About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
March 2010
Theater Talk | An Interview withAnthony Mackie

Theater Talk
An Interview with Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie Talks 'A Behanding in Spokane', 'Hurt Locker' and Jesse Owens Biopic

By Wilson Morales

March 8, 2010

As actors like Kerry Washington and Denzel Washington are venturing into the Great White Way, theater is home base for Anthony Mackie.

Although the world is mostly familiar with his film work, which includes '8 Mile' with Eminem, Spike Lee's 'She Hate Me, Clint Eastwood's 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Notorious' with Angela Bassett, and this year's Oscar nominated film, 'The Hurt Locker,' the New Orleans native is a stage veteran. He's done numerous Broadway and off-Broadway plays, including 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' with Whoopi Goldberg, 'Drowning Crow' with Alfre Woodard, 'McReele,' and 'A Soldier's Play' with Taye Diggs.

The Juilliard grad is set to return to Broadway with the March 4th opening of 'A Behanding of Spokane,' a dark comedy co-starring Christopher Walken, Zoe Kazan and Sam Rockwell.

John Crowley directs Irish writer Martin McDonagh's play about a man searching for his missing hand (Walken), with two hustlers aiming to make a few hundred bucks (Mackie and Kazan), and curious hotel clerk (Rockwell) looking for excitement in his life.

In speaking with Black Voices, Mackie talked about his return to the stage, the Oscar nods for 'The Hurt Locker' and his quest to play Jesse Owen on the big screen.


Congrats on 'The Hurt Locker.' It's a long journey for that film to go from where it started to where it is now.

Anthony Mackie: Thank you, I appreciate it. It's come a long way.

Now you're back on Broadway with 'A Behanding in Spokane.' What was the attraction?

AM: The script. Martin [McDonagh] put together a group of three-dimensional characters. It's a theatergoing experience. A lot of times when you go to Broadway, it's a musical with singing and dancing. I think to have a cast like this, a playwright like this and a director like this is a true theatergoing experience.

I heard that you were angling for this job. Why this one and not another show?

AM: Just because I try to do different stuff in different ways. I feel like there are a lot of things I know I can do, and a lot of things people have seen me do, but Anthony Mackie is not synonymous with the word "comedy." To put those two words together opens things up to a totally new aspect, 'cause I think I'm a funny dude.

It takes a lot to have funny bones and be credible. What made you think you can do it?

AM: Just 'cause I know myself. I put a lot of time and energy toward making it work. The great thing about doing anything in the performing arts is if you rehearse and work your way to it, it will happen. If you build it, they will come. Somebody pulls me out of the aisle and says, "be funny", that's one thing. But if somebody gives me five weeks to be funny that's completely different. You give me five weeks I can fly a space shuttle.

Let's talk about the character you play. This hustler is caught in a situation he's not supposed to be in.

AM: I'm a hustler trying to make a dollar out of two pennies. I meet this guy who needs some help, and I try to facilitate everything he needs. That's the basis of it.


People will always ask if you see anything of yourself in a character. What do you see in this one?

AM: Ambition. I've always put myself ahead of the rest when it comes to making something out of nothing. This character, when it comes to staying alive and making things work, that's always his strong point.

You're working with three excellent actors, from Zoe to Sam to Chris, all different generations. How do you mingle?

AM: Being a brother in entertainment, if you don't know how to fit in, you're not going to be in this business long. You have to put yourself in a position where you can meet everybody halfway. There are no egos, no insecurities and no bullshit walking around on the set of this play. We all play fair and easily. We all walk the same walk and talk the same talk.


Christopher is an icon. What are you learning on a day-to-day basis that will help you hone your craft?

AM: Patience. The great thing about Chris, and the biggest thing I admire, is he wasn't trying to be perfect the first day of rehearsal. He wasn't trying to put up the final performance the first day of rehearsal. He allowed himself to be bad, and he became this great character over a period of five weeks. I feel like as actors we forget that. We don't allow ourselves to be bad. Christopher Walken, his choices are so dynamic and it takes five weeks to build those choices into a smooth, defining line. That's something I feel I've learned watching him.

Martin's done black comedy before, including 'The Lieutenant of Inishmore.' How was it working with him?

AM: The thing about Martin that's so great is we never had a problem with him being closed-minded or not willing to listen to the actor. If something didn't sound right or didn't quite work, he will take it and give it to us in a different way. He would give us many different options as far as making it work. It was never an issue of "how do I do this?" The biggest plus about this project is the director, John Crowley, is such a stickler for timing that that's what makes the actors and the words mesh together in such a good way.

You're one of the few actors, like Alfred Molina , who can go between theater and film.

AM: Well, thank you. And the thing about theater is it's very forgiving. On any given night you can be great or you can be awful. It just depends on where you are at that time. A lot of actors are great on film because they have multiple times to be great. You can cut together those performances and make them great. I think in theater, you have to be working on your feet. You have to be diligent, you have to be focused and put together a rhythm. You have to have endurance. You have to be a trained athlete just to be in theater. Look at Terrence Howard, when he did off-Boadway. I think the biggest lesson you learn in this business is how to be lazy, and the thing you learn in theater is how not to be lazy.

One of the projects I've heard you're in is 'Night Catches Us,' another independent film. How was working on that?

AM: It's always great working with Kerry Washington. I feel like Kerry brings something out of me as an actor. She challenges me, pushes me to the limits of my craft. I don't have that relationship with too many other people in this business. I feel like whenever I work with her something good will come out of it.


You also have 'The Adjustment Bureau' with Matt Damon. Who's your character in that film?

AM: I play a facilitator for Matt Damon. I walk him through things in his day-to-day life. I'm his assistant you can say. There's a lot of things that happen, and I help him get past that and push him through.

What's going on with the Jesse Owens biopic? Is funding coming together for that?

AM: Jesse Owens is the saga that will never end. It's a movie that deserves to be made, that should be made. Trying to find someone who has the excitement I have for the project is very hard. It's something I work on every day and we're getting closer and closer. It's just taking longer than I expected.


Are you going to the Oscars?

AM: That's my day off so I fly out one morning and come back the next morning.

It should be a crowning glory one way or another. With nine nominations, you can't come home a loser.

AM: You can't beat it, man. Being in 'Million Dollar Baby' was a great experience to have Clint Eastwood stand up there and say my name. This one is a substantial role and to have Jeremy [Renner] be nominated, I feel like that's a credit and a testament to the work we put into the film. If Katherine [Bigelow] wins or the film wins, it's a testament to everyone involved. I feel like at the end of the day, most filmmakers really enjoy the art of making films, and to have 'The Hurt Locker' be made for $11 million with no real big stars is a testament to good filmmaking. You don't need $500 million to make a good movie. You don't even need a million dollars. You just need talent and a dream. A lot of young directors need to look at that. You can get a red digital camera and do a movie on your credit card like Robert Townsend did on 'Hollywood Shuffle,' and make a damn good movie. You got to have the balls and the backbone to put yourself out there and do that on your first movie. Don't try to be rich on your first movie. It's like the NBA, you haven't earned your signing bonus.


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy