Some people are tough interviews: they don’t seem to care about the interview, they give only short, boring answers to questions, and they never offer any information that wasn’t specifically asked for. And then there are people like Anthony Mackie, who could keep an hours-long interview going with only a few questions here and there, and keep his interviewers laughing themselves silly the whole time.
If you’ve seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and if you haven’t, go see it now; this interview will still be here when you get back – you know how great a job Anthony Mackie does playing Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon. So it shouldn’t surprise you that he had some great stuff to talk about in this interview he did with a group of fellow bloggers and me last month in Los Angeles. I think it’s safe to say that Mackie has a long, great career ahead of him. (And, if for some reason that should prove incorrect, and this interview is anything to go on, he can always fall back on being a stand-up comic.)
Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
QUESTION: Obvious question, but how is it playing a superhero?
ANTHONY MACKIE: When I first started acting I was like, there are two things I want to do. I want to be a superhero and I want to do a Western, preferably with Clint Eastwood. Then Morgan Freeman took my role in Unforgiven [which hit theaters when Mackie was about 14 years old]. [LAUGHS] Bastard!
When I got this call, I kinda put things in perspective. I feel like a lot of people are famous for different reasons. Some people are famous because they’re handsome. Some people are famous because they’re British. I’m very happy that I’m famous because I can act. And I feel like this is a job I got because I deserved it.
Q: You’ve worked with Hugh Jackman before [in 2011's Real Steel], who’s played Wolverine in the movies. When you found out you got the role as The Falcon, did you call him up and ask for any pointers?
AM: No: I did not want to mess up my experience. I completely wanted to come into this naïve, ignorant and my virginal eyes not knowing anything. It’s funny because Sam ["Nick Fury" Jackson] has done like 15 Marvel movies. And Chris ["Captain America" Evans] and Scarlett ["Black Widow" Johansson,] have done like 6 each. And you know, Sebastian ["The Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes" Stan] has done 3. So I was like, you know, don’t kill my vibe. Like I’m having a good time, we’re doing a Marvel movie, we get the best craft services.
We basically shut down the city of Cleveland. I was soakin’ it up. Chris and I have a very good relationship. And literally got to the point where we would show up on set and we were like seven-year-olds. I mean, we had that first day where it’s like, deal with 35-year-old men in costume. We’re losers. [LAUGHS] And then the next day, we started making fun of each other. Done it the next week, done the next month. And then it just turned into this thing, where it became infectious.
It’s fun when you go to work knowing you’re gonna make a quality product. Because as actors there’s so many people with daddy issues that mess up movies. It’s like, “Oh, I’m gonna edit it this way. Or, I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school so I’m gonna do this.” And it’s like, “Dude, just make a movie!”
I feel like working with Marvel is one of those studios where you go to work and you know everybody leaves their stuff at the door. And they just want to make a good project. So you know, once we got over our suits, we had a good time.
Q: How was the whole Falcon costume experience?
AM: It was no fun. The hardest working actors in Hollywood are flying superheroes. I said it, I don’t care what Thor says with his hammer. I don’t care what Wolverine says. If you fly, it sucks.
I loved my costume, I loved everything about it. I love doing stunts. I have the best stuntman in the business. We’ve done like five movies together. And literally it’s like that Daffy Duck / Bugs Bunny cartoon, where like the missile is coming and Bugs Bunny’s like paused and then puts Daffy in. And he just takes the brunt of every hit for me. And I love it. [LAUGHS] There’s nothing natural about flying to humans. There’s nothing we do that’s like flying.
So my first day on set I walk in, I’m like, “What’s up, yo. Falcon in the building, what’s up?” Right. And so I get up on like a 60 foot platform. And I’m like, all right, let’s do this. You know, brother in the building. And they said, “All right, stand on the edge of the platform, there’s a jet coming at you. We want you to stand up, turn around, shoot your guns and jump back backwards head first, into this mat.” From 60 feet in the air.
And I’m like, “Whoa!” The first day is usually like walking down a hallway, or eating or something. You know, just to break you in. Not jumping off the platform to your death.
So once we did that, in the scalding heat of the day, I kinda knew what I was in for. And it just got worse from there. It was really painful and exhausting. But Aaron Toney, my stuntman, literally, he fell out of a car at 40 miles an hour. He got messed up on this movie. So kudos to him. [LAUGHS]
Q: What did you do to train and prepare for this film?
AM: Salmon, chickens, tuna fish, asparagus. And a cup of brown rice at noon. Every day. For three months. When I played high school football we used to do these things called two-a-days. Basically at 6 A.M. you wake up, get ready, go to the gym for an hour. And you do cardio, just like Jane Fonda s**t. And then you come home, and you just rest and eat every three hours. Then at 7 P.M. you go to the gym, and literally lift whatever you can find – for about an hour and a half. And then you go home and go to sleep; and then you wake up and do it again.
I did that for three months. Fitness is a lifestyle, you have to eat a certain way. You have to do a certain thing, you have to live a certain way. So you know, me and my homeboy Jack Daniels stopped talking. You know, no more pizza. Me and my girlfriend Häagen-Dazs broke up. She’s French; it was crazy.
And then I show up and you know, Chris looks like a Greek god. And I’m feeling good about myself, I’m like Spandex-ready, you know. And I show up and he’s like, Captain Tiny Ass. And I’m like, “Dude, how’d you get your ass that small?” Like this [GESTURES AS THOUGH SQUEEZING A SMALL BOTTOM], it’s that big – you know. And I’m man size, like I can lift the whole building. And I look at his butt and I’m like, “What did you do? What did you do to it?”
When I put my costume on, everybody was like, “Damn, we got to let out the air.” But I made it through it. [LAUGHS]
Q: What was it like the first time you put the costume on?
AM: It was great. The first time I put that costume on, I couldn’t stop smiling; I was running around the room. It’s one of those moments where you just have to allow yourself to enjoy it. My costume was 45 minutes to get in it. It was like 5 minutes to get out. But it was fun. I really took every moment to enjoy being a superhero. So yeah, it was a good time.
Q: There must have been lots of guy talk on the set. What was it like to have Scarlett Johansson around?
AM: You know, Scarlett is just a regular chick. It’s weird: you expect her to be a diva or high-maintenance or catty. But she’s a regular chick and she’s really low maintenance and cool and fun to be around. She just goes with the flow. I guess that comes with being extremely talented. I feel like a lot of people compensate for not being talented with being bitchy. But she’s really talented. She’s a very really down to earth, fun, cool, just regular chick.
Q: How do you feel about being the first African-American superhero?
AM: It’s funny you should ask that. [LAUGHS] It’s cool. When I was a kid, I really didn’t have a person I could look at, other than my dad, and be like, “Hey, I want to be that guy and fly through the window.” You couldn’t be like 7 years old and say, “Who do you want to be for Halloween?” “Shaft!”
So [LAUGHS] you know, it’s really exciting. When I first got this role I just cried like a baby because I was like, “Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon.” That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, ’cause little girls deserve that. There’s so many of these little people out here doing awful things for money in the world of being famous. And little girls see that. They should have the opposite spectrum of that to look up to.
You know, funny story: There’s this craft store called Michaels. Look, my sister knits, and she goes to Michaels. So my sister called me and she’s like, “Oh my god, I’m at Michaels, picking up yarn. You have a poster at Michaels.” I’m like, “What?” She’s like, “There’s a poster, there’s a Falcon poster at Michaels.” I’m like, “Holy s**t!” She’s like, “I’m gonna come and pick you up, and we’re gonna see your poster in this store.” So she picks me up and we go to Michaels.
We go in, and I see the poster and I’m like, “Oh, this is….” She’s like, “I know, I know.” I said, “I’m gonna sign these posters.” I was like, “That would be amazing, you buy a poster and it’s like, actually signed by the Falcon.” Like, it would blow my mind. So I go to the front, I buy a Sharpie, I run back to the back of the store. And she’s like, “I’m gonna take a picture of you signing it.”
I’m in this store and I’m signing all the posters. The manager comes out, he’s like, “Hey, whatcha doing?” I was like, “Oh man, I’m signing these posters so when people buy ‘em, they’re signed.” He’s like, “Well, people are not gonna buy ‘em if they’re signed.” And I was like, “No, no, no, it’s cool. I’m pretty sure there won’t be a problem.” And he goes, “Yeah, but it is gonna be a problem, you’re messin’ up my inventory.” And I’m like, “No, my man, trust me. I mean, I’m the Falcon, that’s me!” And he goes, “Yeah, right. You’re gonna buy those posters.” I said, “What?” He’s like, “You’re gonna buy all those posters or I’m gonna call the police.”
He rolls up all the posters and goes to the front of the store. And I had to buy like 60 Falcon posters that I signed in Michaels. So that’s kinda how — I’m just enjoying it. Man, I mean, there’s so many bad things that happen to us as entertainers and actors, that I feel like, when something good happens, you should take full advantage of it.
Q: Tell us which Michaels it was!
AM: [LAUGHS] I’m doing a screening in New Orleans and the first invitation I sent out was to the manager of Michaels. I’m like, my sister’s getting free yarn. And you’re giving me my money back. [LAUGHS]
Q: The Falcon goes back to the ’60s. Which versions of the Falcon did you go back to for the character to draw on?
AM: I commend Marvel for putting The Falcon in this movie because The Falcon’s history is something very unique to the comic book world. Usually in comic books they’ll introduce a character, if it doesn’t hit they’ll just let him fall off into the sunset. But with the Falcon, Marvel made a unique choice to get him right. So he had about three or four different incarnations in the life of the comic book.
I tried to stay away from the source material because I felt what the writers gave me with this was the introduction to The Falcon. So I just took what I had in the script, and worked primarily on that. I felt like the military history he had, and the relationship he has with Steve in this movie, is much more important than who he was in the comic books. Because I felt like if that relationship was grounded in truth and it worked, the rest of the movie would work.
I really just focused on what exactly are the side effects and repercussions of PTSD? How exactly do you overcome that? And when it’s overcome, is it like drugs, is it a work in progress everyday? Or is it like something, once you’re over it you’re over it and [you're] good? Or is it person-to-person stuff like that?
I just asked a bunch of different questions along those lines. A lot of my research came from soldiers I’ve met during Hurt Locker and from doing charitable work with the Navy and stuff. So I just emailed a bunch of guys and got a lot of stuff online, a lot of videos. Lot of depositions with soldiers coming back and just talking about their experiences and where they are now. I just used that stuff and tried to ground him in the history that was him, as opposed to the history that was the comic book.
Note: Interviewing Anthony Mackie was part of a press junket I attended that was paid for by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.
All images copyright by, and courtesy of, Disney.