It’s been a good couple of years for Anthony Mackie. As he mentioned in our Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter piece, the actor has been afforded a wide range of projects both in terms of genre and the characters he has portrayed. He appeared in sci-fi offerings Real Steel and The Adjustment Bureau just this past year and Academy Award winners The Hurt Locker and Million Dollar Baby (among other critical favorites) prior to that.
We can look for Mackie in large scale studio endeavors such as Gangster Squad and the aforementioned Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter next year as well as alongside co-stars Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks in Asger Leth’s heist/revenge film Man on a Ledge next weekend.
We spoke with the actor about the thriller, Ryan Gosling (at length) and his dream gig recently and can report (as anyone who has interviewed Mackie can attest) that he is an extraordinarily affable and likable gent.
Screen Rant: I hope you can understand me. I’ve got a bit of a cold.
Anthony Mackie: “A cold? Gotta put some tussin’ on that.”
SR: Oh, I’ve been pouring tussin’ on it for days. Believe me.
AM: “Good! Nothing’s gonna fix you like the tussin’.”
SR: I know! Even a broken leg.
For anyone who is feeling lost at this point in our exchange, we suggest a look at Chris Rock’s ode to Robitussin (be warned, this is NSFW). It is also hilarious.
Mackie plays the ex-partner to cop turned convict, Sam Worthington, in Man on a Ledge. Worthington has been convicted of stealing a jewel worth upwards of $30 million and is facing a life sentence. He claims to have been set-up by (among other players) corrupt cops and in order to reclaim his life Worthington plans an elaborate heist in which he serves as the distraction by threatening to jump from a Manhattan rooftop.
SR: Your character is in it a bit of a grey zone in the film, we’re not quite sure which side of the fence he’s playing on. When your working with a role like that are you conscious of the part you’re playing as, not just a character, but an element of the plot?
AM: ”I think unless you’re in a James Bond movie that never works. As an actor, the only thing we can do is play the truth at that moment. Because at any point in time if you play the future, or you play that you know something that the audience does not know, it kills the illusion of reality. Because none of us go into a room knowing what’s going to happen, we all walk into that room with an idea of how to execute our plan. So the only thing that you can bring into a conversation or into a room is your past, giving the audience the opportunity to realize what’s really happening.”
SR: This is a new twist on the heist film. Are you a fan of the genre?
AM: ”I love heist films. If I could I would do ‘Lethal Weapon 5′ I would do it in a heartbeat. I love those psychological thrillers. I’m going to be the young Danny Glover.”
SR: But if you’re going to be the Danny Glover character you inherently cannot be young. He has to be “too old for this shit.”
AM: ”No look at it this way, if I put some grey in my hair I can play 31 and the Mel Gibson’s character is a young hothead so he can be fresh out of the academy at 22.”
SR: So if you’re Murtaugh, who’s Riggs?
AM: ”When I think of a young hot head who’s full of hot air I think of Chris Evans. Isn’t he a guy you just want to smack around?”
SR: I kind of want to fight-club Bradley Cooper.
AM: (Laughing) “I just want to beat him up. I don’t want to smack him around.”
SR: Fair enough. Chris Evans it is.
AM: ”See? Me and Chris Evans. You gotta pitch that movie to the studios. I’ll give you an AP (associate producer) credit.”
SR: The notion of police corruption is a large part of the story in the film. Do you think we’ve all become quite cynical about that?
AM: ”Being from New Orleans if there’s one thing I know it’s a corrupt cop. But I think when you look at it we’re at a different place now. Because cops are treated so well. But I feel that every cop is on the line of good cop/bad cop. I know so many good cops that every now and then they’ll do something (that if people knew about it) wouldn’t be the best decision for them to make. But that’s the reality of it. I feel like you have to realize that cops are people too.”
SR: The other idea that the story depends on is that we (as a society) would definitely want to see this guy jump. Do you think that’s true?
AM: ”Absolutely. We live in a voyeuristic society.”
SR: I don’t want to see anyone jump!
AM: ”No, no, no you say that now but if you walk out of your house and something devastating is happening you will not be able to take your eyes off it. You know it, and I know it. Every time you see an accident about to happen or a woman about to fall and bust her face in high-heels you never look away.”
SR: Mmmm, I’m not sure the high-heels is quite the same as watching someone jump off a building.
AM: ”That’s tragic though! Have you ever broken a heel in the middle of a party?”
AM: ”And wasn’t that tragic?”
SR: I don’t know about tragic…
AM: ”What would you feel like if I was standing there laughing at you gimping around in your broken heel?”
SR: (Laughing) I would not be happy. I would tweet “Anthony Mackie is an ass-hat.” That’s what I would do.
SR: You play a cop in Gangster Squad as well. How did you find that experience compared with this one?
AM: ”I found working with Ryan Gosling to be delicious.”
SR: You worked with him previously on Half Nelson.
AM: ”He’s turned into a hot fudge Sundae since I worked with him the last time. He is just a delectable treat that every woman should enjoy to the fullest.”
SR: Well there are some women who are in such strong agreement that they protested in New York when Bradly (“beggin’ for a beat down”) Cooper was selected as sexiest man alive over Gosling. That’s how intense the ladies are about their man crushes. (To say nothing of how clearly out of touch People is with its readership.)
AM: ”That’s what I’m saying.”
SR: So if he’s a hot fudge Sundae now, what was he before? Pinkberry? (FYI: For the sake of the metaphor, I do not share the crack-like addiction to Pinkberry that most ladies seem to.)
AM: ”He was like Baskin Robbins before, and how he’s Haagen Daz you know what I mean? He’s like savory crafted ice-cream now. If you like supremely intelligent, well rounded, well sculpted, God of a Greek God handsomely beautiful guys who are really talented and able to do anything they want in the world, I think you should like Ryan Gosling.”
SR: (Laughing) Did you see Crazy, Stupid, Love?
AM: ”No, I’m strait.”
SR: Well there’s a moment where he takes off his shirt (and it’s out-of-control) and he tells Emma Stone (who says he’s like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad come to life) to take her dress off and she says: “Nuh uh, not with all that going on!” That is just about the perfect and most realistic reaction to that scenario.
AM: ”But don’t you feel looking at him next to Emma Stone, who’s so tiny and pretty and dainty, and he’s like a MAN, that he should be across from somebody who’s like ‘Ba Bow.’ You know like Jamie Lee Curtis, that’s hot.”
SR: Stop distracting me with Gosling. How is your character, Coleman Harris, in Gangster Squad different from the cop you play in Man on a Ledge?
AM: ”Harris is a by-the-book type cop who is given a promotion and he turns it down so that he can stay on the streets in his neighborhood. For him, the neighborhood and community is more important than the extra two dollars on the paycheck. So, they’re vastly different and he’s a hard-assed by-the-book cop.”
SR: The film takes place in the ’40s, does race play a part in the trajectory of the story?
AM: ”Well it’s difficult. ‘Gangster Squad’ is about a cop putting together a squad, it’s not about one cop in the squad, so you can’t address all of the little issues in a film where you’re not the focal point.”
One of Screen Rant’s most anticipated films of 2012, we are certainly looking forward to seeing how the ensemble ultimately works together in Gangster Squad.
Man on a Ledge opens in theaters on Friday, January 27th.
Follow me on twitter @jrothc