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When “Devotion” star and executive producer Glen Powell recruited Jonathan Majors to join him in telling the true story of two Korean War-era fighter pilots who became some of the Navy’s…
When ¡°Devotion¡± star and executive producer Glen Powell recruited Jonathan Majors to join him in telling the true story of two Korean War-era fighter pilots who became some of the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen, the pitch took place in an unusual location.
“When I first sat down with Jonathan, he insisted I meet him at a Russian bathhouse in New York, and I pitched him the entire movie in the hottest sauna, as my brain was cooking,” Powell shared during an interview in Variety’s TIFF Studio, presented by King’s Hawaiian, where the movie made its world premiere ahead of its planned theatrical release on Nov. 23.
The quirky encounter makes for a memorable anecdote ¡ª and earned a hearty chuckle from Majors, “Devotion” director J.D. Dillard and their co-stars Joe Jonas, Christina Jackson and Thomas Sadoski ¡ª but the bond the two actors would need to form in order for this relationship to feel real demanded to be forged in fire.
By the time Powell approached Majors to play Jesse Brown (known to the world as the Navy’s first African American aviator) opposite his portrayal of Tom Hudner (the Korean War fighter pilot’s wingman), he’d been living with this project for a few years and realized casting was key to its success.
“I’ve never had anything so close to my heart before. I made promises to families to do this right,” Powell explained. “The beauty of this movie is that everyone has to come together for this thing to be what it is. I’m so proud of what we made together, because it’s a rare thing, a movie of this scale, with this amount of heart.”
Based on the book, ¡°Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice¡± by Adam Makos, Dillard’s film spotlights Brown and Hudner, as they train along their fellow fighter pilots during the Korean War, becoming brothers as well as heroes. Jonas portrays Marty Goode, another pilot in their squadron, while Sadoski is their division leader Dick Cevoli. Jackson portrays Brown’s beloved wife, Daisy.
Tapping into that husband-wife relationship was imperative as Majors explored what made Brown tick. “The huge key to who Jesse was, and is, is that devotion to his wife and that idea of sanctuary,” Majors explained. “The man that Jesse is in the world, he gets filled up by her; she is his fuel and motivation. How he operates outside is essentially from the GPS of his partner, best friend and wife.”
Later in the conversation, Majors got emotional recounting Brown’s final letter to his wife and how those words related to his experience filming the high-flying film (which saw the actors take flight in real vintage warplanes).
“The last thing we shot and last thing that Jesse writers to Daisy is ‘I’ll love you forever,’ I think that’s the difference for our picture. It’s not ‘I love you, baby.’ It’s, ‘I’ll love you forever.’ That’s devotion,” the actor shared, holding back tears. “That’s the responsibility.”
Behind the scenes, Jonas also took on additional responsibility, contributing an original song to the movie, teaming up with Khalid, Ryan Tedder and Bernard Harvey to write “Not Alone,” which plays over the end credits.
Jonas was inspired by the brotherhood bond shared between Majors and Powell as Jesse and Tom, as well as the deep love between Jesse and Daisy. “That mentality of being there for somebody forever, that line really stuck with me,” Jonas explained. “Trying to find a marriage between how I think a lot of military and Navy families feel when they’re away from their partners, that we can all feel on the smallest scale as performers ¡ª when we travel, we’re away from the people we love constantly ¨C but also putting myself in the smallest bit of what Jesse Brown’s shoes would’ve been like. That became ‘Not Alone.'”
Not allowing Jonas to be too modest, Dillard chimed in to add his point of view.
“The process of making this movie is filled with so many magical moments,” he said, recalling when he screened a version of the film for Tedder, Jonas and his wife, actor Sophie Turner. “To watch the movie cut to black and the credits start and [Ryan and Joe] just go to the piano and basically find it right there. It was so odd and like cosmically overwhelming to hear the spirit of how this movie can end. That was really special.
Watch the full conversation above.