Of all the interviews we’ve conducted – or witnessed- in our many years of attending Comic-Cons, Captain America: The Winter Soldier co-stars Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo were easily the most entertaining (see here). Coming in as new characters in the franchise, but major characters in Marvel Comics, Mackie (who plays Falcon) and Grillo (who plays Crossbones) share an off-screen chemistry that we hope carries over to their onscreen roles, should they ever go face-to-face.
Mackie joins the franchise as Sam Wilson, and while Captain America 2 isn’t really about his origin story, it does give fans a good look at Sam Wilson before he becomes The Avenger known as Falcon, wingsuit and all. From the photos, poster and trailers so far, we can already tell Falcon is going to be fan-fave and there’s a lot of speculation that he could join Marvel’s upcoming team-up, if not in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, possibly in its followup.
While visiting the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier last summer we had the chance to chat with Mackie along with a group of jounalists and he graciously and humorously welcomed us to the set and answered most of our questions. In our interview we touch on Mackie’s relationship with Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford, his knowledge and appreciation of the Falcon character, and the potential of joining The Avengers.
Mackie: Hello you guys, welcome to Captain America 2. I am Anthony Mackie playing The Falcon. All questions will be addressed to me and they will be answered in a timely fashion. First question.
How tall are you?
I’m 5’11 1/2″. Five-foot eleven of pure chocolate, yes.
Can you answer as the Falcon?
Can I what?
Can you do the whole interview as the Falcon?
Speaking in Falcon? Caw, caw caw.
For more on that inside joke, see the press line Comic-Con video of Mackie playing the “Falcon,” sounds and all.
Were you familiar with this character before this opportunity arose?
I was. My brother was one of those comic book guys that had a bunch of comic books. And I always knew about The Falcon and Black Panther, but primarily The Falcon just simply because he was an African-American superhero and my brother was really big on like being black. So, I knew about him.
What was your brother’s reaction to hearing you got this part?
Oh, he was super excited. He loved the character and he loved comic books. When I was a kid, I destroyed all his comic books so he was happy to think that I would be able to re-buy his comic books for him.
Why would you destroy his comics?
Because I was a kid and he wouldn’t let me in his room. So I went in his room and did some damage. I’ve been paying for it for the rest of my life.
Did he give you some key insights into how he thought you should play this character?
Nah. His big thing was, you know, The Falcon started off one way and then he became a character that was about dignity and respect and honor. So play it more as a strong man, as opposed to a comic book character.
What can you tell us about your wings?
I have no idea. I’ve seen as much of the wings as you have. I’m very interested to see – every now and then they bring up these three-foot wings that I am hoping are gonna turn into like a six-foot wings, but I’m not sure how that works. So they’re in a case on set and every now and then they break ’em out and flap them. Literally, some dude stands there like this. So I’m guessing they’re gonna put ’em on me, but I have no idea.
How is your green screen acting curve so far?
Pretty good, pretty good. I’m very impressed with my ability to act with a green screen. It’s difficult because they’re like, oh, you know, there’s a ship and it’s coming towards you, so run. I’m like, all right. So, you just run. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done. The closest thing I’ve ever done to green, I’ve been in Abraham Lincoln, was I did this movie We Are Marshall. Matthew Fox had to leave early and they wanted to reshoot a scene. So they took a DVD player and paused it on a scene from Lost, and put it on a music stand in front of a green screen. And they’re like, “Action!” So that’s my extent of green screen acting, but this is much better—it’s much better.
We’ve heard a lot about the tone of this movie and how it’s different. But from someone who’s obviously hopefully watched all the Marvel movies up to this point, as an outsider, how would you describe it?
Wouldn’t it be bad if I’d never seen ’em? Marvel? I don’t know. Didn’t they make Get Shorty? No, the great thing about this movie and the theme, it’s really come across to me as like Avengers 1.5. Because if you look at the cast, I mean, we have Sam Jackson and Robert Redford. And what they’ve been able to do with the script, as well as with the Russo Brothers directing it, is ground the movie in a really humane three-dimensional reality. So, you have characters like me. You have characters like Frank Grillo and Robert Redford’s character that we, as normal people, can relate to. I feel like a lot of superhero movies, it’s hard to get in—a lot of the movies that Marvel does not do its hard to get into because it’s just a bunch of superheroes running around doing superhero shit. But I feel like with this movie, you can look at certain characters and identify with those characters, so it pulls you into the movie. And the way it’s written it’s just a very grounded actual kind of realistic story. Just with a dude in a blue suit running around with a shield.
And a guy with wings.
And this guy.
I mean, like was that a tough sell for you when you came on?
Not at all, because I feel like with this, what’s so funny is it’s kind of in a theme, not so much Bourne, but like when you watch a Bourne movie that aspect of just intense action that you get as well as gritty dark story. That’s kind of how the vein of this movie works and the stories told. But, you know, with me, what I love is The Falcon kind of lived in three different incarnations. There was the first incarnation where he had on a black and green suit, and he was a drug-dealing pimp from Harlem that crashed going down to Brazil to pick up drugs and became a superhero. Okay. And then there was—
Wasn’t that the one you wanted to play?
That was the one. So when I heard they were using the latter one, I’m like, “Well, that’s not what I signed up—I want a bird in spandex and prostitutes and cocaine.” But, you know, that’s the Marvel universe. But it changed and morphed in to, you know, the latter of the three characters, which I was really happy about. I feel like if you look at The Falcon now, he’s really a military tactical driven force. I mean, he works with Cap not so much out of like self-preservation, but more so out of respect and honor. You know, because they’re both military guys and they both share a common bond within the military. So he’s just a standup guy that can fight really well.
They talked about the fact that your character is very contemporary, very modern. He’s obviously more an anachronistic in terms of his perception of—
Great word usage. This guy’s good.
—in terms of the world and maybe in terms of race. How do you guys sort of interact with one another? Particularly since there were a couple of jokes in Avengers about sort of his lack of—
Stiffness. Right. And that definitely comes up in this movie. I think what the writers have been able to do is go around the time difference. And there’s a whole scene geared towards us coming together as friends and Cap recognizing that and pulling me into his circle. For the two of us, it’s more so our relationship is built out of camaraderie within the military. My character is very intrigued, like everyone else is in the movie, by the fact that Captain America is here and he’s here to save the day, so what seems to be the problem. So our relationship kind of builds upon that. Is that vague enough for you?
Good. Good, good, good. Not getting me in trouble.
Can you give us a little context of the scene we just saw you guys shooting?
Sure. Yes, I can. Your nails are very nice, by the way. The scene we were just shooting is basically we have decided to take down the bad guys. So we go into the lair of the bad guys and poison their diabolical plan to take over the world. That’s what you just saw. Next.
Let’s try this. There’s word that you’re gonna be in Avengers 2. Can you confirm or deny?
I hope that’s so true. But this is the best thing about Marvel as a whole. They tell you absolutely nothing. I mean, I didn’t even know I was shooting today until today. So it’s like they just—they’ve figured out a way to keep their stuff very private and in house. I hope I’m in Avengers 2. If I’m in Avengers 2, everyone will know it ’cause I’m gonna run through Times Square butt ass naked with Avengers 2 tattooed across my chest. But I hope I am. I mean, I would love to be in Avengers 2. It’s a huge honor to be a part of the group of people they’ve put together. Because Marvel, they don’t go for like great-looking people who could be superheroes. They go for good actors who can make superheroes come to life. So, to be a part of Avengers—and it made a bajillion dollars, you know. So, to be a part of Avengers would be really cool.
Does your character have much interaction with Black Widow? Can you talk about…
Well, I’ve put in this interesting subplot that Black Widow and I are in love with each other. And it’s working really well. So when you see the movie, I hope you catch it. Because there are different scenes where I give it to her, you know, a little chocolate love, like “Pow!” And I think I’ve seen her return it, but I’m not sure. So, I’ve been working on that subplot. I think it’s working out really well.
You didn’t share these notes you made?
No, no, no. You can’t tell her because the thing about it is if you do something like that for your character, and I come to you and I say, “Look, I’m working on this—work with me.” They have one of two options: they’ll say no, or they’ll tell the director and the directors will go to the producers and the producers will say no. So, we got two weeks left now. They can’t cut it out. So, that’s what I’ve been working on for the past three months.
Did Chris and Scarlett, though, I think this is their third time each doing these characters, did they have any pointers for you on playing a superhero?
Just their biggest thing was cause, you know, my first superhero movie, so I show up I’m all excited. And the first day it’s like playing sports and a rookie shows up and you’re like, “Whoa, kid, it’s not what you think. It’s not that much fun. You’re gonna be hanging upside down, you’re gonna be long days, sweating in the heat.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m Falcon.” And they were right. It’s a lot of hard, hot work and heavy suits.
Have you done what will maybe the most challenging sort of physical stunt that you’ll have to do for the movie so far?
Well, the first day we shot, they had me jumping backwards off of a 30-foot platform head first into the pavement. That was about it. And they’re like, “Don’t worry, we’ll catch you before you hit the ground.” I’m like, “All right.” So this is my first day. I didn’t have rehearsal. I didn’t have stunt training. I didn’t have anything. They’re like, “No, no, no, just stand back—run, turn around at the edge of a platform and jump backwards and shoot your guns over your head while you’re going back.” So I doubt if we’re using that footage. But that was definitely the hardest day I’ve had.
What’s been the fun about working with Chris, because he’s really come to embody this character, which is different from almost every other kind of superhero? What’s been fun about sharing the scenes with him when he’s playing that character?
I’ve known Chris for a long time. And we’ve been friends. He’s someone I really considered to be a friend outside of all of this. And he’s a very smart guy. I feel like a lot of actors aren’t smart. Well, a lot of people in the film business in general aren’t smart about different aspects of the film business. And he’s a guy that understands rigging, camerawork, directing, as well as acting. And I’ve never seen that side of him before. And he’s just a really smart intelligent guy and knows how to talk about film in depth. And it’s cool when you see your friend and he’s good at something, and you didn’t know that. So it’s been fun to watch him in his element and see him kind of transform and work to make this character come to life in a different way.
Can you talk a little bit about Falcon’s arc? We saw in Avengers where everybody had something emotional to deal with. Have they given you something, or are you just kind of Cap’s guy?
Cap’s guy. Drinks on me, Cap. It”s cool the way it comes about. I meet Cap; we become friends. He asked me to help him. I help him. And I’m not sure if we win or not at the end. Next question.
Actually, how much of the origin story do we actually get to see, or are you The Falcon right from the—
In this movie, not so much Falcon, it’s more so Sam Wilson. They’ve, you know, because of the way it’s written in the comic book and him having so many incarnations, they kind of used this movie to establish my character and my relationship with Black Widow and, you know, Captain, and Sam Jackson’s character, Nick Fury. So, it’s more that I learn as I go. So, hopefully in part three, or Avengers 2, you’ll be able to see my character really become the three-dimensional part of the Avengers group. Note to Marvel.
What’s your character’s kind of interaction with Nick Fury?
Well, Nick Fury – it’s funny because, you know, when we first started this movie, I was like, “Oh, no, Sam Jackson’s in it. Sam Jackson has a goatee. Sam Jackson is gonna look like my dad. “So, the entire shoot of the movie, every time we do a scene with Sam like after the scene, I’ll go, “Dad?” ‘Cause I’m like, “Dude, come on.”
Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m playing. And you’ll see this in the movie. Every scene I have with Nick Fury, I’m playing it like he’s my dad, and it worked. I watched it on the monitors and it worked. But our relationship is more so of a business relationship. Since I’m in the military, I know what S.H.I.E.L.D is. I’ve been in this tactical program. He knows who I am. I’ve worked with him and for him before. So we form this workman’s camaraderie as opposed to a friendship camaraderie.
Have you gotten to work with Redford?
No, man. I’m very disheartened by that.
You couldn’t write that in?
I tried. Believe me, every day he worked I was on set like, “Y’all need me? Tap me in, coach.” But no, all of his scenes I’m not in. He’s more of the S.H.I.E.L.D. guy as opposed to the Avengers guy. And if any of you drink wine, Robert Redford makes the best Pinot Noir in the country. I said it; write it down, kiss my ass if you don’t believe it. So, that being said, I’ve just been stalking him to get me him to send me some wine, because it’s a really good.
Something tells me Redford would have picked up on your sly little ruse. He’d be like, “I know what you’re doing.”
I tried. I wrote him notes. I left it in his trailer: “I’ll leave you alone for a bottle of wine.” Luckily enough, I’ve known Robert for a long time ’cause I’ve done Sundance so many times, the Labs as well as the festival. And he’s always just been a great guy to me. And, you know, he’s one of those guys you see him and he remembers you and he talks to you and find out what’s going on with you. He’s just really personable. You know, he’s not like he has 50 people in his entourage in a limousine. You know, he shows up in like friendship bracelets and a baseball cap and a Buena Vista Social Club shirt and is like, “What’s up?”you know. So he’s a pretty hip, cool cat. Our characters don’t really collide too much in the movie.
You touched on the difference in making a Marvel movie and making another movie in Hollywood—can you kind of expand on that? Like the surprises of being involved in one of these Marvel productions that has ties to other movies, that has the level of secrecy that you’ve got to maintain?
Well, I’ve been very surprised and kind of put off by the secrets, you know. Because you never really know what’s going on in the next movie. You never really know what you’re doing in this movie. You can’t really talk about what you’re doing. You have to wear a cloak when you go outside in your costume. Just like stuff like that that I’ve never been privy to that makes it strange in a lot of ways, and just foreign to me. But at the same time, Marvel has become a well-oiled machine. I feel like the reason they work so well and the reason you guys are here is because they’ve always presented quality products in a not so always quality genre. You know, I feel like all of the Marvel movies kind of work. The characters are grounded in three dimensional and believable. The CGI and the graphics always looks real as opposed to some dude flying on a string and him being like, ahh. It always works and they always invest the money where it needs to be as opposed to being cheap and putting out a less than quality project. So it’s a catch-22. Like they scare you and put you in a position where you’re not comfortable but you know that nothing but quality is going to come out of that.
What’s coming up next for you?
Good question, sir. My next movie I have coming out is Runner Runner with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. All right. That’s all I’ve got to say. That’ll be dope. It’s actually a really good movie. Shot it down in Puerto Rico. Next, I’m shooting a movie that I wrote and produced with a friend of mine, Frank E. Flowers who’s directing it. It’s going to be me and Ryan Phillippe called Scout. So, be shooting that down in New Orleans.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp and Hayley Atwell, with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!