At this past weekend’s press junket for Real Steel, opening in theaters on October 7th, Collider got the opportunity to speak with Anthony Mackie, who plays Finn, the charismatic host of the robot fights at The Crash Palace. While we will post the portion of the interview about what drew him to the role and how much fun he had playing a character so different from him, close to the film’s release date, we did want to post what he had to say about two of his other high-profile projects – the recently wrapped Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and The Gangster Squad, currently shooting for director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland).
When talking about his role as Abraham Lincoln’s best friend, William H. Johnson, Anthony Mackie explained his belief in the re-contextualization of history to interest kids in wanting to learn more, even if that means adding vampires to the story to catch their attention. He also talked about playing Lieutenant Harris, a member of the Gangster Squad in the late 1940’s, who wanted to keep Mickey Cohen from bringing heroin into Compton. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ANTHONY MACKIE: Are you serious?! No. Because I read the book. I’m a firm believer in the re-contextualization of history. I feel like education is the only aspect of our culture that is still one-dimensional. You have kids that go home and play video games with 3D TVs and crazy phones. They have a cell phone where they can play a game, but they go to school and it’s just a blackboard with an old lady and a piece of chalk. That’s crazy, to think that you can learn, in that way.
I think what (author/screenwriter) Seth [Grahame-Smith] did with this book was re-contextualize history. That way, you have to go and look up Abraham Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker) and find out that his best friend was a black dude, named William H. Johnson (played by Mackie), who died on their way back from Gettysburg. Lincoln paid with money out of his own pocket to have him buried at Arlington cemetery, and his headstone read, “William H. Johnson, citizen.” Did you know that? Now, don’t you want to read more about Abraham Lincoln?
If you have to add vampires to history to make, not even kids, but people – because we don’t even know our own history – interested, then I’m with that. I’ll do Martin Luther King, Eel Fisherman, if it will make you go back and read about Martin Luther King because he was a dynamic figure in our history.
MACKIE: Timur has made some dope-ass movies. If he calls you, you do a movie with him. Hell, yeah!
Who are you playing in The Gangster Squad?
MACKIE: I play Lieutenant Harris. Basically, the movie is set in the late 1940’s, and it’s based on Mickey Cohen (played by Sean Penn) and how he ran L.A., by the hook or by the crook. My character was promoted to Sergeant, and the first task he was given was something he didn’t really buy. It didn’t sit right with him, ethically. So, he handed in his promotion and decided he wanted to get the heroin off the streets in the black neighborhoods. So, he ran the streets in the black neighborhood with an iron fist.
Josh Brolin’s character comes to me because he knows of my special skills, being a weapons expert and a guy who just has his ears and nose to the street, and asks me to be a part of the Gangster Squad. My character looks at it like, “If I can get Mickey Cohen, I can stop the heroin from coming to Compton.” So, I go after Mickey Cohen.
Is there something specific you look for in the roles you choose?
MACKIE: I just always look for something different. I feel like I’m blessed because I get to do what I love. Why wouldn’t I go to work and have a good time, and enjoy myself, and do something different, and challenge myself? So, I always try to find something creative. Fuck, Johnny Depp shouldn’t be the only dude having fun doing this shit! I wanna have fun. I wanna put eyes on my eyelids. He did that in Pirates, if you haven’t seen it. I want some Willie Wonka fun. I wanna wear make-up, and not in an L.A. way. I just always look for something different and fun, and something interesting. If it’s different than everything else I’ve done, then nine times out of 10, I’ll do it.