award-winning film Hidden Figures as a turning point for the star.

"I didn't know who he was [before], but you can't forget him in Hidden Figures," he continues. "That is an example of someone who decided that this was a way for him to pop. It's a small part. There's some really smart, intuitive people with commercial taste behind the scenes [who] help guide his career."

Let's be clear, though: Powell is the integral member of his team.

"I find the gamification of the business fun," he told the New York Times. "To be a lasting success in Hollywood, you have to make people money.... You have to go, 'Who is the audience for this? Are you giving people a reason to buy tickets?' And if you don’t have a very clear answer, move on, no matter how much you may love the script or want to work with the director."

Powell is getting more hands-on (literally) with his material. He co-wrote Hit Man. He will produce and star in Hulu's forthcoming comedy series Chad Powers, which he also co-wrote and co-created.

That said, Powell also knows the power of no. He told the New York Times he passed on the new installments of Jurassic Park and Bourne Identity.

Yahoo reached out to Powell’s rep for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

It's an open secret in Hollywood who the problematic actors are. Some stars' bad behavior makes it into the press, but most of it doesn't. However, Powell's nice and respectful reputation precedes him, which can be something of a rarity these days.

Those who have worked with Powell rave about him to Yahoo, and aside from everyone wondering if his chemistry with Anyone But You co-star Sydney Sweeney ever translated off-screen, he's avoided becoming tabloid fodder. In fact, the actors admitted they fueled those rumors on purpose — and to their advantage.

Schiffer, chairman of Los Angeles-based Reputation Management Consultants, tells Yahoo that Powell is getting everything right from a PR perspective. "Great branding, and [he] knows how to engage authentically to build a loyal fanbase. He's positive, genuine and kind, which is rare in Hollywood. Producers and talent will continue to want to work with him, and even bigger opportunities are ahead for him."

Glen Powell in front of his parents holding up signs.
Glen Powell attends the premiere of Netflix's Hit Man and his induction into the Texas Film Hall of Fame on May 15. His parents are holding the signs behind him. (Nicola Gell/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images) (Nicola Gell/GA via Getty Images)

Powell got his break in 2006, when he was cast in Denzel Washington's The Great Debaters. Washington's agent at the time, the late powerhouse Ed Limato, signed Powell. The actor ultimately dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin and moved to Los Angeles.

While Powell was going out for auditions, he was simultaneously interning for producer Lynda Obst (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sleepless in Seattle). He read scripts and got an inside track on the business side of Hollywood. "He was adorable — charm off the charts," Obst told the New York Times. "But that is not what impressed me, and it’s not why he is succeeding."

"Actors can turn on charm but they can't turn on intelligence," she added. "Glen is smart and learned about developing scripts and the structure of movies. It made him independent and wily."

Studios (and the press) love to label an actor the next somebody. While fellow nice guy and Texan Matthew McConaughey seems like an obvious choice here, no one can agree on exactly who Powell is channeling.

Hit Man director Richard Linklater, who cast McConaughey in his breakout role in Dazed and Confused, understands the comparison between the two, but said it doesn't fit the bill. "I know he shares the Texas thing, but Glen, his mind's wired very differently than Matthew. That's all I can say. I mean, they're good-looking, hunky guys, for sure, but I don't really think about that too much," the filmmaker told GQ.

Jamie Lee Curtis knew Powell would be a "big, big movie star" when they worked together on the series Scream Queens and likened the actor to another famous face. "He does physical comedy really well — he’s funny — but he also has depth. He is maybe not unattractive. I feel the same way about Glen as I do about Jake Gyllenhaal," she told the New York Times.

Schiffer tells Yahoo he believes Powell's career "is modeling a mix of Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling with a balance in comedy and drama."

There are plenty of talented young actors on the scene right now potentially vying for similar roles (Timothée Chalamet, Tom Holland and Austin Butler, to name a few). However, Schiffer believes Powell is forging his own path. "These actors go after more dramatic and serious roles, but Powell is diverse with rom-com and comedy with a warmth others do not possess."

That Powell seems to possess aspects of the aforementioned famous men is a plus for sure, but the fact that he can't be compared to any one star is a bonus.

"He's the next Glen Powell" is how one studio executive bluntly puts it to Yahoo.