Imagine you’re a successful actor whose appeared in Oscar nominated films and worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood and people barely know your name. Such has been the case with New Orleans thespian Anthony Mackie. Despite star turns in the critically acclaimed 2009 war film “The Hurt Locker,” when people see Mackie on the street, they still shout, “Hey, Papa Doc!” Papa Doc was Mackie’s breakthrough role in Eminem‘s 2002 film “8 Mile.”
Since playing Eminem's nemesis, Anthony Mackie has made a name for himself starring in films with heart and substance. Next on his plate is the action crime dramedy "Pain & Gain" alongside Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson due out April 26th. The film tells the true story of a trio of witless bodybuilders who are tired of struggling to make ends meet and kidnap, extort, torture, and murder several unsuspecting victims in brutal fashion. Mackie plays one of the three bodybuilders named Adrian Doorbal. Directed by Michael Bay, "Pain & Gain" is based on a series of articles printed in the "Miami New Times" newspaper.
With the story portrayed in the film being true, “Pain & Gain” has seen its fair share of opposition from the victims’ families. The Urban Daily got a chance to speak with Anthony Mackie about the concerns surrounding the film, what it feels like to be the first black superhero, and why he’ll never play another rapper on the big screen again.
TUD: Could you give me a synopsis on the film “Pain & Gain”?
AM: It’s plain and simple. The movie’s about three body builders who, in a very convoluted way, try to achieve the American dream. They kidnap, extort, and murder wealthy guys they are training in Miami.
What attracted you to the role?
I really wanted to work with Mark and Dwayne. I’ve been fans of theirs for a while. Also, I’ve always wanted to work with Michael Bay. I was hoping it would be “Bad Boys 3,” but this is a fair compromise. I loved the script. When I read the script I was really intrigued by the idea of this being a true story.
What was it like working with Rebel Wilson and having her play your wife?
It was great! Rebel is a giver. She’s always easy to work with and is just fun and supportive. As soon as she came onto set we clicked. She hasn’t been in the States long so I’m glad to say I was one of the first people to have a crack at her as a love interest.
The film is sort of written so that the three bodybuilder are kind of sympathetic. When you first read the script and then did subsequent research, how did you feel about that, considering the actual murders were so gruesome but the film makes it seem like a comedy?
Well, I don’t think it’s portrayed as a comedy. If you look at it in the movie, the situation of it is so ridiculous that it comes across as funny. I think that’s why midway through the movie, Michael put the tag line, “This is still a true story.” There are so many things in our reality that are so far beyond what our imagination could come up with and this is one of those things. The reality of the situation is so ridiculous that when you watch the movie, you have to say to yourself, “No way! Is that true?!” When you find out its true, the ridiculousness of it is what’s funny to you.
How do you feel about the victims’ families not wanting the film to come out because it makes the murderers the protagonists?
I understand that. I feel like the families have the right to feel however they would like to feel. If it were me, I’d probably feel the same way, but the reality of it is every story has three sides–my side, your side, and the truth. So I feel like this movie could’ve been made three different ways badly, but Michael picked the one way to make the movie good. It is getting their story out there. I feel like it makes the killers look the way they are–very bad, bumbling idiots. [laughs] It makes you feel sorry for the people who found themselves in that situation and were used and killed for being hardworking, true-blooded Americans.
Admittedly, when I saw the film, I thought it was funny, but after reading the news articles the film is based on, I felt guilty for laughing at the movie a little bit.
Of course. I mean that’s what makes the movie so good. I think the writers did such a great job and I think that’s how Michael Bay did such a great job because what he did was took three guys who you do not want to like and made them likable. He took three guys who you couldn’t relate to or understand how they could commit these heinous crimes and he gave them humanity to the point you could relate to them and maybe even root for them. The reason the movie’s so good is there’s a 180-degree through line, meaning everybody you root for at the beginning you hate at the end and everybody you hate at the beginning you root for at the end. If you look at the people who were murdered, I don’t think their torture is treated lightly in the film. I think it’s a different perspective.
What do you want viewers to take away from the film after seeing it?
I want people to see this film and realize that the American dream is alive and well. It still holds true to the tag line that anybody can be anything they want to be. The problem is when you try to segue around the hard work, you’ll find yourself in a precarious situation and that’s what happened with these guys.
After “Pain & Gain,” what else will you be working on?
Well, I start shooting “Captain America” in three weeks. After “Captain America,” I have a few things that I’m looking at and trying to figure out what works best with my schedule for the end of the year.
With your role in “Captain America,” does that make you the first black superhero?
They say that but you had Blade. Blade was a superhero. You had Spawn. Spawn was a superhero. Even Don Cheadle in “Iron Man,” well, he’s not really a superhero because he’s wearing a super suit. At the same time, he’s a black dude in a superhero movie so dammit that makes him a superhero. [laughs] I wouldn’t say I’m the first, but I’m in a pretty cool group of other actors who’ve done it.
One of your more memorable roles was playing 2Pac in “Notorious.” Would you ever consider playing another rapper in a biopic?
I doubt it. 2Pac was a very strenuous and nerve-racking experience for me just because no matter where you go, people have something they’d like to communicate about what you do as an actor. I’m not the one who entertains communication that well sometimes. [laughs] so I probably won’t be doing that because it puts me in precarious positions.