By: Kam Williams
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.”
Besides an impressive film career, the gap-toothed thespian has performed both on and off-Broadway. More recently, Anthony participated in the Kennedy Center’s presentation of “August Wilson’s 20th Century.” 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.
KW: 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 really delve into to see what makes them tick.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: 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.”
KW: 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.
KW: 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.
KW: Mike Pittman asks: What was your wisest career move?
AM: Not doing a TV show.
KW: 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]