I’ve never had an actor start an interview by explaining their natural urge to beat me up. Until Anthony Mackie.
The 34-year-old actor, who is best known for his roles in “The Hurt Locker” and “Notorious,” stars alongside Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson in the movie “Pain & Gain” (now available with XFINITY On Demand). Directed by Michael Bay, this action-comedy film follows three Miami bodybuilders (Mackie, Wahlberg and Johnson) who kidnap a wealthy gym rat (Tony Shalhoub) and extort him (via torture) for millions. However, their boneheaded scheme unravels when a private investigator (Ed Harris) enters the picture.
Set in 1994, “Pain & Gain” is based on an unbelievable true story as chronicled in a series of Miami New Times articles by writer Pete Collins.
In one of my favorite interviews in recently memory, I met Anthony this week to talk about his new movie, problem with leading ladies, upcoming role in “Captain America 2″ and potential interest in pummeling me.
David Onda: I read that whenever you meet someone over six feet tall, you instantly want to fight them. I’m 6’2”. Are we going to be OK?
Anthony Mackie: [laughs] I will kick your [expletive] right now! I don’t know what it is, because I’m not short. I’m 5’11”. But any time I have to look up at another man… I wanna take you down. I don’t know if it like comes from childhood, I don’t know what it is, but it’s a problem I’ve had to contend with my entire life.
Onda: That surprises me. I don’t see you as a confrontational type of person.
Mackie: I’m so [expletive] confrontational. It’s weird, man. I used to fight a lot in high school and middle school and then one day I just, I don’t know – maybe I got my [expletive] kicked enough, maybe I kicked enough [expletive] – I was done. I think once I left New Orleans and went to a place where my comfort level was taken away, it just dawned on me that that wasn’t a good way of living [laughs].
Onda: I’ve heard you say “Pain & Gain” is a movie we don’t see very often. Can you elaborate on that?
Mackie: Hollywood has changed, entertainment has been changed. This movie harkens back to “True Romance.” They don’t make movies for adults. They don’t make movies for moviegoers anymore. And the movie-going experience has become this convoluted idea of how much can they make you spend, as opposed to an experience of having a good time. So, it’s fun to be in a movie that kind of feels like it’s a throwback – like it’s a period piece. So, I guess in order to make one of those movies that moviegoers would enjoy, you have to set it in a time before 2005.
Onda: Physically, was this the hardest you’ve ever prepared for a movie?
Mackie: Definitely. You know, standing across from Dwayne is a very intimidating way to go to work every day. So I met him in L.A. about six months before we started shooting and he was so big, and literally I shook his hand and I was like, “Yo, I’m gonna get as big as you are.” He went, “Ha, yeah, okay.” Instantly I was like, “I wanna tackle this mother[expletive] right now.” The blood just started going in my head. So, the next day I go to the gym, I figure out my diets and I just start working out like there’s no tomorrow.
Onda: I recently saw The Rock wrestle at WrestleMania, and his intensity is off the charts.
Mackie: You would wanna fight him. I’m telling you, man. Instantly, as a guy, in the back of your head – “Okay, there’s a dude that’s bigger than me. He’ll probably have the advantage.” Right? But when you stand toe-to-toe it’s like, “I wanna take him down. I’m pretty sure if I punch this dude he’ll go down. So where would I punch him to make him go down?” That’s my problem. I guess it’s just that I wanna be the alpha male in the room, so I just dream of punching big dudes and knocking them down.
Onda: There are a lot of preconceptions about Michael Bay. Who is Michael Bay, and was that person worried that there were not enough explosions in this movie?
Mackie: [laughs] You know, I don’t think there’s an insecure bone in Michael Bay’s body, so the idea of him being worried was not there at all. You know, Mike was a consummate professional. The best way to describe him is that he does not suffer fools well. So, if you show up and you’re not prepared, he’ll toss you to the side and find somebody else who’s prepared. If he gives one-hundred percent, he expects you to go at one-hundred percent.
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Onda: How does this film succeed in balancing the absurd comedic aspect of these bonehead characters with the serious aspect of the fact that this is a true story, and people suffered as a result of what they did?
Mackie: I think what the movie succeeds at best is showing that these people were victims, and in no way shape or form did they bring their demise on themselves. The greatest demise the movie shows is the demise of the American dream, the American work ethic. In our generation, it’s do as little as you can to earn your salary. Everybody goes to work and they just don’t want to work. Everybody wants instant gratification, and I think that’s what this movie shows. Our parents and grandparents didn’t really have to deal with that, you know? They didn’t blow their weekly salary on a $2,000 handbag or a trip to Vegas. We’re the generation of excess, and I think this period of time is when that started – the early 90s. Everybody could own a Jaguar or a Mercedes. Everybody wanted a McMansion. And that’s why [my character] Doorbal is so important to this movie, because he is the grounding force. When everybody went out and bought their mansions, he went out and bought a cute little three-bedroom house. When everybody went and bought their sports cars, he went and bought a minivan. Everybody started dating a stripper or a hooker and he got a good girl who didn’t stop working. He was the grounding force, the true existence of the American dream – a guy just trying to take care of his family.
Onda: Your character’s “good girl” is played by Rebel Wilson, with whom you have a love scene. I can’t imagine she has a bashful bone in her body. Was she just like, “Let’s do this”?
Mackie: It was a lot of coercing. When she first came to set I told her, “By the end of this I’m gonna make you like me.” Rebel never said no. And that’s the first rule of comedy – if something happens, never say no, just go with it. And I applaud her. I pushed and prodded and jumped and poked and kissed and she never said no. It was fun. ‘Cause you work with these actresses and they’re like, “Oh, don’t touch me, don’t do this, don’t—” and I’m like, “Well, you’re supposed to be my love interest. I promise you when the camera goes off I will never talk to you again.”
Onda: You’ve been cast as The Falcon in the upcoming “Captain America” sequel. You’re living every kid’s superhero dream. Are you excited about the prospects of getting an action figure?
Mackie: It’s mind-numbingly stupid how excited I am to have an action figure. Sam Jackson has been a good friend of mine and a mentor of mine for six years now, and when I got cast I called him and I said, “I’m the other black guy!” [laughs] And we laughed about it and he just told how this was going to change my career now, how it’s going to change that idea of my day-to-day life. And, you know, it’s kinda cool to be the first African-American superhero for many different reasons. I’m excited for Halloween and to see how many kids dress up as The Falcon. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting into it and doing my best.
“Pain & Gain” is now available with XFINITY On Demand. Click here to begin the process of ordering at home.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.