“Devotion” is the incredible true story of Navy pilots Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) and Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), fearless fighters who had each others’ backs during the Korean War, inside and outside of the cockpit. Dramatic and action-packed, “Devotion” is the perfect movie to see with your family this holiday weekend; it takes the so-called “Forgotten War” and brings it to life brilliantly.
TheWrap got to sit down with the movie’s very handsome stars Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell (the latter of whom has a bit of Navy aviation experience thanks to “Top Gun: Maverick”). We talked about why this story was so important to tell; Powell tells a very detailed story about pitching the movie to Majors in a Turkish bathhouse; and Majors, who stars in the upcoming “Ant-Man and the Wasp in Quantumania,” extends an invitation to Powell to become a part of the MCU.
Glen, I know this project was kind of a passion project for you, so I was wondering how you first got involved and why this movie meant so much.
Glen Powell: I ended up reading this book on a fishing trip with my family. I remember after reading it, us all feeling the same sense of connection to the characters within the story. And my grandfather was a Korean War vet; that was also, I think, a feeling of hearing my grandfather talk about the Korean War.
Films can add connection. You see it. You feel it. And there was a thing when I was talking to my grandfather about the Korean War, I had no sense of grounding for that war and what it meant in his experience there. And there’s something really incredible that movies can do, which is add an emotional connection for people generations away from a thing. And what I found is we are generations away from the story of these men, but I think what this movie does is really bring it to the forefront in that this is a story for now. It’s a story that feels very familiar and yet I also think it’s a forgotten war. It’s forgotten heroes. The fact that we read the book and we had the opportunity to make it a movie, and that here we are, and it’s going to come out this Thanksgiving, it’s a real privilege.
And Jonathan, what drew you to the story specifically?
Jonathan Majors: Well, it’s a great story. It’s epic in scope. It’s an intimate story. I look at the protagonist, or in this case the protagonists, and I go, “OK, who are they? What are they about? Can I connect?” And on each requirement, the script knocked it out of the park. And then you layer in on top of that, that it’s actually a true story. Your grandfather, my grandfather as well – both our grandfathers fought in the Korean War. That makes things extremely personal. And this story became even more personal and continues to grow more and more personal. And the more we talk about it each day of work, each scene we went into, each moment we had together, it became more and more personal. But on that initial read, I thought, “OK, here’s Jesse Brown.” I understand this guy to a degree, and he also has something to teach me.
I understand him insofar as: here you are born into, as unfair as it is in this country, a marginalized group. There are certain prejudices that are put on you. There are certain doors that are closed to you. And I, being a young Black boy from Texas, was never about that. And Jesse being a young Black boy from Mississippi, clearly was not about that. And he took his ambition and put himself in the sky and became a war hero and, if you asked me, a national treasure. There was something to be learned there. That was a path I wanted to tread, and then I got to do it with this guy. That was it for me.
How did you build this camaraderie?
Glen Powell: What song played in your head when you saw me for the first time?
Jonathan Majors: What song played? [Major starts singing.]
Glen Powell: Beautiful. Jonathan Majors has got pipes and pipes.
Jonathan Majors: No, I mean, he’s a dreamboat, as we all know. But I think, no, that’s not our story. Our story was quite clinical at first. “Here’s the script. You want to do it? Let’s meet.” First you meet the big, big dog, our director [J.D. Dillard]. He and I met in Atlanta. And our story then becomes a bit more romantic, I would say, because we lock eyes essentially in a Russian Turkish sauna – very much like this, with a lot less clothes on.
Glen Powell: And I’m like pitching him the story like this.
Jonathan Majors: That’s how we really connected, spirit to spirit, soul to soul, aviator to aviator, I guess. And it was kind of just from there, I had no doubt. Once I read the script, I was pretty much in. But there was one factor that was going to lock it in. And that was definitely meeting the gentleman that was going to be playing Tom Hudner, because that relationship is paramount. You really can’t make the film without the actor. And what’s on the page is one thing, and what happens on the screen on the day is something else. And you can preview that in a gauntlet, in a crucible.
Glen Powell: A pressure cooker.
Jonathan Majors: It was effective.
Glen Powell: I don’t meet all my co-stars in Turkish saunas. That’s just for us.
Jonathan Majors: OK, good.
Glen Powell: But what I will say is that in terms of the people that you decide to get in the trenches with in a film sense, when you’re on set with people, everybody’s like, “Oh, are they nice? Are they easy to work with?”
There’s nothing like looking someone in the eyes and going, “Oh, this person’s going to be in it with me, thick and thin, and they will do everything in their power to make the best movie possible.” There’s nothing greater.
That was my favorite moment about sitting there talking to you, is I go, “This guy is going to put every ounce of himself to create Jesse Brown on the screen for the world.” And you did. But there’s just nothing that gives you greater sense of peace and fulfillment than going to set with that guy every day. It’s amazing.
It has changed the way I talk to people. Again, the spa is for us.
Jonathan Majors: It’s just us.
Glen Powell: … and us only.
Jonathan Majors: It’s ours.
Glen Powell: I hope you never go to that Turkish bathhouse with anyone –
Jonathan Majors: Never. Never.
Jonathan, you’re locked into several Marvel Studios movies as Kang. Feels like you should maybe bring Glen along.
Jonathan Majors: We would love that. I mean, he’s tailor-made. He’s definitely a hero. You’re definitely hero vibes.
Glen Powell: Aw shucks.
Jonathan Majors: Definitely hero vibes. I’m sure there’s something in the canon. We’d be lucky to have him. I would like to share the screen with him as many times as possible.
“Devotion” is in theaters now.