I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a headline that gave me goosebumps: “Jonathan Majors Made Glen Powell Pitch Him conscientious When completely naked in a Russian bath.” I need to know more. How did this happen?
What’s crazy about that title? That doesn’t sound crazy. I guess I’ve pitched that way throughout my career, and eventually someone wrote about it. No, the most interesting part of that… Well, there are two parts to that story. One is that I knew I wanted Jonathan Majors to star in this movie, and I’m such a fan of his work that I thought, “Where can I meet Jonathan?” And they said, “Come to New York.” So I said, “Okay, great. I’ll see him in New York. Where does he want to meet?” And they say there is this bathhouse. I thought it was in the West Village or something like that, and I said, “Okay, that’s great.” They were like, “Are you okay?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure. That sounds fun. We’ll do the sauna and throw the ball. So it’s funny when we walk into this Russian bath, and yes, very quickly, you completely undress. I think two minutes after we got to know each other, we were completely naked. I threw him naked the whole time? No. But there was a time when we talked about the movie while [naked]? Yeah sure. It binds you together. That’s all honesty. It’s all on the table — figuratively, literally, the whole thing. It was a fitting start to our relationship. We have to be in the trenches together, so you can put it all out there too and know who you’re in the trenches with, I guess.
Amazing! So it’s safe to say conscientious wouldn’t have happened without you. You are the proponent of the Black Label Media option the rights to the 2014 book Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice tells the story of the friendship between naval officers Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner during the Korean War. Why have you invested so much in bringing the story of Brown and Hudner to the big screen?
First of all, it’s an unknown story that I think is a good story about how far you’re willing to go to get a winger. Also, my grandfather was a veteran of the Korean War, and no movies were made about that. It was truly a forgotten war. Nobody talked about the Korean War. So, to serve everyone in uniform during that period, I think [it] is really important. But I also think the conversation about race happened because of this movie [is important]. When I read the script or when I read the book, I immediately think, “What a complicated relationship between these two men.” It’s a film that doesn’t boil down to racist dynamics like many of the ’90s or early 2000s did, as it simplified it to “Oh, I don’t like you, but now, I like you”. There’s something very modern about the story. For example, modern-day race conversations. During the Black Lives Matter protests, it was “Post a black square” and I said, “What’s the use of that?” Solidarity is such an important thing, but how do we actually do it? How do we bring skins into the game? How do we change the conversation? All of these are on a much different level than the things that make you complicit or the things that keep you from feeling guilty. And this movie is like all the things going on in my head and the conversations I’m having with different friends. It really feels like it explores a modern day conversation with a classic friendship. And I think that’s what drew me to the story, and in the process of developing it, the nuances of it became more and more interesting. I’m really proud of what it is and how it exists.
How did you come across the original book?
A friend recommended the book to me, then my uncle recommended it to me and I read it on this fishing trip with my family. In the end we all read it and were like, “Wow, there’s a movie here.” And the more I think about it, it’s not an obvious movie because the ending is a certainty and dynamic between the two of them. They don’t look like best friends, but they really are like soul mates, and the Korean War doesn’t have to be like a war where a studio says, “Let’s make a war movie Korean War!” So there’s all this going against it, and for me, that’s when it starts to feel more apparent – when the chips drop in price. When something is so obvious, it sometimes blends in with the cinematic of everything else, and it doesn’t challenge filmmakers or actors to make something special. And because there’s so much going against this, I said, “Everybody on board is going to have to take the opportunity to make this really special,” and everyone did.
You play as Tom Hudner and actually get the chance to meet him right before he passes away. How has your meeting with him influenced your role as a producer on the film and your role on screen?
That’s a really good question because it’s hard to meet the person you’re playing with. I’ve played a real person before, but I think this is the only time I actually get to meet the person I’m playing. And look one family in the eye—the Hudner family, the Brown family, Tom Hudner himself—and say, “If you would give me the rights to this book and your life, I would tell the story authentically. exact,” it’s a promise you just hope you can keep, and that puts a lot of pressure on you to do it right.
In terms of characters, you really have to separate yourself a bit. I became great friends with the Browns and Hudners, but you really have to separate yourself and say, “This is a man with flaws. This is a man whose insecurities, wants and needs have been disappointing to those close to him and all this. That’s what you have to do as an actor. You have to throw stones at your character, and since I love this man so much you don’t want to stone him. But if you don’t stone him, you won’t have the movie. So it really makes it very fun and complicated to play, but [Tom] journey on Top Guns always say a phrase that has really become a great compass for me, which is “pressure is a privilege.” When you do something with a lot of pressure, especially something with family pressure [and the] The pressure you’re putting on yourself to tell the right story, it means you’re doing something right. Showing this movie to those families made me very nervous. They love it. They are obsessed with it and so are its supporters. But that’s one thing. This is the legacy of these two men, and to show that on screen in front of the world was more naked than I felt in front of Jonathan Majors at a bathhouse.