Movies

Anthony Mackie On The Responsibility And Message Of Captain America

Anthony Mackie is clear: he is not at all saying he’s the new Captain America. We will all have to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to find out if Mackie’s Sam Wilson decided to accept that title. But, after Captain America creator Jack Kirby’s son, Neal, put out a blistering statement after seeing Captain America paraphernalia at the attack on the Capitol, Mackie isn’t shy about what Captain America represents and what it means to even be associated with that role in terms of being a role model, which is a pretty heavy thing for an actor.

Captain America is the jumping-off point in the conversation, but the truth is, what happened two Wednesdays ago affected Mackie as a Black man living in America. To see the hate on full display, for Mackie, he hopes it’s finally the eye-opener people need to understand what’s going on out there. And an emotional Mackie has a lot to say about that.

The reason I’m talking to Mackie is because he has a new movie out on Friday called Outside the Wire on Netflix, which, by the time you’re reading this, you can watch. Mackie basically gets to play the Terminator. He’s a U.S. military-created robot named Leo who has some pretty wonderful ’90s action movies-esque one-liners. And his mission is stop eastern European terrorists from destroying the world. Or, maybe, Leo has some ideas of his own. In fact, Mackie calls this his tribute to Wesley Snipes’s movie of the ’90s. Which, of course, led us into a discussion about the plot of Passenger 57.

Ahead, we probably have a bit too much fun talking about Passenger 57 before things get serious when talking about what happened at the Capitol. And the New Orleans, Louisiana native doesn’t take it lightly at all that he knows kids are going to be looking up to him and what he represents. (Well, other than his own kids, who don’t think he’s cool at all.)

I was doing some research before talking to you and came across a headline from 2013, “Anthony Mackie Calls Chris Evans a Stud.” I laughed out loud because I haven’t seen fun headlines like that in what seems like a very long time.

He is my stud muffin. I miss him.

That would never be a headline today.

Right, when we were able to laugh?

There was one day in 2013 where you calling Chris Evans “a stud” was news.

That’s funny.

In Outside the Wire, you basically play the Terminator.

Oh yeah! When I first read the script, that was something that stuck out to me as something I was excited about. Because, growing up, being a movie fan, I loved those movies. As a young actor, you always say who you want to be when you grow up as an actor. And my answer was always Wesley Snipes. I feel like this movie was the quintessential Wesley Snipes movie. This is my Mr. Holland’s Opus to Wesley Snipes.

So this is your Passenger 57.

Passenger 57, exactly. Which I watched last week and it’s still great.

Yeah, I watched it, too. It’s on cable all the time recently.

Yeah!

I forgot about the beginning when he’s teaching a hijacking simulation and the flight attendant tries to be a hero and they are at odds. Then he just happens to be on a real flight with her that gets hijacked.

[Laughs] Right, right!

Oh, it’s great.

It really is. My favorite part, which I forgot, so the airplane that they’re on lands in Louisiana.

Oh yeah.

The police officers are the most country, hick, Louisiana police officers in the history of film.

Very true.

But then all of a sudden, they become friends. I’m like, it’s an amazing movie. It’s an amazing movie.

They think Wesley Snipes is the terrorist at first. They’re blaming him for everything.

Right, and they try to arrest him.

Then they become friends.

Exactly.

I miss the casually rated R movie. When an action movie today gets rated R, that’s the marketing, “we are R,” and have to overdo it.

So they can justify. No question. Yeah, that’s 100%. And that’s what’s so funny about it: now everything is so safe, that the idea of what was raunchy and out there 20 years ago, now that’s like “X.”

Speaking of ’90s movies, and I like the title of this movie, but it doesn’t have the ’90s title feel. Why isn’t this called Robot Warrior or something?

The great thing about the title and where the movie comes from, it kind of explains it perfectly. I feel like we don’t make movies anymore that are called Death Trip. Four guys in the car and they’re like, “Let’s take a road trip.” “Where are we going?” “To Death Town.”

Yeah, we don’t see Death Town too often anymore.

You don’t have those punchlines anymore.

That’s true.

With this movie, what keeps it so great and authentic is it has that quality, and that feeling of just a feel-good popcorn movie.

You get some great lines. I laughed out loud at “I’m special enough for both of us.”

That’s what I’m saying, man! It goes along the lines of, “Always bet on black.”

Yeah, that line has that feel.

Literally, when we were shooting this, I had so many of those one-liners and I would put one in every scene. And I would tell (director) Mikael Håfström, you have to use one of these, dude. You can’t just not use them. This is gold!

Wait a second, so why wouldn’t he want to use every single one of them? I’m serious. This seems like a no-brainer.

Believe me, we had that argument every day.

You’re a producer, couldn’t you just say, look, these are staying in, buddy.

Nah, he was our fearless leader, so he stuck to his guns. He made the best movie we could possibly make, so I’m happy with it.

My one disappointment when I was watching this, because I’ve been watching a lot of ’90s movies, is the scene where there’s going to be truth serum. But then it was a fake out. But I was just thinking, there are not enough truth serum movies today.

You’re the only person sitting around waiting for truth serum!

We don’t see enough truth serum and we don’t see enough cyanide. Those used to be things we saw all the time.

Yeah, what’s the shit they used to put on the towel and then put over your nose? It was in every movie. They would put it on your nose and you would pass out and they would lay you down. What was that called? That’s what we need in more movies.

It’s on the tip of my tongue. I’m actually Googling, “liquid that knocks you out.”

Right, “Liquid on towel that you put over the person’s nose and mouth and knocks them out.“

Chloroform.

That’s it. Every movie from now on, I want to put a chloroform scene in it.

So chloroform, cyanide and truth serum. If you put three of those things in a movie, we’re off to the races.

I’m in. I’m in. Sign me up.

So, I read your comment when you were asked about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, about if you’re going to be Captain America or not. And I saw you said, “He gave it to me but I have not accepted this,” which is a great line for you to tell people.

Well, it’s the truth.

“He gave me the shield, but I have not said yes.” But that’s a good way to put it. Now we don’t know because Sam has to figure that out.

Exactly.

So, having said that I am making no assumptions about what happens to Sam. But a pretty serious thing, I don’t know if you saw this, Jack Kirby’s son Neal put out a statement yesterday because he saw people storming the Capitol wearing Captain America gear and he was, rightfully, very offended.

Well, nothing that happened last Wednesday was patriotic or American. Even being a black man, if you look at the history of this country and being a proud American, nothing about that was patriotic or American. And definitely not in any vein, shape, way or form in the life of Captain America would that ever happen.

It just baffles my mind they could take what’s pretty obvious about what that character stands for and twist it into what we saw. There’s a lot to be outraged about and I don’t know how far down this is on the list, but how could anyone think that that’s what that character stands for, even for a second?

Yeah, it’s definitely way down the list with all the other shit that has happened. People don’t know how ugly things are until you see them. And it was like during the Civil Rights March. People didn’t know how bad the racism in this country was until they had the cameras on. Until you saw fire hoses and dogs eating people. You don’t know how devastating and tragic day-to-day life is as a person of color or a woman until you see it. And now that we’ve seen it, you can see that the reaction from people has been very different. Even Mitch McConnell, of all people. If you can get Turtle Mitch to turn his head, it’s a whole different conversation. It’s a whole different ballgame because nobody signed up for that. Everybody signed up for hate, but nobody signed up for that.

We saw how Chris Evans, his persona really kind of formed into realizing how a lot of people look up to him because he played that character. Have you thought about that? Already people look up to Sam. But now, carrying around that shield or having that shield with him, do you think about how all these young people are going to look up to you personally? That seems like a heavy thing for an actor.

Of course. You have to think about that. It’s one of those things, especially being a father of sons, it’s one of those things that’s constantly on your mind. That’s always in the back of your brain. So, of course, you have to think about it and everything: how it will change your life; How it’ll change their lives. I mean, I just wish it would make me cooler to my sons. But they could care less.

Really? How could they care less?

Yeah, they’re just like, let’s play some baseball, we don’t care. My whole goal is to be cool to my sons, and they won’t give it to me at all.

If my father had been doing what you’re doing, I would’ve been pretty impressed. He worked for the telephone company and I was impressed by that.

That’s what I thought!

You need to have a chat. “People think I’m pretty cool for doing this.”

Right. And they’re like, “Nah, you’re just Dad.” Damn, but Dad’s a superhero, no? Dammit. They keep me humble, put it that way.

‘Outside the Wire’ is streaming now on Netflix. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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