Interview: Glen Powell on Producing The Blue Angels Documentary

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to The Blue Angels producer Glen Powell about the new documentary, which is currently playing in IMAX theaters and will begin streaming on Prime Video on May 23. Powell discussed his childhood experience at a Blue Angels show, the documentary’s goals, and working with fellow producer J.J. Abrams on the film.

“Soar with The Blue Angels in a brand-new documentary featuring never-before-seen footage that chronicles a year with the Navy’s elite Flight Demonstration Squadron—from selection through the challenging training and demanding show season—showcasing the extraordinary teamwork, passion, and pride that fuels America’s best, the Blue Angels,” says the synopsis.

Tyler Treese: You shared a really lovely story on social media about how you saw the Blue Angels perform in Texas as a kid, and it just blew your mind. Can you recall just that sense of wonder and what amazed you so much that it has clearly stuck with you for decades since?

Glen Powell: Have you ever been to a Blue Angels show?

No, I haven’t.

When you’re a kid and, and you walk to the Blue Angels show, and there’s this just energy around this community. The fact that you get to see something really, truly extraordinary. It’s a true human feat. These are human beings in these planes that are pulling dynamic maneuvers that feel the physics feel impossible, right? I remember, as a kid, looking up with a sense of awe at what these planes were doing and then looking over at these adults who felt that same sense of awe. So often as a kid, your mind is blown by things that are normalized to other people. But everybody around shared the same sense of fascination with the low-level maneuvers and the proximity and the speed that was happening around these jets.

Then I think the other thing that really affected me was the fact that as soon as those planes landed and the pilot stepped out, they signed autographs for people. They were taking pictures with people and they were so kind, and they really just represented not only people that were doing something extraordinary, this relentless pursuit of perfection, but they were also just really wonderful human beings. They represented the best of the Navy and the best of America. That was something that I think just always stuck with me. So, yeah, as a kid, I had a poster of the Blue Angels on my wall. That signed poster just represented that pursuit of perfection and to be able to do it with a smile on your face and a warm heart to anyone you meet.

I love that you mentioned that it was a human feat because one aspect of this doc I really like is that you’re following the new members of the team and it shows they’re not superhuman, they’re making mistakes, but they’re so committed to learning from those mistakes and to their craft that they’re able to do something just phenomenal through this amazing work ethic. What did you find most interesting about just getting to follow their whole journey for an entire year?

Well, I think I’ve always been fascinated by people who continue to push those limits. People that do something great and then that’s just the starting point for them. But in addition to that, it’s all the work that it takes to get there. I think what this documentary really captures, and when I flew with the Blue Angels something that I was really fascinated by was watching… I got to go to dinner with them and their families, and then I got to wake up, we worked out, and we grabbed breakfast. I got to see how much attention they put on their families and the sacrifice to be away from them for 300 days of the year doing these shows. But also just the fact that they’re representing, they’re obviously pulling off incredible physical feats, but they’re also representing the Navy, and they’re representing the best of America.

I think for me, I’ve just always been fascinated by the human aspect. That’s one of those things that you’re exactly right, this documentary really shows the human aspect. These are not just planes doing incredible things. These are human beings that have the ability to have human error 18 inches apart from each other, pulling off incredible feats at the speed of sound. So I think that’s the thing that really blows your mind when you really get a sense of the humans that are in the cockpit and what it takes to pull off this feat it becomes way more impressive. So that’s what we’re trying to do with audiences here.

There’s such an amazing history of the Blue Angels in film. 1975’s Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience innovated so many aerial shooting techniques that were used in the first Top Gun. Now, 50 years later, you’re continuing this legacy of filming them and using these technological breakthroughs to do it in an even more breathtaking manner. How cool is it to be adding to that tradition of films featuring them?

Well, I think that obviously Tom [Cruise]’s experience with the Blue Angels really propelled him to join the first Top Gun, and I think for me, being on Top Gun and near Tom really inspired my love of aviation. Not only that, living on naval bases and being a part of that community really made me feel like a part of that family. I really feel so honored to call the Navy a huge part of my life and a community that I really care about. So to make this documentary really felt so incredible, such a privilege, such an honor to put the real-life heroes on screen and do it in such a way that, for me, put audiences in that cockpit. So not only do you get a sense of the humans in those cockpits, but you get to put the audiences on a thrill ride that they’ve never been able to have before.

Another aspect I loved was that you showed the Blue Angels Foundation in this film, which helps wounded veterans and their families. You really see throughout this doc that they, they’re, they have this bond and they help each other, you know, even after those flying days are over. So how important was it to incorporate that?

I think one of the most beautiful parts of this documentary is, again, you get to see the selection process, you get to see the training process, and you get to see the shows. The most incredible part about it is that through all of those different aspects of being a Blue Angel, you really get to see the sense of community. I think this is one of the most beautiful communities because as that baton is passed off to a new group of pilots, you really get to see a sense of that legacy. You really get to see a sense of what this means to a pilot, what this means to the Navy, and what the Blue Angels mean to the world. I think that’s a part that I really got a sense of when I was a part of this world and this community that I couldn’t shy away from. I was so drawn to this community because it really is magical because it represents the best of this country.

J.J. Abrams also served as a producer. How was it getting to work with him and just seeing his creative process?

I think J.J. Abrams is one of the most exciting filmmakers we have. To have J.J.’s brain on especially the IMAX theatrical side of things really plused up this documentary in an incredible way. Obviously, I had the relationship with Kevin LaRosa and Michael FitzMaurice at CineJet, who shot Top Gun Maverick. So we had the benefit of having them on this picture. But J,J.’s brain is an incredible place. It’s an exciting place and he knows how to put audiences on a thrill ride. So the fact that we got to assemble a really incredible team around this thing, I just feel so lucky because the audience really benefits.


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