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Interview: Anthony Mackie Talks to S&A About 'Pain & Gain' and Whether He Wants to be "The Next Will Smith"

by Jai Tiggett
April 25, 2013 3:18 PM
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Anthony Mackie in 'Pain & Gain'

As Michael Bay's larger-than-life action comedy Pain & Gain rolls out in theaters this Friday, I got a chance to speak with Anthony Mackie about his role in the film as Adrian Doorbal, a bodybuilder who teams with his muscle-head buddies to pull off an extortion and kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong. As previously posted, the plot is based on a real-life and rather gruesome crime story featured in a 1999 Miami New Times article. Find S&A's review of the film here.

It was a quick chat, and though we didn't get a chance to delve as deep as I would've liked, Mackie was able to give his thoughts on making the film as well as some insight into his career, especially in light of the questions raised by Dan's article late last week.

Specifically, Mackie read that article and responded to whether he has a desire to move from consummate co-star to consistent leading man. He also gave a few updates on some of his upcoming projects that we can look forward to.


JT: It was interesting to see an over-the-top action comedy that stems from such dark subject matter. What attracted you to Pain & Gain?

AM: I really wanted to work with Michael [Bay], Mark [Wahlberg] and Dwayne [Johnson]. I'd always been a fan of theirs. The script is so different from anything I've read and this character is so different from any character I've played before, so I was just excited by the idea of bringing him to life.

JT: Tell me about your character Adrian Doorbal.

AM: Adrian is basically the grounding force in the film. He's the logical one, if there's any such thing as logic in these three guys' lives. He's the one that brings the voice of reason to all the chaos that they're causing, since he truly just wants to achieve the barest essence of the American dream.

JT: It seems like it must have been a fun set to work on. Tell me about your experience filming this in Florida with Michael Bay and the rest of the cast.

AM: It was a lot of fun. Everyone came to this movie ready to work and there wasn't a day when someone wasn't prepared or didn't have an idea for their character or how make it better. And you can just tell - if you look at Dwayne's performance, it's unlike anything Dwayne has ever done. Mark gets in the front seat of this movie and drives it all the way to the end. Everybody humbled themselves to try to make a special movie, and I think that's why it comes off so well.

JT: Tell me about working with Rebel Wilson as your love interest.

AM: Rebel is a giver. The first rule of comedy is to never say no, and everything I threw at Rebel, she never said no. I think that's why our characters work so well together.

JT: Did you deviate much from the script considering that this is based on a true story? Was improvisation a big part of the film?

AM: Definitely, and Michael encouraged that. The scenes worked and were funny, but Michael would get his scene and then he would give us a take or two to add to it. And a lot of what you see is just us horsing around and making light of the situation, because it was a drab situation to begin with.

JT: Do you have any favorite scenes?

AM: It would probably be Dwayne trying to rob the armored car.

JT: Your characters are bodybuilders and everyone in the film is huge. What kind of physical preparation went into the role?

AM: I worked out all day every day. I changed my diet, and really just went to the gym and pushed myself as hard as I could. And then once we started shooting, Mark and I would work out every day together in the morning and he would push me further than I thought I could be pushed.

JT: You've played so many different kinds of characters. How do you go about choosing what you'll do next? Is it just about versatility?

AM: It's about building a career. When I read a script I always compare it to the other projects I've done. Some of them are similar - there's only so many ways you can interpret a cop - but at the same time, you always try to find something unique about a character just to keep yourself interested. So it's always about looking for that thing that people haven't seen you do.

JT: There's been some talk on our site lately about your career and whether you'll go on to play the leading man more consistently, in large studio films. Is that your goal, or do you prefer to stay under the radar?

AM: Hollywood's a business, and until someone puts their finger on you and decides you're the guy who's going to carry that movie, it's not going to happen. So I'm just enjoying the position that I'm in right now and trying to make the most of it.

JT: So would you say that yes, Anthony Mackie wants to be "the guy"?

AM: [Laughs]. Most of the time when you see a movie, the best character in the movie is not "the guy," it's the guy next to the guy. So I enjoy playing "the guy next to the guy" because it's always - in almost every movie last year - the best character in the movie. It's just fun as an actor to get the opportunity to do something where you can really sink your teeth into it.

JT: Tell me about what you're working on next.

AM: Right now I'm going into Captain America 2, playing the Falcon opposite Captain America. The two of us along with Black Widow are taking down the Winter Soldier.

JT: Any updates on Bolden, where you play New Orleans jazz musician Buddy Bolden? It's been listed as in 'post production,' but any idea how soon we'll see it come to fruition?

AM: I'm not sure what's going on with Bolden. It's been six years, so I've decided I was finished.

JT: What about the Jesse Owens biopic you're set to star in?

AM: We're  constantly working. We're putting the script together now and pushing along, trying to see if anyone's willing to tell the greatest story in American history.


Pain & Gain opens in theaters tomorrow, April 26.

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  • Danny | April 28, 2013 7:11 PMReply

    Mackie better hurry up he's turning 34 this year how long does he think he can wait before he's too old to do the Jesse Owens biopic? Time is of the essence.

  • Peggy | April 28, 2013 2:45 PMReply


  • Peggy | April 28, 2013 2:49 PM

    Why is this system not taking my comments?

  • Geneva Girl | April 26, 2013 3:26 AMReply

    "the best character in the movie is not "the guy," it's the guy next to the guy"

    That is so true! Good for him realizing that. Playing more interesting characters will make him an even better actor. I wish him continued success!

  • Akimbo | April 25, 2013 4:30 PMReply

    Good for Mackie! We were bluntly honest in that comment section, but I've always thought it would be better to be a character actor. That's not quite what he is, because he's got leading man looks, but character actors have such longevity, get to play a wide range of roles, and don't have to carry the weight of the world (or film) on their shoulders. You get focus on acting rather than catering to fans, the studio, and your carefully cultivated image. If he's happy being that guy, it's an amazing place to be, both ego and career-wise.

  • Jug | April 25, 2013 6:11 PM

    Yep! But see, people like "shiny things" so everybody is always bitchin' and complainin' about who's a "star" and who isn't. They don't even realize that many of the "would be stars" in today's marketplace are actually better character actors. Much as I love him, Gerard Butler kills as part of an ensemble. Colin Ferrell too. OR they kill as the lead in smaller, more intimate pictures, not huge studio juggernauts that need a personality larger than life. Will Smith IS Will Smith. It's hard for him to be anything but. And to tell it, that's not what we pay him for. When the average audience member says "I like his Acting" what they're saying is "I like HIM". WORLD of difference, and that's the difference between a Star and an Actor. Some can marry the two, most cannot. When Will said "“You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance – and very rarely do I say this – but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment" that's HUGE introspection on his part. He knows EXACTLY what & who he is and what product he's creating. Most Actors are already arrogant as hell (as Gary Oldman said, you need a little bit of Ego to do this job), so asking them to "reel it in" is a big slap in the face. Some dudes play it cool & make their mark with the juicy bits the supporting characters get to do-good or bad. Every one hated Cary Grant when he decided to get all "charactery" and grizzled for FATHER GOOSE. Once you're established as a "personality", that's what is being sold and that is what the public is buying. You doing all that "Acting" will just eff everything up. So all this talk about Mackie being the next anything is ridiculous. What the real conversation is, and Tambay, Accidental Visitor & Sergio have brought it up many times, is that amongst Black Actors, there's a serious dearth of quality Male Leads, but there's a lot of guys who "look" the part. And much of that comes from the selection of lackluster Actors over the last 20-25 years and put them out there as "Leads", so now their reps (& their EGO) will only push them for leads, when in reality they should have been the guy next to the guy or not there at all. Imagine, if every male character in LA CONFIDENTIAL was Russell Crowe or if in HIT, every male character was Bill Dee or Richard Pryor. Not only would the movie suck, but it would signal a serious issue with the talent pool and who & how we're filling it. Does that mean that a character actor can't be a lead? HELL NO! Al Pacino, Cheadle, Fishburne, Seymour Hoffman, hell DUSTIN Hoffman. They're extremely charismatic, talented actors who give you character first, their personality a distant second, if even on the list at all. That's what we should be talking about, how making every actor the next Denzel or Will Smith actually makes it bad for all future Actors. If this were sports, every Quarterback coming out of college is not going to be the next RG3 or Tom Brady. You want greatness, but you don't want carbon copy. And we have been coping for a long time and copies of copies makes poorer and poorer copies.

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