Glen Powell initially turned down his ‘Top Gun’ role — so Tom Cruise rewrote it for him

Glen Powell leaning on a small table wearing an orange polo shirt with his hands in the pockets of his tan pants
Glen Powell was passed over for the roles of Captain America and a youthful Han Solo before his big break in “Top Gun: Maverick.”
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Before Glen Powell was Hollywood’s most in-demand leading man, he spent years losing out on major roles. But when he finally got the call that the part of cocky “Top Gun: Maverick” pilot Hangman was his, he nearly turned it down.

The “Hit Man” star lost on blockbuster roles including Captain America and Han Solo in “Solo,” in addition to pieces in films ranging from “Friday Night Lights” to “Cowboys & Aliens” and “The Longest Ride.” His break should have come when Miles Teller beat him out for the part of Rooster in “Top Gun” and Tom Cruise and director Joe Kosinski offered him the role of Hangman instead. There was just one problem.

“‘If I were editing this movie, I would cut him out immediately,” Powell told British GQ. The original version of the character was a lousy pilot who made it to Top Gun through nepotism, a storyline Powell thought did the film a disservice.


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Cruise and Kosinski decided to hear Powell out and ended up convinced, rewriting the character based on the “Anyone But You” actor’s notes.

“What we were talking about is, how can Hangman service the story and give the flavour of the original Top Gun that you need?” Powell said.

“I said my piece to Tom about what I do and what I do well, and he listened. Tom’s a listener. He listens to the crew members, he listens to his collaborators, and he hears people.”

And good thing he did — “Top Gun: Maverick” went on to become a box office phenomenon, and Powell’s career got the kickstart he had waited so long for.