Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of my most anticipated films of 2014 before I had a chance to visit the set with a small group of journalists. After what I learned there, the Marvel sequel easily jumped to #1 on my list, and now that I can share that previously secretive information with you, you’ll see why. While Chris Evans might be the lead, this interview centers on Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, played by the charming and witty Anthony Mackie.
While on set, Mackie talked about his familiarity with the character thanks to his brother, which version of the Falcon he prefers, his wings, doing his biggest stunt on Day 1 of shooting, and his on-screen relationships with Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson. Hit the jump for the interview.
Anthony 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. [Laughter] First question.
How tall are you?
Mackie: I’m 5’11” and a half. Five-foot-eleven of pure chocolate. [Laughter]
Can you answer as the Falcon?
Mackie: Can I what?
Can you do the whole interview as the Falcon?
Mackie: Speaking in falcon? Caw, caw, caw! [Laughter]
Were you familiar with this character before this opportunity arose?
Mackie: I was. My brother was one of those comic book guys that had a bunch of comic books. 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 … being Black [laughs] so I knew about him. [laughter]
What was your brother’s reaction when you got this part?
Mackie: Oh, he was super excited. He loved the character and he loved comic books. When I was a kid, I destroyed all of his comic books, so he was happy to think that I’d be able to re-buy all of his comic books for him.
Why would you destroy his comics?
Mackie: Because I was a kid. And he wouldn’t let me in his room. So I went in his room and did some damage. [laughter] And I’ve been payin’ for it the rest of my life.
Did he give you some key insights into how he thought you should play this character?
Mackie: No, his big thing was, 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.
Mackie: 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’m hoping are going to turn into like 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: [flaps his arms] [laughter] So, I’m guessing they’re going to put them on me but I have no idea.
How is your green-screen acting curve so far?
Mackie: 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 toward you, so…run.” I’m like, “Alright.” So, you just run, you know? It’s very … it’s different than anything I’ve ever done. The closest thing I’ve ever done to green screen, other than Abraham Lincoln [Vampire Hunter] … I did this movie, We Are Marshall, and 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 [laughter] 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. [laughter] 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, hopefully, watched all the Marvel movies to this point, as an outsider, how would you describe it?
Mackie: Wouldn’t it be bad if I’d never seen one? [laughter] Marvel? I dunno, I mean … didn’t they make Get Shorty? [laughter] 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, we have Sam Jackson and Robert Redford, you know? 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, a lot of the movies that Marvel does not do, it’s hard to get into because it’s just a bunch of superheroes runnin’ around doin’ 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, kinda realistic story, just with a dude in a blue suit runnin’ around with a shield.
Mackie: And this guy! [laughter]
Was that a tough sell for you when you came on? Like, “Okay, they’re going to do this gritty, driven, conspiracy thing, oh and there’s a guy who’s got wings!”
Mackie: Not at all. What’s so funny is, it’s kinda in the theme, not Bourne, but when you watch a Bourne movie, that aspect of just intense action that you get as well as gritty, dark story, that’s kinda how the vein of this movie works and how the story’s told. With me, what I love is, The Falcon kinda 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. [laughs]
Is that the one you wanted to play?
Mackie: 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 and spandex and prostitutes and cocaine.” [laughter] That’s the Marvel universe! [laughs] It changed and morphed into 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 self-preservation, but more so out of respect and honor because they’re both military guys and they both share a common bond within the military. He’s just a stand-up guy that can fight really well.
They talk about the fact that your character is very contemporary, very modern; he’s obviously more anachronistic …
Mackie: Great word usage. This guy’s good!
How do you guys interact with each other? Particularly because, in Avengers, there were some jokes about his…
Mackie: Stiffness? That definitely comes up in this movie. I think what the writers have been able to do is go around the time difference. 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, 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 kinda builds upon that. Is that vague enough for you?
Mackie: Good! Good, good, good. Not getting’ me in trouble! [laughter]
Can you give us a little context on the scene we just saw you guys shoot?
Mackie: Sure. 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. [laughter] Next. [laughter]
Let’s try this. It’s rumored that you’re going to be in Avengers 2. Can you confirm or deny?
Mackie: 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. 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, because I’m going to run through Times Square butt-ass naked with Avengers 2 tattooed across my chest. [laughs] 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 [just] great-looking people who could be superheroes, they go for good actors who can make superheroes come to life. And it made a bajillion dollars. To be a part of Avengers would be really cool.
Does your character have much interaction with Black Widow?
Mackie: Well, I’ve put in this interesting sub-plot that Black Widow and I are in love with each other [laughter] 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, 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 sub-plot and I think it’s working out really well. [laughter]
You didn’t share these notes?
Mackie: No, no. [laughter] You can’t tell her, because the thing is, if you do something like that for your character and I come to her and I say, “Listen, I’m working on this, work with me.” They have one of two options: they’ll say, “No,” or, they’ll tell the directors, and the directors will go to the producers, and the producers will say, “No.” We’ve got two weeks left now; they can’t cut it out, so… [laughter] That’s what I’ve been working on for the past three months.
For Chris and Scarlett, this is their third time each doing these characters. Did they have any pointers for you on playing a superhero?
Mackie: [laughs] Their biggest thing was, because you know it’s my first superhero movie, so I show up and I’m all excited, and the first day is like playing sports and a rookie shows up, it’s like, “Whoa, kid. It’s not what you think. It’s not that much fun. You’re gonna be hanging upside-down, long days, sweatin’ in the heat.” And I’m like, “Falcon!” And they were right. It’s a lot of hard, hot work, and heavy suits.
What will be maybe the most challenging physical stunt you have to do for the movie?
Mackie: Well, the first day we shot, they had me jumping backwards off a thirty-foot platform head-first into the pavement. That was about it. [laughter] And they’re like, “Don’t worry. We’ll catch you before you hit the ground.” And I’m like, “Alright.” 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 backwards, 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. [laughter] But that was definitely the hardest day I’ve had.
Mackie: You know, I’ve known Chris for a long time and we’ve been friends. He’s someone I really consider to be a friend outside of all of this. 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. He’s a guy that understands rigging, camera work, directing, as well as acting. And I’d never seen that side of him before. He’s just a really smart, intelligent guy who knows how to talk about film in depth. It’s cool when you see your friend and he’s good at something and you didn’t know that. It’s been fun to watch him in his element and see him 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 that everybody had something emotional to deal with. Have they given you something, or are you just kind of Cap’s guy?
Mackie: [laughs] Cap’s guy! Drinks on me, Cap! [laughs] It’s more so … my arc is cool the way it comes about. I meet Cap, we become friends, he asks me to help him, I help him, and I’m not sure if we win or not at the end. [laughter] Next question.
How much of the origin story do we actually get to see? Are you Falcon right from the start?
Mackie: In this movie, not so much Falcon; it’s more so Sam Wilson. Because of the way it’s written in the comic book and him having so many incarnations, they kinda used this movie to establish my character and my relationship with Black Widow and Captain, and Nick Fury. So it’s more that I learn as I go, so hopefully in Part 3, 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 interaction with Nick Fury?
Mackie: It’s funny because, you know, I was like, “Oh no! Sam Jackson’s in it. Sam Jackson has a goatee. Sam Jackson is gonna look like my dad.” [laughs] So, the entire shoot of the movie, every time we’d do a scene with Sam, after the scene, I’d go, “Dad?” Because, c’mon!
Mackie: Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m playing. And you’ll see this in the movie. [laughs] Every scene I have with Nick Fury, I’m playing it like he’s my dad. It works. I’ve watched it on the monitors and it works. But our relationship is more of a business relationship. Since I’ve been in the military, I know what S.H.I.E.L.D. is, I’ve been in his tactical program, he knows who I am, I’ve worked with him and for him before, so we form this workmen’s camaraderie, as opposed to a friendship camaraderie.
Did you get to work with Redford?
Mackie: No, man. I’m very disheartened by that.
You couldn’t write that in?
Mackie: I tried, believe me. Every day he worked, I was on set like, “If y’all need me, tap me in, coach.” 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 him to send me some wine. Because it’s really good.
Something tells me Redford would have picked up on that.
Mackie: I wrote him notes. I left them in his trailer. “I’ll leave you alone for a bottle of wine.” No, luckily I’ve known Robert for a long time, because I’ve done Sundance so many times, the labs as well as the festival. He’s always been a great guy to me. He’s one of those guys, you see him and he remembers you, and he talks with you, finds out what’s going on with you. He’s just really personable. It’s not like he has 50 people in his entourage and a limousine. He shows up in friendship bracelets and a baseball cap and a Buena Vista social club shirt like, “What’s up?” He’s a pretty hip, cool cat, but our characters don’t really collide too much in the movie.
You touched on the difference in making a Marvel movie compared to other studios. Can you expand on that? The surprises, being involved in a Marvel production that has ties to other movies, the level of secrecy that you have to maintain…
Mackie: Well, I’ve been very surprised and kind of put off by the secrets, 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 stuff like that that I’d never been privy to that makes it strange in a lot of ways and just foreign to me. 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. I feel like all of the Marvel movies kinda work, the characters are grounded and three-dimensional and believable. The CGI and the graphics always look real, as opposed to some dude flying on a string, you know? 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. It’s a catch-22. 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?
Mackie: Good question, sir! My next movie I have coming out is Runner Runner, with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. And that’s all I gotta say! [laughs] That’ll be dope. It’s actually a really good movie. We shot it down in Puerto Rico. Next, I’m shooting a movie that I wrote and produced with a friend of mine – Frankie Flowers, who’s directing it – it’s going to be me and Ryan Phillippe, called Scout. We’re shooting that down in New Orleans. It’s gonna be dope.
Click here for all our Captain America coverage or browse recent links below:
- 60 Things to Know about CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER from Our Visit to Marvel’s Movie Set
- Chris Evans Talks CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Wearing the New Suit, Relationships with Other Characters, and Working with Robert Redford
- Kevin Feige Talks CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Hiring Joe and Anthony Russo, Introducing the Winter Soldier & the 70s Conspiracy Thriller Genre
- Directors Anthony and Joe Russo Talk CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Landing the Job, Core Relationships, Easter Eggs, and the Talented Cast
- Sebastian Stan Talks CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Playing the Iconic Role, Stepping into the Costume, and Bucky Barnes vs the Winter Soldier
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