Born in New Orleans on September 23, 1979, Anthony Mackie attended the Julliard School of Drama. He was discovered after receiving rave reviews for playing Tupac Shakur in the off-Broadway play “Up Against the Wind.”
Immediately following, Anthony made an auspicious film debut as Eminem’s nemesis, Papa Doc, in Curtis Hanson’s “8 Mile.” His performance caught the attention of Spike Lee, who subsequently cast him in “Sucker Free City” and “She Hate Me.” He also appeared in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” as well as in Jonathan Demme’s “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Anthony had five features on movie screens in 2006. In addition to “We Are Marshall,” he starred in “Half Nelson,” with Ryan Gosling, adapted from director Ryan Fleck’s Sundance-winning short “Gowanus Brooklyn;” in Preston Whitmore’s “Crossover;” in Frank E. Flowers ensemble crime drama “Haven,” opposite Orlando Bloom and Bill Paxton; and in the film adaptation of Richard Price’s “Freedomland,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Besides an impressive film career, the gap-toothed thespian has performed both on and off Broadway, making his Broadway debut as the stuttering nephew, Sylvester, alongside Whoopi Goldberg in August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Next he was seen as the lead in Regina King’s modern retelling of Chekov’s “The Seagull,” in Stephen Belber’s “McReele,” and in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Soldier’s Play.”
More recently, Anthony participated in the Kennedy Center’s presentation of “August Wilson’s 20th Century.” As one of more than 30 renowned stars of stage and screen, he performed in three readings of Wilson’s cycle of ten plays chronicling the African-American experience, each set in a different decade of the 20th century. A true aficionado of live theatre, he hopes to return to the stage soon.
In 2009, he played Sgt. JT Sanborn on the big screen in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” a film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. That same year, he reprised his role as Tupac Shakur in “Notorious,” the biopic of Notorious B.I.G.
In 2010, he took a break from film to return to Broadway where he starred in “A Behanding in Spokane.” He subsequently returned to Hollywood to appear opposite Kerry Washington in “Night Catches Us.” Then he appeared in “The Adjustment Bureau” and “Real Steel.” Last year, he made several movies, including “Man on a Ledge,” “10 Years” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”
2013 is proving very productive for Anthony, with the horror thriller “Vipaka,” the coming of age drama “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” the crime thriller “Runner, Runner” and “Bolden” being among his offerings. Here, he talks about his new movie, “Pain & Gain,” a fact-based crime comedy co-starring Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg.
Los Angeles Sentinel : Hi Anthony, thanks for another interview.
Anthony Mackie: What’s going on, my man?
LAS: Nothing much, brother. What an impressive resume you’ve compiled for someone so young: The Hurt Locker, The Manchurian Candidate, Notorious, We Are Marshall, Half Nelson, 8 Mile, American Violet, The Adjustment Bureau, Gangster Squad, Night Catches Us, etcetera, etcetera...
AM: Thanks a lot, Kam. I’ve been very fortunate to land all the projects that I’ve done. I have a great team of people working with me.
LAS: So, what interested you in Pain & Gain?
AM: It was the script. I was really psyched about Michael [director Michael Bay] doing a story with three-dimensional characters like these who you could real delve into to see what makes them tick.
LAS: A Michael Bay flick with both that trademark action as well as some complex character development. It felt almost like I was watching a new genre of film.
AM: That’s what made me so happy about it. When he explained to me what he was trying to do with this movie, it was something that I felt was right up my alley and that I wanted to be a part of.
LAS: I have a lot of questions sent in to you by readers. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How would you describe your character, Adrian? Are you anything like him in real life?
AM: [Chuckles] That’s funny! No, I’m not anything like him at all. The thing that I enjoyed about doing Adrian was that he never backed down. He admired Daniel [played by Mark Wahlberg] so much and just wanted his friend to succeed. And he also wanted to achieve The American Dream.
LAS: I saw you on several talk shows over the last couple of weeks, and between being pumped up from the weightlifting and the way you trash-talked like you were shot out of a cannon, you seemed almost like a different person, or as if you were still in character.
AM: [LOL] I really enjoyed this character and talking about him. I’m lucky because I get to do projects I like and believe in. And it’s exciting to see people react positively to your work, to something you’ve invested so much time and so much of yourself into.
LAS: How much time did you devote to the exercise regimen to get yourself in such great shape?
AM: About four months. I worked out for six weeks before we started shooting, and then every day on location. To get in shape like that involves a whole lifestyle change. It’s not just going to the gym. It’s also eating and sleeping differently, and spending your time differently.
LAS: I heard that you and Mark Wahlberg even trained together.
AM: Yeah, we worked out together every day, once we arrived on set. I think that’s why we subsequently became such good friends. He appreciated the fact that I wasn’t taking this opportunity lightly, since he’s not the type of person who takes the stature he’s achieved for granted. He’s a leader and a hard worker. He liked my dedication to the project which was reflected in how I accompanied him daily to the gym to push it as hard as we could.
LAS: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Thanks for the wonderful performance in A Behanding in Spokane. You’re obviously comfortable on stage and also doing great work on screen. How do you approach each as an actor?
AM: First, let me say thank you, Harriet. It’s great that you saw and enjoyed that play. Stage and screen are completely different. Stage is like a marathon. It’s more of a physical muscle because you have to do eight shows a week. With a movie, you do it once, it’s in the can, and you move on. On the stage, you have to recreate that moment every night. You have to figure out a way, mentally, to find yourself in the same place every performance. You have to believe that whatever’s happening in that world is actually happening every night, whereas with film you just have to believe it once before you move on. So, stage is really difficult but, at the same time, it’s much more gratifying than film. So many people have a hand in your screen performance whereas, when you step on the stage, no one tells you what you can and can’t do.
LAS: Harriet also asks: Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
AM: [LOL] That’s a great song!
LAS: Larry Greenberg says: It seems to me like the film actually has a message about the growing distance between classes in America. Or am I asking too much from a spring blockbuster?
AM: I think the movie deals more with The American Dream, and the skewed perception of it in our generation. The idea used to be that you worked hard to achieve more. Now, it’s “Do as little as you can to achieve as much as you can.”
LAS: Richie the intern says: You have played Tupac Shakur twice, once, Off-Off Broadway, and also in the film Notorious. Did you listen to a lot of his music growing up?
AM: Definitely! The very first CD I ever owned, was a Tupac CD. He’s one of my all-time favorites. I have every CD and bootleg CD of his. He was a huge inspiration of mine. Since my parents didn’t allow me to hang out on the streets as a child, my way of experiencing the streets was by listening to Tupac.
LAS: Patricia says: I loved your performance in Desert Flower, which brings to mind this saying: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
AM: Thank you, Patricia. I agree. That’s one of the reasons I did Desert Flower. I feel very strongly about that picture’s subject-matter [female circumcision]. So, I did the film even though I knew I wouldn’t get any fanfare or recognition from it, because its message was important to me.
LAS: Did you meet naysayers before your first big break as an actor. There are people who do not give themselves permission to pursue their dreams. What advice do you have for them?
AM: [Chuckles] I still meet naysayers every day. This business is funny. It’s all about your journey and the road that you’re on. There are so many people who like to comment on my career and on what I am or am not doing. But I know that it’s my path, and I’m going to decide for myself which direction I want to go. When I meet naysayers, I just thank them politely for acknowledging my career and I wish them many blessings on the success of their own careers.
LAS: Marcia Evans says: I have been following your career and I appreciate the choices you have made as an artist. Do you have any interest in bringing any historical or cultural stories about Louisiana to the screen?
AM: Of course! One of the biggest projects I’ve been working on, for about six years now, has been a movie about the jazz musician Buddy Bolden. Louisiana is near and dear to my heart. I moved back to New Orleans five years ago, because I realize that New Orleans is what made me into something that I cherish.
LAS: Are you attached to any post-Katrina rehabilitation project in New Orleans?
AM: No, I’ve been staying away from the revitalization of New Orleans, because it’s not New Orleanians who are behind it. And that’s the problem. Every time a New Orleanian tries to get behind a project, it gets shot down. But you have all these folks from outside the state trying to change the culture. That’s what the backlash is all about right now. We want to keep the city the way it was. New Orleans is not New York, L.A. or Las Vegas, and we want to push all the outsiders out in order to get back to where we were before Hurricane Katrina.
LAS: Marcia also says that she’s a closet chef who plans to study the wonderful New Orleans cuisine. She was wondering whether the local fiddles helped you pack on the pounds for this film.
AM: [Laughs heartily] No, it was staying away from that stuff that enabled me to bulk up.
LAS: Marcia then asks: Do you know how to make noise in the kitchen?
AM: I’ll say this: I’ve never met a woman who wasn’t somebody’s momma who could cook better than me.
LAS: What is your favorite dish to cook?
AM: My #1 killer dish is stuffed prawns with crabmeat dressing over teriyaki rice with pan-fried asparagus. That’s my game-over, you know you’re in for the night, you’re in trouble situation dish.
LAS: Marcia also asks: Do you like Crawfish Etouffee? [Badly mispronounced]
AM: [Laughs, and corrects me] It’s Etouffee. I like it if the roux is made right. A lot of people burn their roux, and I can’t eat their etouffee.
LAS: Lastly, Marcia asks: Does your bar down there serve some finger-lickin’, smack yo’ momma cuisine?
AM: [LOL] We serve our food with a band aid, because you’re definitely going to bite your finger.
LAS: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
AM: Butter pecan ice cream.
LAS: Mike Pittman asks: What was your wisest career move?
AM: Not doing a TV show.
LAS: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
LAS: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
AM: To do a movie co-starring opposite Denzel Washington.
LAS: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
AM: A panther.
LAS: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
AM: It’s from when I was 3. My dad was building the house that I would grow-up in and spend my entire childhood in. I took a laundry basket and tried to bobsled down the stairs but went though the wall about halfway down and landed in the next room. [Laughs]
LAS: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do? Would you do the bad stuff, you never got a chance to do, or would you do good stuff to make sure you make it into heaven?
AM: I’d get my family together and spend those 24 hours at home with them.
LAS: The Viola Davis question: Who do you really believe you are when you go home as opposed to the person you pretend to be on the red carpet?
AM: At home, I’m a very, deliberate, opinionated and outspoken person. You have to soften yourself on the red carpet, because no one wants to think you have an opinion anymore.
LAS: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
AM: I would want to be a genie who could grant wishes.
LAS: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
AM: Determination. A lot of people say they have drive and determination, but most people aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve great success.
LAS: Lastly, can you give me an Anthony Mackie question I can ask other celebrities?
AM: Yeah, is there something that you promised to do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
LAS: Thanks again for the time, Anthony, and best of luck with the film.
AM: Thanks a lot, Kam, I really appreciate it.