Anthony Mackie Talks the Appeal of the Gangster Genre, African-Americans in Film Noir, and More on the Set of GANGSTER SQUAD

     December 13, 2012

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Anthony Mackie has become so reliable. He’s one of those guys that gets called in to show up for a couple scenes and just deliver. That’s not to say he can’t handle his own, as he delivered a stellar performance in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-Winning The Hurt Locker, but of late he’s been a scene stealer. You can tell why in the interview below. The man is a goof, and a great talker. Our interview with Anthony Mackie on the set of Gangster Squad follows after the jump.

gangster-squadCan you talk about the appeal of the gangster era for you?

Anthony Mackie: I’m a firm believe that a man looks his best in a suit and I feel like in the late 40’s people just dressed up to do everything, and I loved when I read the script that this misfit group of guys got together to take down this kingpin. I was really turned on by it and it’s not often that I get to play a character like this in this era.

What’s the character?

Mackie: I play a hard-nosed cop that’s given the opportunity to take down a major figure in the illegal world of money laundering and narcotics, and the way (my character) Mr. Washington was at the time he was just really about cleaning up his neighborhood and just helping everyone out. So when I read the script that was a huge appeal for me.

Was there any trepidation about playing a character in an era where – let’s just say – there weren’t as many employment opportunities for black people?

Mackie: Very good wording. But not at all. If you look at that time, it was a very – that year specifically 1949 – was a very specific turning point in African culture in America. But I feel like you had a bunch of people in black communities with a very keen eye for where they wanted their culture to go, and they were working towards that and Rocky Washington was working towards that, so I feel like bringing that character to life, and showing what not only he meant to his community but also to the police force in Los Angeles, and the Gangster Squad taking on Mickey Cohen was more interesting that the other side of that.

gangster squad brolin patrick mackie pena gosling giovanni ribisiOther than Devil in a Blue Dress with Denzel Washington, there haven’t been a lot of black performers in Film noir.

Mackie: There’s no noir in film noir. (laughs)

So it must be nice to create a new character in the genre. Am I right here?

Mackie:  No, you spoke it very well, as a non-noir person. Like I said, there were bunch of black people who had influential roles in the gangster period, and were black gangsters who weren’t mafia influenced at all, who were kind of their own black mafia that was in the states as well, that ran underground gambling rings and things like that. I think those are stories that once Hollywood learns about them they’ll be more excited to tell. That was PC enough, right (laughs).

We’ve been told Ruben is a big cinephile, what sort of inspirations is he bringing to this?

Mackie: Ruben is like a movie junkie, and like myself he’s all about pictures. When I first got this movie, we went through all these pictures to see who this person would be, and who black people were in general in Los Angeles at that time. And if you do this movie in this period you have to have a L.A. Confidential conversation, you have to have a Untouchables conversation. Because those are the two movies for me that define that era. So it was really important for him to create characters that were true to this period.

gangster-squad-josh-brolin-ryan-goslingWill we see much of your character’s personal life?

Mackie: Not at all. I’m not Josh Brolin or Ryan Gosling. They’re more noir than I.

None more noir.

Mackie: That was an Edgar Allen Poe reference by the way, but it’s moreso just me and how I pertain to the squad what my blackness means to me as a cop, and taking down Mickey Cohen.

Is it addressed directly, or is your character integrated into the story without it being a specific plot point.

Mackie: Good word usage, integration. (laughs). It’s definitely addressed and touched upon and it’s something that Ruben and I were very conscious of because I didn’t want to watch the movie and say “who’s that black guy, why’s there’s a black guy, it’s 1949” so it’s something that we talked about and has been addressed in the film to clarify as to why I’m there.

It’s only Ruben’s third film, what kind of energy does he bring to the set?

Mackie: Ruben is such an intellectual, and we joke and clown with each other, but honestly the stiffest person you’d ever met, so my goal has been to freak him out, piss him off, get him off of center, or make him laugh every day.

gangster-squad-movie-image-sean-pennWhich have you done most?

Mackie: I’ve definitely freaked him out, I’m working at pissing him off, and we laugh a lot, so the next two months I’m going to try to piss him off.

Is there an action scene you’re looking forward to?

Mackie: I feel like the whole movie is action, the big one so far, my favorite thing in the world is a Tommy gun, so I’m waiting to shoot mine. That’s all. And I can shoot in my house, a movie theater, a grocery store.

Did you learn how?

Mackie: Learn how? You pull a trigger.

I tried to pull a trigger and it was hard.

Mackie: Aww. Well you’re beautiful and soft, and I’m big and hard, and it’s easy for me.

Have you had a chance to work with Sean Penn yet?

Mackie: I have not, we did the table reading together, but I look forward to working with him.

gangster-squad-posterHow cohesive is the ensemble, in particular in terms of the storytelling. Do you guys spend a lot of time together in scenes or is it people paired up in different storylines?

Mackie: It’s funny the way it’s written. When we have lines, when we don’t have lines, the squad is always together as a unit. And I think Ruben did it that way so we never lose that aspect of the unit, we become a family within our unit, so you see a lot of us together.

How does that translate to your collaborations?

Mackie: It’s made it a lot easier. We’ve definitely had an opportunity to get to know each other more, and become friends on and off camera. There’s a lot of setting up and wetting up streets, you know. We have a lot of time to talk and get to know each other.

How is it working with Ryan and Josh?

Mackie: Big man love circle. It’s great, I worked with Michael Pena before on Million Dollar Baby, I’ve worked with Ryan before it’s just a really great group of guys because everyone’s completely different. You have Josh, who’s the crazy New Yorker, you have Ryan, who’s the mellow cool cat, you have Giovanni, who’s the nervous twitchy guy, you have Michael, who’s the clown, and Robert who’s the stoic figure of the group so everyone has their own thing. So we work together really well, and it’s fun, and getting to reconnect.

Gangster Squad Opens January 11.

For more on our Gangster Squad Set Visit:

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