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Interview: Anthony Mackie talks 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

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Anthony Mackie may not be a household name yet, but his latest role may just change that. He’s worked steadily as an actor since 2002, in which he starred alongside rapper Eminem in his first movie, “8 Mile,” and has since appeared in films like “Pain & Gain,” “The Adjustment Bureau” and Best Picture winners “The Hurt Locker” and “Million Dollar Baby.” But now, Mackie is finally getting a role that’ll put his considerable talent in the spotlight: that of Sam Wilson/The Falcon in the anticipated Captain America sequel, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Sam is a military veteran who bonds with Steve Rogers/Captain America over their shared status as soldiers coming home from war. But he evolves into more than just a friend to Cap: he becomes his winged crime-fighting partner, one that must help him get to the bottom of a mystery with dangerous consequences. The enthusiastic actor stopped by the Mandarin Oriental in Miami last week to chat about how he got the exciting role, his career, and trash talking Ben Affleck.

One of the things I really liked about this movie was that there was a greater sense of danger here than in other Marvel movies. Is that something that was important to you while making this movie, and do you think there’s room to take it even a step further in future Marvel universe movies?

Anthony Mackie: Well I think if you go a step further it would be too dark. One of the differences between this movie and “Captain America: The First Avenger” is that Cap 1 has a lot of exposition. When you deal with an origin movie there’s a lot of ‘what happened? How did you end up here…?’ But with this you actually got to see Cap in his element. You got to see him as a martial artist. You got to see him as a bona fide superhero. With this one, I feel like what they did was they took a spy, espionage feel and then took an origin story and smashed them together. I think getting the Russo brothers to direct it was kind of brilliant, because it kept with that lighthearted feel that they found in “The Avengers” and they just carried it on into this…So with this movie, what I feel is so great is that it’s like “Catch Me if you Can” meets Jason Bourne – with a bunch of superheroes. So that’s kind of the best of both worlds. And that’s why I think it works perfectly; I don’t think you need to take it any further because it would just make it too dark.

Before you got this role there were rumors about you being in talk to play Black Panther. Was that ever something you were interested in?

Mackie: Definitely. When I finished “The Hurt Locker” I felt like my career was on a huge upswing. And my goal as an actor, when I first started at 21 years old, I said, ‘I want to be a superhero, and I want to do a western’…But after “Hurt Locker” I contacted Marvel and was like ‘…I’d love to be in one of your movies!’ And I did that every six months for five years. And I finally got a response, and they said, ‘Never email us again – we’ll call you.’ I was like ‘Damn, I’ll never be in a Marvel movie!’ [Laughs] And a year later, I got a call and they said come to LA, we want to talk to you about a character. So I had been constantly working on the idea of Black Panther. In all the emails I sent them, Black Panther was always a subject, because I felt like that’s such an amazing character and I know that they had been developing it for so long. I just felt like it would be a perfect fit. But when we had lunch, they pitched me the Falcon. But if it was Black Panther, I wouldn’t have been mad about it. But the Falcon is kind of dope. I mean, if you look at what they made this character into, he’s unlike any other superhero…I feel like it would be equally gratifying to play either character.

Would you say you’re more like the Falcon or Sam Wilson?

Mackie: It’s interesting. If you look at the Falcon, juxtaposed to Sam Wilson – even though they’re the same person, they’re very different people. I think if you look at Sam Wilson, he’s more like me. I’m the type of guy where slow and steady wins the race. I’m not the hare; I’m definitely the turtle. And I think I’ve shown that in my career; I’ve shown that all my life. I would rather be a small role in a great movie, than the lead in an awful movie. Oil always rises to the top, and that’s kind of how I’ve lived my life. But if you look at the Falcon, it’s like get it hard and get it now. And that’s what I loved about this character – just the idea that he has no fear, has no boundaries. He’s a morally defined superhero. And that’s kind of cool. That’s something I think all of us aspire to be.

Do you look for feedback when it comes to your movies?

Mackie: Yeah, and I read the blogs and I watch the stuff. And that’s why whenever I have the opportunity to talk to people I like to talk about [my movies], and whenever I read something online when somebody says something that’s just stupid I like to meet those people. [Laughs] You know what I mean? Like, we found out that “Batman vs. Superman” is coming out the same day as “Captain America 3.” So I know Ben Affleck; that’s my boy. And as boys, you talk shit. Do you do that with your friends? I know I do. So I’m like, if “Batman vs. Superman” is coming out against “Captain America,” what am I gonna say, ‘Awww, we should move our date’? No! I’m gonna be like, ‘You better move your date!’ But there’s this little dude on Twitter who was like, ‘That is very inappropriate and disrespectful.’ So I’m like, ‘My dude, you need a friend. Because you obviously don’t have friends, because you don’t know how friends talk to each other.’ You know what I mean? Like there could be one piece of candy left, and if you were my friend, you and me are gonna talk shit about getting that candy. Right? Maybe girls don’t do that, I don’t know. When I watch “Girls” I never see a scene like that. But when I watch “Entourage,” that’s all it was! [Laughs] It’s the reality of it. You have to realize that actors are friends too. Actors are people too. That’s just what it is. I mean, we’re wearing costumes and flying around! Come on, dude! I’m not talking about your mom. I’m having a press conference in Miami and [talking about] my wings. [Laughs]

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is now playing in theaters. For showtimes in Miami Beach, click here

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