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Kate Hudson and Glen Powell, Drinking Buddies: The Duo on Loving ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ and Calling Tom Cruise for Help

Photographs by Alexi Lubomirski

Kate Hudson and Glen Powell are movie stars who moonlight as drinking buddies. They first met through Hudson’s brothers, who are also actors: Powell co-starred with Wyatt Russell in Richard Linklater’s 2016 baseball comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” and shared the screen with Oliver Hudson on Fox’s slasher series “Scream Queens,” co-created by Ryan Murphy. 

And 2022 proved to be a major year for both Powell and Kate Hudson. His career soared to new heights after he played a naval aviator in two different films — the prestige biopic “Devotion” and the rip-roaring Tom Cruise smash “Top Gun: Maverick.” Hudson, who reveals herself to be a huge “Top Gun” fan, marks a return to richly comedic work as a loony socialite in the “Knives Out” sequel, “Glass Onion.”

Kate Hudson: We’ve known each other a while now, because you did “Everybody Wants Some!!” with my brother Wyatt. And you guys went to Austin and had what sounded like a total party. And then you went and did “Top Gun,” which we talked about when you got that movie, because the first one was everything. It defined so much of how I see boys.

Glen Powell: Oh, now it all makes sense.

Hudson: You did the movie and then there was COVID. And then “Top Gun” came out and blew everybody’s socks off. It was the first big theater movie.

Powell: I’ve journaled about all this stuff because it’s hard to describe. I was prepping for that audition for months. I was living on naval bases. Then I didn’t get the role — Miles Teller got the Rooster role. And then this whole situation where Tom Cruise is pitching me a new role.

It took a year-plus to actually shoot the movie. Tom’s a perfectionist, and so he was like, “We got to get it right.” And I saw the movie, and then COVID happened, and I was like, “Oh, man, we’re sitting on this awesome thing.”

Alexi Lubomirski for Variety

Hudson: “Too bad! It’s over! No one’s ever going to a theater ever again!” But that’s not what happened. In true Tom Cruise form, the perfectionist that he is, he always wins. I was in New York and I went to Union Square to see it on the big screen with an audience. It was like, “Thank God. These are the movies we need in the movie theater.”

Powell: They showed us the final cut. I watched that movie and I was like, “I think we did it. Tom called it out — he Babe Ruthed it.” He was like, “This movie’s good enough where we have to just wait for this pandemic to be over.” But you know how it is.

You guys also incorporated masks into your movie.

Hudson: The masks in this movie are an Easter egg as to who all these people are. Each person, in the way they wear their mask, is really who they are.

Powell: And your character, Birdie, is iconic. It’s such a fun character. It’s a Halloween costume.

Hudson: Next year, I hope that I get to see a bunch of “Knives Out” characters.

Powell: Knowing you as long as I’ve known you, you’re surrounded by some of the most interesting people ever. Every time I’ve come to your house, or your family ranch, there’s always interesting, eccentric people walking around. So I was like, I feel like this character’s got to be based on something.

Hudson: Maybe there’s some color in there that I stole from people I know. But for me, I could see her body language. I could see how she moved. The jokes were the hardest part because the pressure was so on. It’s the whole cast staring, like, “I wonder how she’s going to deliver the line we love so much.”

Powell: I love a crew that feels invested in the movie. But one of my least favorite things is when a crew’s like, “Whew, big day. This is it.”

Hudson: The pressure’s so on. The challenge with Birdie was grounding her because she’s so flamboyant. In a situation like that, a character can become very airy and have no substance. If you ground characters like that, you become more empathetic with them and kind of root for them. She’s so deeply in search of validation and love. And she’s really not that smart. Her ways of trying to be seen or validated, they ricochet back at her.

Alexi Lubomirski for Variety

Powell: You’re kind of performative in terms of the way you emote. We’ve both been in this business a long time, and there are a group of people that we both know who can’t help but be the center of attention.

Hudson: You’re the guy who everyone roots for because everyone loves you so much. So it was really fun for me to see you play something that was like, “He’s really handsome, but I want to like him more.”

Powell: 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.”

Hudson: Lean in.

Powell: I keep getting cast as a douchebag. Even the thing I did with Ollie in “Scream Queens,” where I’m a super douche.

Hudson: That’s right. I feel like everybody’s getting to know now that we’ve spent many times drinking together — with family.

Powell: Been hammered with the Russells and the Hudsons.

Hudson: Let’s get Tom over with. Because we love talking about Tom. My son recently wanted to skydive. And I didn’t know what to do with myself. He’s 18. I was like, “I need to call Tom.” And Tom was so all about it.

Powell: You called Tom about Ryder skydiving?

Hudson: I was like, please, who do I call? I don’t want him to go to some weird place. And Tom was so excited. By the end of this phone call, I wanted to solo dive. Somehow, he had convinced me how incredible skydiving was. And you worked with Tom, and you’re now a pilot. Did he give you that talk about flying and the importance of it?

Powell: 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.

Hudson: He’s also like, “Look, it’s not going to come out if it’s not great.” And “Top Gun,” if that wasn’t great, then that would’ve been terrible. It would have been such a bummer. We needed a good “Top Gun” so bad.

This is one of those things that happen all the time. You do a movie. And then you do another movie that’s another plane movie. And then all anybody wants to talk about is “Are you only going to do plane movies now?” Because you had “Top Gun” and now “Devotion,” and you’re a pilot in both. People are going to always ask you about piloting as if that’s the only thing you’re ever going to do.

Powell: I just took a visit to the Pentagon yesterday, and it’s by far the most famous I’ve ever felt in my whole life. “Devotion” — I found that book and developed that for five years. So when I missed out on the Rooster role, the conversation I had with Tom was “Hey, I didn’t get this role, but I actually have a naval aviation movie I’ve been developing. Maybe that’s just what I’m going to do.” And he convinced me that there’s room for two. And I’m really happy, because everything I learned on “Top Gun” got to be infused into “Devotion.” But it does look like, “Hey, are you going to do anything else?”

Hudson: Jonathan Majors is major. I loved your chemistry.

Powell: When you square up against someone who’s bringing it, there’s no better feeling. He’s a guy that’s absolute focus. I knew he was Method. So our first conversation, I said, “No matter what happens, we have to be able to look each other in the eyes and understand what’s real and what’s not real.”

Hudson: I worked with Daniel Day-Lewis on “Nine.” I got the best of Daniel Day-Lewis. The Daniel I got was writing me letters every day, very loving and kind. And then I remember one time Leo DiCaprio, because they did “Gangs of New York,” was like, “How was Daniel?” I’m like, “Great.” He’s like, “Really?” When you’re working with someone who’s really Method, you don’t know who you’re going to get every day.

Powell: Do you still have those letters?

Hudson: I do.

Powell: “Knives Out” looks like the greatest experience of all time. And also, every one of those actors has a great reputation. You guys were shooting in Greece while Linklater and I just finished writing a movie together, exploring the seedy parts of strip clubs in Houston. It’s not Greece.

Hudson: You and I will do a rom-com — a very much-needed, well-written rom-com — in Italy. When someone has the ability to be funny and poignant and has a certain je ne sais quoi about them, girls like me or Reese or Sandra, we’re like, “Would Glen do rom-coms?”

Powell: I love the image of you, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon sitting around talking about me.

“Almost Famous” is one of my favorite movies. That’s not an easy role. And the world fell in love with you — and you went on this ride of the Golden Globes and the Oscars, and you were …

Hudson: Twelve. I was so young. It was amazing. It felt like a dream. I remember the day after the Oscars. The whole awards thing is this monthslong process. And this is me at 21: When I woke up the day after I lost, it was like, “Oh, wow, that just happened.” For me, it was the most wonderful coming-out party that you could ever have possibly asked for. And coming from the family that I come from, my parents’ concern was that I didn’t understand the peaks and the valleys of what this business really is.

That moment for them was like, “Oh, she’s going to be OK.” Because I felt grounded. The process was a whirlwind, but I was in love with my then-husband and I wanted to nest. The day after, I got a four-page letter from Kurt, and you know Kurt: He is not exactly the dad that emotes. But he wrote me this four-page letter, which I’ll keep to myself. That was my coming-of-age. Now I look back, I’m like, “Wow, I was a baby.” I was a baby. I want that for my kids. I want that with my friends. I want to be able to have real perspective on all of it.

Powell: The one thing I’ve realized, getting to know your family, is everybody’s got the most grounded perspective. There’s not one ego in the bunch.

Hudson: Well, Oliver.

Powell: One of my favorite moments in “Scream Queens” was they busted out a shirtless scene for Oliver last minute. And he was like, “I’m not in shape.” And instead of trying to get in shape, he ate more. I was like, that sums up Oliver.

Hudson: Oh, Glen, I love you. I’m so glad they paired us because we have such good history. 


Set Design by Jack Flanagan