Instagram can’t handle the naked truth.
Glen Powell bares all as Ben in the new romantic comedy Anyone but You. But his cinematic nudity, used for both comedic and seductive effect, is so copious that it led to Instagram pulling a post about the film.
“My buddy, Tanner, wanted to post about the movie,” Powell tells EW. “His posts got taken down by Instagram because it violated the laws of nudity or whatever. And I was like, ‘Okay, when a friend’s support post of your movie gets flagged by Instagram, you’ve been too naked in the movie.'”
In all seriousness though, Powell does have to expose himself as the literal butt of the joke quite frequently — most notably in a sequence where he hurriedly sheds his clothes after Bea (Sydney Sweeney) finds a spider in his shorts. It required Powell to have a sense of humor about the situation.
“Over the course of my life and career, I’ve learned [to be comfortable with it],” he says. “I was the kid at the pool that didn’t want to even take his shirt off. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that there’s a time in your life and your career where this is the moment to do those things. Because your body’s not going to look like that forever. In a rom-com, you know what you’re selling — and as a rom-com leading man, you are supposed to get taken down as much as humanly possible.”
He adds, “The whole purpose of being a rom-com leading man is to look as dumb and silly as possible. And part of that is to be naked and for bad things to happen to you while you’re naked. Am I going to be taking my clothes off in every movie? Absolutely not. But in a rom-com, I know my function in the universe.”
With Anyone But You, Powell returns to the genre that made him a star, leaning hard into tropes like enemies to lovers and fake dating. After a disastrous first date, Ben (Powell) and Bea are thrown together at a destination wedding where they decide to pretend to be a couple. We caught up with Powell ahead of the film’s release to talk about his parents’ hilarious cameo, the importance of grand gestures, and the challenge of learning all of the words to Natasha Bedingfield’s”Unwritten.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You broke out with Set It Up. What draws you to the genre and what do you look for in a rom-com script that is a prerequisite to your saying yes?
GLEN POWELL: I grew up in between two sisters and come from a lot of strong-willed aunts and female cousins. And on road trips, we’d listened to the My Best Friend’s Wedding soundtrack, and I idolized Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. So, I love rom-coms. But in addition to watching them, I ended up working for this producer named Lynda Obst [Sleepless in Seattle] when I first moved out to L.A., who was one of these iconic female powerhouse producers and a trailblazer across the board, but also was known for having the Midas touch when it came to rom-coms. I was a script reader for her for a while. So I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of rom-com submissions and got to talk with her about which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t like. I really had a rom-com education from one of the greats when it came to all this.
Director Will Gluck mentioned there was a sense of Dermot Mulroney [My Best Friend’s Wedding] passing the rom-com leading man baton to you on set. Did you feel that?
Oh, absolutely. Dermot was very deliberate and vocal about that and was so giving with his perspective on what he learned. My Best Friend’s Wedding really defines Dermot in so many ways. That’s one of his most iconic roles. He told me, “Don’t shy away from being a rom-com leading man. Really lean into it, embrace it. The greatest gift that this business can give you is to represent love on screen for audiences.” It was such a nice thing for him to say and a nice baton to hand off to me in that way.
Because these are the movies that people consume no matter if you’re feeling great or terrible, Rom-coms are true comfort food, and they’re watchable for a reason. They make you leave the theater feeling good. That’s a great gift to give to people. There’s been a lack of rom-coms with scope for a long time. They’ve settled into a budgeted streamer version. But the big rom-com that makes you chase after the one you love in an epic third act, there’s nothing better to watch than that. That’s why people return to them. Dermot giving me that advice really helped me appreciate the whole process even more, looking at his perspective 20 years later.
Sydney told me that your parents make a cameo in the scene where she’s trying to get her shirt out of the airplane seat. How did you keep yourself from breaking with all of that happening?
The funniest part about that scene in general is that my dad’s the real method actor. He’s stone-cold asleep. I’m sitting there as Sydney is trying to do gymnastics over my face and quite often slipping and falling onto me, and I’m having to not break. Whereas my dad, he’s the Daniel Day-Lewis of sleep acting. There was not a false beat in that performance. My mom is across the aisle and gets the “I’ll have what she’s having” When Harry Met Sally moment. She gets an iconic look in that scene. She came in and killed it. I was very proud of both of them in that scene.
Please tell me that you’re a much better swimmer than Ben.
Yeah. If I weren’t a good swimmer, I think I would’ve drowned in Sydney Harbor or these water tanks where we shot all this stuff. It’s serious currents and serious waves they were putting us through. So thank God, Sydney and I can actually swim.
There was a lot of behind-the-scenes fun with this ensemble cast. Can you tell me more about how you were building that rapport with each other?
One of the first things that I did when we got down there is I took everybody to laser tag and a movie. I rented out the laser tag spot. I love laser tag; it’s a great team-building activity. I didn’t realize how competitive our ensemble would be. I left laser tag so soaked in sweat that I literally went a few blocks away to buy a shirt. And then I had to get someone to give me their shirt out of their car, so that when we went to the movie, I wouldn’t be in wet clothes.
Wait, did you get the shirt from a fellow cast member or a stranger?
No, my driver on the movie, Pat, gave me a shirt out of the back of his car. Ironically, the phrase on that shirt is a phrase that Tom Cruise used to say to us on Top Gun all the time, which is, “Pressure is a privilege.” And Tom Cruise is probably the only person who would leave laser tag as soaked as I was. But we just had such a great ensemble, and Sydney was so important to that chemistry because she set up activity after activity for everyone and kept everybody close. We have a group thread called “The Rest Is Still Unwritten.”
Speaking of being competitive, I noticed Darren Barnet made a comment on one of your Instagram posts about doing sit-ups. What was that about?
Darren always gave me sh–. This is why I’m done taking my shirt off for a while. I don’t need that pressure. I had weights and resistance bands on set and was not drinking and not enjoying all the culinary options that Australia had to offer because I had to be constantly naked. Darren was the first one to always give me s— right before a take. I’d be down there doing push-ups and curls and stuff. Every douchebag quality that you can imagine in an actor, I really had to embrace. Darren, by the way, is the most shredded person in a cast, and that’s probably exactly why they wouldn’t let him take his shirt off.
Ben’s “serenity” song is Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Were there other songs you were playing with? How did you end up choosing that one?
That came from Will [Gluck]. Will has the music taste of a 12-year-old girl in 2005. It’s amazing the music that he responds to. “Unwritten” is a song that I give Will complete ownership of and kudos for because would that be my first choice of “serenity” song? Absolutely not. But now that I have been to enough weddings and in bars where they play that song, you see the universal reaction to it, how people absolutely love it, and it really connects with people. It is not only nostalgic, but it’s joyful and it’s fun, which is exactly what rom-coms are supposed to be. Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” captured that feeling.
And then you also all sing it in the credits.
We knew broad strokes about the credit sequence. But I didn’t fully process what that actually looked like — that after you would shoot a scene, you would have to embarrass yourself in front of the crew singing Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Every time you finish the scene you’re like, “Wow, great, glad we got that done.” And then they’re like, “Okay, now sing the song.” The first time we sang it, I was [thinking], “I’m not going to be able to get through this movie. This is the most embarrassing, horrific thing. It almost feels like when you’re in a nightmare. You’re like, “Oh, I’m wearing no clothes and I’m singing. I’m naked in front of a movie crew singing ‘Unwritten.'” You’re like, “Wow, that’s a really weird dream.” I’m like, no, that’s the reality I was living in.
Did you at least already know the words?
No. I didn’t know any of the words. So, I’m like, “Okay, I think I can stumble my way through this.” But then Will is like, “No, because of sound, you have to do it a capella.” Not knowing the words in front of the crew was awful. But over the course of the movie, everybody had to do it. So at a certain point, nobody’s going to escape this movie looking cool in front of the crew. You might as well enjoy it. It’s a metaphor for making rom-coms in general.
I’m impressed how romantic you guys made being airlifted look. What was the trick to that?
That may have been the most uncomfortable day of the entire shoot. No one tells you Australia gets incredibly cold. That night where we were on the buoy was one of the coldest nights I’ve ever had on a film set. You’re wet and cold and getting shot with a wind machine under a helicopter in the elements. In addition to that, the harness thing pushes you together, and I’m not a light person, so I’m feeling all of that. To sing Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten” while feeling the full force of gravity under your armpits is not great.
That’s funny because Sydney says it wasn’t that bad.
She’s a tiny little bite-sized human. I’m a corn-fed Texan.
There’s a through-line about jumping off things to see a monument with a person you love. And you recently shared that your parents got engaged at the foot of the Jefferson Memorial. Did that make the movie more personally meaningful to you?
I do think that I’ve grown up romantic because of my parents. My parents are two people who never forget the privilege it is to find a soulmate and someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. I was also part of my sister’s proposal. She was a fan of The Amazing Race, and her now husband asked me to plan an Amazing Race-style proposal. He did not want to know what any of the challenges were. So we filmed this whole thing where we did the challenges around this town where we have this family ranch. So, grand gestures are a part of the love language of my family.
In the grand gesture speech at the end, it isn’t like “I have to spend the rest of my life with you,” but more, “I think this could work, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.” Given that, do you think Ben and Bea will go the distance after the credits roll?
That’s also one of the ways that we update this rom-com. The question of the movie is not “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” They fell apart before they really had a chance to get going. The big question to this movie is: “Can love have a second chance? We stumbled off the starting blocks. Do you want to give this a real shot?” It’s something I’ve thought about a lot recently — how often lightning strikes with someone, how often do you feel that sense of potential and that excitement? It can happen once. It can happen many times. But there’s an undeniable thing between Ben and Bea that is what the movie’s about. This frustrating feeling of knowing this could be something, and we never got a shot at it.