It’s hard to keep up with Anthony Mackie’s on screen endeavors but we are definitely trying. Here, he chats with us about Gangster Squad and impending projects like Pain and Gain and playing the Falcon in Captain America 2. –Starrene Rhett Rocque
In your own words, what is “Gangster Squad” about, and what attracted you to the role that you play?
For me “Gangster Squad” is about selflessness. You have a squad of police who put their families aside, who put their careers aside, so they can take down Mickey Cohens so they can preserve the beautiful nature of Los Angeles, which at the time was the epicenter of the West Coast for heart and family, and everything. They noticed the beauty of LA after the war, and didn’t him to turn it into Chicago.
It’s based on a real story. It was a group of old cops, put together by the Chief of Police, because there were so many police officers bought at that time by Mickey Cohen. So he couldn’t really trust anybody. These guys really went out to take down the biggest mobster on the Western seaboard.
Are any of these guys still alive? Did you get to conference with any of them for research?
Two of them are stile alive. One of the guys came by the set. We talked to him and he gave us a lot of insight. He became a judge and he retired in like,’92 We talked to him and he was a really nice guy.
How did you prepare for the role?
Music. If you look at black music at that time, specifically anywhere along the Mississippi, New York and Los Angeles, music defines where we were as a people. We’re talking about some huge figures, Jackie Robinson—all of that stuff was going on at that time. It was like the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. Blacks were coming back from the war and were migrating to the North, looking for work. I just listened to a lot of Sister Rosetta. A lot of people don’t know that she is the person that Elvis would go and watch, and stole everything that she did to create his style. It is kind of remarkable how much he stole from her and asked her to help him learn how to pick on the guitar. And some Muddy Waters, people like that.
How does you being a Black guy in this movie during this era come to play?
It’s monumental, because most people believe that Black people were just waiting around for stuff to come to them in the 40’s. In actuality there was a huge thriving economy in the city, in this country within the Black community. There were a lot of Black business owners. There were a lot of Black cops. This was the time of craftsmanship. This was the time where in America people were very proud to be Americans. They were willing to fight and die for that, and a lot of that was going on in Black neighborhood as well as White neighborhoods.
Being that it is a testosterone driven film, and you having a rapport with Ryan Gosling and some of the other guys, were there any bromances developed on set?
Not at all, I’ve worked with Ryan before. I’ve worked with Robert Patrick before. I’ve worked with Michael Pena before. All of us in some way shape or form knew each other. Shooting this movie was a lot of fun. We all had our jokes. We all played our practical jokes. It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of mutual respect on set so it was easy.
Speaking of practical jokes, do you have any stories that you can share from set?
One day we were shooting this scene under the bridge where Josh comes in and tell us what the squad is going to do and how we are going to do it, and if you don’t want to be in, leave now. A dude in a beaver suit, a six-foot beaver, comes walking up behind Josh, walks through set and pushes his way past everybody. He looks at Giovanni Ribisi and says, “I know you.” He walks through, jumps on a skateboard and rides off. I was like, only in LA. And let me tell you something as a pretty put together five foot eleven Black dude, there is nothing scarier than a six-foot beaver.
That’s hilarious and hard to follow up but in general, what do you look for in the movie roles that you take?
I like to call it humanity. I fee like everyone, as much as we’d like to think, we’re the ultimate cool and well put together, everyone has shortcomings and insecurities. Everyone has target flaws and also good points. I think that’s what makes us human. I think when you write someone as a holier than thou art or too good to be true it takes away from the reality of the movie. I love when you read the script and you see a character with good as well as bad sides and how those two sides fight within the character you basically finish their reality.
This is kind of random but if you could describe your mood today, with a song title what would it be?
That’s a really good question. It would probably be, “Today Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube. Just waking up in the morning, I think God, you know. Today’s a good day. I’m in Chicago. What could go wrong? And the Oscar nominations just came out and Denzel got nominated, so today’s a good day.
Is there anything else you can talk about that you are working on now?
I have a movie coming out in April called Pain and Gain with me, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg. It’s about these three body builders down in Miami, who kidnapped, consorted and murdered the rich guys they were training to achieve the American dream.
Was that the only move you bulked up for because there’s talk about you as an Avenger…
No, that was the movie. I got up to about 215, 220.
How hard was it to maintain that muscle mass?
It is impossible. The problem is I’m 5’11. I put on so much size and people were like you’re huge. And then Duane showed up and I looked like a 12-year-old boy. It was really weird.
Were you eating like a 7,000-calorie a day diet or something crazy?
Nine thousand calories. I was eating six meals a day. I was going at it. I was doing two a days as well. I would do heavyweights and cardio in the morning and in the evening I would do moderate weights and heavy cardio.
Word is that you’re playing Falcon, are the rumors true that you’re going to be in The Avengers 2?
I don’t know about that yet. They don’t let people know this far out who the story is and who’s in it, but I am definitely in Captain America 2.
Any word on this Jesse Owens project?
We’re still working on it. We brought on a writer and we’re working on the script to get it together.
That was pretty much it but is there anything else you want to add?
Go see the movie. It’s actually a really good move and a good time.