Everybody Wants Some!! Told Us Everything We Needed to Know About Glen Powell


It’s August 1980, and Jake (Blake Jenner) is driving to college. He’s a freshman pitcher on the school’s highly-rated baseball team, and he’s moving into off-campus housing with his teammates, most of whom are upperclassmen. In short order, Jake meets the guys, who razz him because he’s a freshman and he’s a pitcher—all pitchers are weirdos, you see—and he does his best to settle in. He then walks upstairs and hears a voice: confident, laidback, impossibly cool. It’s Finn, blessed with incredible good looks and an amazing mustache. Finn is not like the other players. Sure, he wants to get laid and loves baseball, but there’s a more philosophical side to him. Finn is the sort of person you want to encounter early in college: Yes, he’ll break your balls because you’re a freshman, but he’ll change the way you look at the world.

It’s March 2016, and I’m watching “Everybody Wants Some!!,” Richard Linklater’s terrific comedy about college, baseball, love, and life. The movie will crash and burn at the box office, but that doesn’t matter: This is one of the director’s finest films and introduces audiences to many rising stars, like Zoey Deutch and Tyler Hoechlin. But I gravitate to Finn, who’s played by Glen Powell. I don’t realize it, but I’ve seen Powell in earlier films like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Expendables 3.” “Everybody Wants Some!!” is the breakout role. That guy’s going to be a star, you think to yourself.

Eight years later, that stardom is still yet to happen. Powell, who had previously appeared in the Fox horror series “Scream Queens,” has gone on to star in the rom-coms “Set It Up” (reunited with Deutch) and “Anyone but You,” not to mention 2022’s highest-grossing blockbuster, “Top Gun: Maverick.” And now he’s in “Hit Man,” also directed by Linklater. Plenty of recent profiles have anointed him as the Next Big Thing, and if next month’s “Twisters” ends up being huge, superstardom is just around the corner. In the meantime, fans are growing impatient, waiting for the world to figure out why Powell is so magnetic. “Everybody Wants Some!!” is all the proof we need.

When “Everybody Wants Some!!” came out in 2016, viewers understandably positioned it as another “Dazed and Confused”-esque look back from Linklater. Which would make Powell the film’s Matthew McConaughey-like discovery. Truth was, Linklater had already “discovered” Powell before that movie—as a teen, the actor was cast in “Fast Food Nation.” So when it came time for the director to find his Finn, he went with Powell, who understood how to portray this thoughtful hottie.

“[E]verybody looks back on their past with a certain type of nostalgia,” Powell told Rolling Stone at the time. “Most folks go, ‘Oh, I was the best player on the team, I dated everyone, I was great!’ Rick has no sentimentality for that; he’s the kind of guy that would say, ‘Well, that just wasn’t the case.’ … Most people are just bullshitting. So Rick said, ‘Play him like the person everybody says they were in college. The bullshit version of their story? Make him that guy!’”

In that way, Powell’s Finn does resemble McConaughey’s Wooderson, an impossibly attractive young buck who seems to have all the answers to life’s mysteries—especially if you’re younger than him, impressionable and seeking guidance for navigating adulthood. But Finn is a more fully fleshed-out individual than Wooderson was, one of several characters in the ensemble that embodies Linklater’s open-minded but clear-eyed portrait of college-age jocks at the dawn of the 1980s. 

Some criticized “Everybody Wants Some!!,” incorrectly believing that Linklater was endorsing these horny, crude bros, their occasionally misogynistic comments entirely in keeping with immature, blinkered athletes who haven’t yet experienced the wider world. These ballplayers can be dicks, but they also can be sweet and sensitive—these conflicting realities coexist harmoniously within them—and that’s especially true of Finn. He’s not the captain on the diamond—that’s Hoechlin’s going-pro-for-sure Glen—but he’s the one who leads them into battle each night as they hit the local clubs, dancing and flirting and hoping to score. Finn has a patented routine in which he “confides” to beautiful women that he only has a modestly-sized penis, a fiendish way to seem vulnerable and non-threatening. Whereas the other guys can be crass in their pickup lines, Finn practices a more sophisticated level of discourse, talking about astrological signs or life’s invisible wonders. 

Even more disarming, he really believes what he’s saying—although in one unguarded moment with a teammate, he admits he doesn’t think about anything too deeply. Finn’s contradictions make him fascinating—and relatable, reminding us of all our college friends trying to figure out exactly who they were. (Let’s be honest: We were, too.) That Finn’s quick to dismiss a lovely lady uninterested in his patter as a lesbian is, in the way that Powell plays it, both obnoxious and charming. Guys can be like that when they’re young and insecure—hopefully, they outgrow it. And with Finn, you have a feeling he’s going to.

There’s an All-American appeal to Powell, which means he’s a handsome, square-jawed white guy with piercing eyes. No wonder he was cast to play John Glenn in “Hidden Figures”—the man looks like he stepped right out of “The Right Stuff.” But Powell’s astronaut-like wholesomeness is nicely undercut by that wicked smile—that good-old-boy decency belied by the twinkle in his eyes. In “Hit Man,” Powell splits those dueling aspects of his persona into two sides of his character—nice-guy teacher Gary Johnson and pretend-killer Ron—but in “Everybody Wants Some!!” (back when most of us didn’t know who he was) they meld together into a seductive whole. Unfamiliarity with an actor is a beautiful thing—it’s easier to believe he is the role he’s playing—and as Finn, he embodied the brash, innocent energy of a 1980 dude who loves disco as much as he loves rock ‘n’ roll. Hey, as long as girls are involved, he’ll be there.

With Jake the film’s main character, Finn serves as something of a Falstaff, the veteran partier who shows our sheltered hero the ropes. Finn knows he’s not good enough to become a major-league ballplayer—college will probably be his last hurrah—but there’s nothing pathetic about him. Instead, he embodies the movie’s central thesis, which is that life’s greatest moments are fleeting—and that you may be experiencing one of them right now, so enjoy it. “Everybody Wants Some!!” doesn’t peddle in lazy nostalgia, displaying clear affection for the era and that time of life but also observing this world outside its naive bubble. Jake does some growing up over the course of “Everybody Wants Some!!,” but perhaps the film’s most mature character is Finn, who’s also its coolest. He alone understands what awaits them after college is over—the mundanity of life shorn of being a golden god. With his flowing locks and rad ‘stache, Finn is going to savor every single moment of these four years—why waste it on being a cretin?

We all knew a Finn in college, losing track of them along the way once real-world responsibilities took hold. In “Everybody Wants Some!!,” Glen Powell made that kind of too-good-to-be-true guy immortal, and since then, he’s brandished the same lethal charm, that megawatt smile both inviting and mischievous. Finn knows he doesn’t have a bright future, but the actor who played him does.     

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