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‘Hit Man’ Press Conference with Cast and Crew


Retta, Adria Arjona, Glen Powell and director Richard Linklater for 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Retta, Adria Arjona, Glen Powell and director Richard Linklater for ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

‘Hit Man’ is a new comic thriller coming to Netflix on June 7th after a limited theatrical run on May 24th. Directed by Richard Linklater (‘Boyhood’) and co-written by Linklater and star Glen Powell (‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ ‘Anyone But You’), the film is based on a 2001 Texas Monthly article by Skip Hollandsworth about a man named Gary Johnson, a New Orleans college professor who moonlights with the Big Easy’s police department as a surveillance tech expert.

In the film, as in real life, the unassuming Johnson (Powell) is working with a team of detectives conducting a sting operation to catch people who want to hire a hitman to kill a spouse, business partner, or anyone else they want to get rid of. When Johnson must suddenly pose as the fake hitman, he discovers he has a knack for it – as well as a talent for disguising himself as a different type of person for every potential customer.

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in 'Hit Man.'

Glen Powell as Gary Johnson in ‘Hit Man.’ Photo: Netflix © 2024.

But while posing as a suave, cool, and sexy assassin named Ron, Gary meets a woman named Madison (Adria Arjona, ‘Andor’), who wants to off her abusive husband. “Ron” talks her out of it, and soon he and Madison begin an affair of their own — with Madison not knowing who “Ron” really is — while Gary finds himself entangled in an escalating combination of identity crisis and deception.

Co-starring Retta (‘Parks and Recreation’), Austin Amelio (‘The Walking Dead’), and Sanjay Rao, ‘Hit Man’ is a crackling, inspired mix of noir, crime thriller, and rom-com that’s hard to pin down to one genre and even more difficult to believe is based on a real person. Powell, Linklater, Arjona, and Retta all recently participated in an online press conference for the film, and here are 10 things we learned there, edited for clarity and length.

Related Article: Glen Powell, Anthony Mackie and Laura Dern Starring in ‘Monsanto’

1. Glen Powell Discovered the Story During The Pandemic

Glen Powell stars in 'Hit Man'.

Glen Powell stars in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

Glen Powell says it was early in the pandemic when he first discovered the true story of Gary Johnson and was fascinated by it.

Glen Powell: Immediately, it was so clear there was such a compelling character there. If you look at the real-life Gary Johnson, he was a psychology professor who actually moonlighted with the police department, did AV equipment, was an ornithologist, Zen Buddhist. It was just such an incredible character piece, but I didn’t really know where it went. All I knew is that there was a fascinating guy here, and they called him the Laurence Olivier of fake hitmen because he approached the job differently. Instead of just becoming the hitman for hire across from someone who is trying to kill their husband or their wife or their business partner, he embodied their fantasy of what a fake hitman is, because hitmen don’t exist. So he took this skillset to a whole new level and started putting on these disguises and all these different things. It was just a fascinating idea…So I called up Rick and I said, I just read this amazing article called ‘Hit Man.’ And Rick said, “Yeah, I read that article when you were in 7th grade.”

2. Powell Helped Linklater Crack the Story of ‘Hit Man’

Adria Arjona as Madison, director and co-writer Richard Linkletter, co-writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and director of photography Shane F. Kelly.

(L to R) Adria Arjona as Madison, director and co-writer Richard Linkletter, co-writer Glen Powell as Gary Johnson, and director of photography Shane F. Kelly. Photo: Brian Rondel / Courtesy of Netflix.

Richard Linklater says he had been thinking about making a movie out of ‘Hit Man’ for years but that working with Glen Powell finally unlocked the story.

Richard Linklater: I was so excited to get this call from Glen because that story had been kicking around in my head. I had talked to Skip, I had had a couple of meetings on it over the years, but it didn’t really work. It didn’t really work as a film because there was this repetition. It didn’t really go anywhere. So I told this to Glen [and] he said, ‘Well, let’s talk about it.” I was like, “Oh, wow, it’s the pandemic. What else are we going to do?” So talk we did, every day for a while. We would just have hours of conversations. And Glen kind of loosened the logjam I was in. He said, “Well, what if we deviate? Why do we have to stick to the facts?” So once that floodgate opened, we were off to the races. We just started having these great ideas, and the last two thirds of the movie kind of comes out of that. The genres kick in and it becomes this thrill ride. But it was grounded in Gary Johnson’s life reality…[he] was a real person, [with] a real job, the strangest occupation anyone could ever have.

3. One Paragraph in the ‘Hit Man’ Article Became Half the Movie

Glen Powell and Adria Arjona in 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Glen Powell and Adria Arjona in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

In the movie, Gary Johnson meets with a woman who wants to put out a hit on her abusive husband. Gary, disguised as a suave assassin named Ron, talks her out of it, persuading her to take control of her life instead. The two later begin their own relationship, which drives the second half of the film.

Glen Powell: The story wasn’t revealing itself in a natural way, but then there was this paragraph about this woman that the real-life Gary Johnson sat down with. She was approaching him to get him to kill her husband. And instead of sending her to jail like he did with everybody else, he didn’t believe that she was capable of this thing. He sort of believed in the best of her and talked her out of it. It was the first time that ever happened, and there was a relationship that developed from that. But all of a sudden the article just sort of moves on, and Rick and I were like, well, what if we pull at that thread? We have so many questions about what that relationship is and how they reengaged with each other. Did he stay as the fake hitman? So really that was a big breaking point because that was when we started thinking about, [what] if he got stuck in this identity as this fake hitman?

4. Not Just Another Femme Fatale

Adria Arjona stars in 'Hit Man'.

Adria Arjona stars in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

Adria Arjona’s character, Madison, reveals more layers to her personality as the film goes on, which is something Arjona wanted to happen.

Adria Arjona: She’s a woman that’s coming from a traumatic relationship, this weird kind of dark relationship, and she’s desperate for reinvention. I think we all do that in life, where we’re all always trying to find sort of a different version of ourselves. She’s sort of playing that. She’s kind of looking at Ron and going, what would Ron like? What would a bad boy like Ron want in a woman? So I don’t see Madison as a femme fatale. I see a woman trying to play the illusion of a femme fatale. That was really fun to play with. I just had so much fun crafting that with them, and it felt a little bit more grounded. That was something that I could do. I wasn’t interested in just being the femme fatale.

5. Retta Didn’t Find Out She Had Her Role For, Like, Forever

Retta stars in 'Hit Man'.

Retta stars in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

The ‘Parks and Recreation’ star auditioned for the role of Claudette, leader of the undercover New Orleans police sting operation for which Gary first does surveillance and then acts as a fake hitman.

Retta: I got an audition from my agent and I was like, oh, it’s Rick and Glen. I didn’t know Glen wrote. So I was like, “Look at you, fancy.” So I put myself on tape and didn’t hear anything for a long time. Then Glen and I happened to be at [a party] and Glen is talking to me as if I was hired. He was like, “We’re going to make that movie. We’re going to have so much fun.” I was like, “Dude, did I get the job?” I literally went home that night and texted my manager and I was like, did someone not email me to let me know that I booked this gig? But I know Glen from 10 years ago; we did a movie together [‘Sex Ed’]. I know Rick from 20 years ago; we did a pilot together. So I know them personality-wise, and I was like, “Oh, this is going to be a very calm environment.”

6. How Retta’s Role Changed From Claude to Claudette

Austin Amelio as Jasper, Sanjay Rao as Phil and Retta as Claudette in 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Austin Amelio as Jasper, Sanjay Rao as Phil and Retta as Claudette in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Brian Roedel/Netflix © 2024.

As is often the case, the role of Claudette was supposed to be a man (Claude), but Retta took it over with few changes and not a lot of research.

Retta: It was written originally as a guy. So I just chose to be me if I were a detective. Those are the choices that I made. I was me saying those lines as a detective in that space. It wasn’t much more than that. I didn’t study anything. We met some detectives that told us how things go, but that was about it for me. I don’t watch a lot of true crime. I listened to some podcasts and they used to scare me, so I stopped. I like to problem-solve. So that’s why I was like, I feel like he said this, so I feel like we need to do that.

7. Richard Linklater Was Very Happy to Work With Glen Powell Again

Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, director Richard Linklater and Sanjay Rao for 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, director Richard Linklater and Sanjay Rao for ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

Richard Linklater previously directed Glen Powell in 2016’s ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ with the latter playing Walt “Finn” Finnegan.

Richard Linklater: Kind of the greatest thing about getting to do this over the years and decades is when you work with someone you like and if the planets align, you get to work with ’em again. It’s just wonderful. With Glen, I think our big breakthrough was 10 years ago we were shooting ‘Everybody Wants Some!!’ Glen came in and auditioned. I had a part that I thought would be very difficult to cast. He’s an athlete, yet he’s really smart and charming, and he’s kind of the team intellectual. I was like, oh, this is a small little target, who’s going to do this? I’d known Glen for about 10 years at this time. I’d worked with him when he was young, like a high school kid…But he walked in the room and was this guy. I was like, when did Glen become so amazing? He’s so smart. He’s so charming. I was just seeing this force of nature. I was like, oh my God, he solved my problem. I got my guy to play this thing. But we had such a great creative time on that…when he called me with this, it was off to the races creatively, because he is just fun to work with. He’s funny and smart and a great collaborator.

8. Glen Powell to Richard Linklater: Right Back Atcha, Pal!

Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

Glen Powell in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

Glen Powell explains why he enjoys collaborating with Linklater and would like to keep it going.

Glen Powell: The wonderful thing about writing with Rick is that your conversations become wonderful pages and friendship and work blend together in this kind of effortless way. It’s what I think makes him magical as a filmmaker. He’s never attacking a story. He sort of lets the story reveal itself. And when he casts people, he really allows them to come into the process. There’s sort of this wonderful room for life that he gives everything. I think it makes that ecosystem very different and very fruitful. So I’d love to keep doing this till our fingers just freeze up on the keyboard.

9. The Texting/Playacting Scene Was Everything

Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Adria Arjona and Glen Powell in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

During one crucial, showstopping scene late in the movie, Gary (Powell) guides Madison (Arjona) through a fake argument by texting her what to say and how to act, even as the other members of his police team are listening to them talk.

Adria Arjona: We spoke about that scene so much between the three of us. It was that scene that we just never gave up on. There were so many different iterations of how we might do it… So when we first heard that first “action,” all of a sudden I start seeing Glen kind of guide me through this scene in such a seamless way. My job really was to follow his lead as much as I could. It was one of those scenes where we didn’t stop looking at each other. I looked at every gesture that he did, and it triggered something in me. So I feel like it’s a scene where teamwork was so important and so crucial. I don’t think I’ve done that before in any movie. You aspire to be the best listener you can. I mean, that’s what acting is all about. But everyone has their own motives. You’re playing your own characters. For this scene, we had to be symbiotic for it to work. It was also so much fun.

10. What a Surprise: The Studios Didn’t Get ‘Hit Man’

Glen Powell in 'Hit Man'.

Glen Powell in ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix. Copyright: © 2024.

According to Powell, no Hollywood studios were interested in backing ‘Hit Man.’ The movie was financed and filmed independently, then played at the Venice and Toronto film festivals in 2023 – with Netflix purchasing it at the latter for a reported $20 million.

Glen Powell: We took this movie out and no one got it. We took this script out. We were so proud of it. We were so excited about what it said about identity and passion. We thought it was so universal and exciting. It was going to be an audience movie. And then it was just crickets. No one got it. Nobody responded to it because I don’t think it fits into one box. We were trying to do something original, and I think the town always wanted it to be something else. I think what I’m just really proud of is we got to make this movie independently, and make the movie that we wanted to make. It doesn’t subscribe to any genre. It doesn’t fit into any box. I think the reason it’s a really great audience movie, and the reason people are responding to it, is you can’t get out in front of it. You can’t predict it because it’s all the things.

“He’s not a killer, but he can pretend.”

R1 hr 55 minOct 3rd, 2023

Showtimes & Tickets

A mild-mannered professor moonlighting as a fake contract killer sparks a chain reaction of trouble when he falls for a client. Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Hit Man’?

A part-time staffer (Glen Powell) with the New Orleans Police Department stumbles into the role of posing undercover as a reliable hitman with the goal of arresting those trying to hire him. He discovers he has a talent for theatrically matching the expectations of his suspects with often-humorous costumes, accents, and mannerisms, which makes him especially adept at his work. He meets with a woman (Adria Arjona) who wants a hitman to kill her husband, but he falls for her at first sight and saves her from getting entrapped. Later she bamboozles her way into his life and murders her husband for the insurance money. The story explores how far will a person go for infatuation, love, and personal happiness.

Who is in the cast of ‘Hit Man’?

  • Glen Powell as Gary Johnson
  • Adria Arjona as Maddy Masters
  • Austin Amelio as Jasper
  • Retta as Claudette
  • Sanjay Rao as Phil
  • Evan Holtzman as Ray Masters
  • Molly Bernard as Gary’s ex-wife
Retta, Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, director Richard Linklater and Sanjay Rao for 'Hit Man'.

(L to R) Retta, Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, director Richard Linklater and Sanjay Rao for ‘Hit Man’. Photo: Netflix.

Other Movies Similar to ‘Hit Man’:

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