Richard Linklater and leading man/co-writer Glen Powell first conceived the idea for “Hit Man” during the pandemic after Powell shared an article about a real-life professor-turned-hitman named Gary Johnson.
Linklater said he was immediately drawn in by the bizarre duality of Johnson’s life. “It’s so desperate and weird,” Linklater said at TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP.
“He was so compelling when he was on the mic, when he was in front of people…and then he would go home and he’d be with his cats.” Powell added.
Powell stars as Johnson, a mild-mannered philosophy professor who secretly moonlights as a gun-for-hire. When asked what drew him to the character, Powell said it was the jarring contrast between Johnson’s badass alter-ego meeting with shady clients, versus his “isolated and sad” homebody existence.
“What an interesting thing to have this duality,” Powell said. “And it was that duality that sprung the thought behind this movie.”
Teaming up once again with Linklater, Powell aims to poke holes in the self-serious hitman thriller with this zany true story. “I would never make a guy moonlight as a philosophy professor or put on costumes to do this,” Powell said, adding that Johnson’s multitudes are “what makes him so fascinating.”
The film promises plenty of boundary-pushing comedy and sex appeal, a welcome change for Linklater after a venture into family fare. “It felt old fashioned,” said Linklater, known for making adult-oriented indies like “Dazed and Confused” and “Everybody Wants Some.”
Powell was also asked about the upcoming “Twisters,” the sequel to 1996 event film “Twister” from Universal.
“It’s amazing to make something really big, and theatrical, and cinematic and emotional… I think audiences are gonna really love it,” Powell said.
“Hit Man” premiered on Monday night at Sundance to a standing ovation.
In his review of the film from the Venice Film Festival, The Wrap’s Ben Croll wrote: “A peak-performance engine running wholly on charisma, Richard Linklater’s ‘Hit Man’ revives and revitalizes a genre in awfully short supply.
“Hit Man” is getting a “limited theatrical release” this summer, just prior to its launch on Netflix on June 7. Watch the full interview in the embed above.