I had the chance to join a press roundtable interview during Anthony Mackie’s visit in Miami to promote the much anticipated Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier which opens this Friday April 4th. The following are some questions asked by fellow press outlets.
Talk to us a little more about your character, Sam Wilson
I play Sam Wilson, who eventually becomes The Falcon, basically he’s a military vet who works at a VA counseling soldiers who are returning back from war and dealing with PTSD. The movie opens with he and Captain America meeting and basically bonding on the idea that they are two soldiers coming back from war and they are trying to reacclimatize themselves into society and how difficult that is and he is the one character in the movie that doesn’t really want anything from Cap and he thinks it’s actually pretty cool that he gets to meet Captain America. It’s funny when you look at their relationship, he’s intrigued by him, he’s fascinated with him. He looks at him like he’s Lebron James [laughs]. I feel like if you look at Sam, he’s kind of the audience’s eyes and ears into the movie because he is a regular guy who has now himself surrounded by superheroes.
As an actor, how do you personally feel about bringing The Falcon into the silver screen as Marvel’s first African-American superhero?
I feel honored. I feel like if you look at the history of the Falcon, he’s a very interesting character, he’s had three different incarnations in the comic book world. Most characters when they don’t work, Marvel would just literally write them off, but what Marvel did with The Falcon was that they realized how valuable he was and they never really gave up on him. First, they wrote him as a drug dealer in Harlem, that’s when he moved to LA and became like a drug dealing pimp [laughs] so after that he became this military expert. So in this movie what they wanted to do was take all of that and kind of put it together and make him a present day superhero, so this is really his fourth incarnation, but what they did in the movie was they made him an all-around great guy and this movie hinges on Cap and the Falcon’s relationship and if that relationship doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work because you have to be able to buy into him for who the two of them are to become realistic. Marvel’s movies deal 100% with placing superheroes in our reality and that’s why we use minimal CGI, and as the actors that’s why we did so many of our own stunts because if you look at the movie, aside from the stuff that’s obviously CGI like a hovercraft, the other stuff looks really real. You know, the Falcon’s wings look really real and Marvel has like a custom of bringing quality work to the screen and making you feel like “Oh wow this a real sequence of events”. You know, you watch Avengers and you want to go to New York and be like “Oh my God, this is where Loki was” because it looks like they just blew up New York. So you know, with Sam Wilson, it was a huge honor to add him to the Marvel fold because of what he represents to the African American experience in New Orleans and as we’ve evolved as a people, he has evolved as a character.
One thing I really liked about this movie was that there was a greater sense of danger here than some of the other Marvel movies, and I was wondering if that was important to you in making the movie and taking it further in future Marvel universe movies (Q from Examiner):
I think if you go a step further it would be too dark. I think that the difference between this movie and Cap 1 was a lot of exposition. When you deal with the origin movie, is just a lot of “What happened?” “How did you end up here?” “Oh, when I was a boy my dad didn’t love me. The end”. But with this, you actually got to see Cap in his element. You got to see him as a true weapons man, you got to see him as martial artist, as a bonafide superhero. With this one, I feel like what they did was take an espionage feel and then took an origin story and smashed them together. Getting the Russo brothers to direct it was kind of brilliant because it kept with that lighthearted feel that they found in The Avengers and they just carried over into that because this movie picks up the next day after the Avengers take out Loki. So with this movie I feel like a more Catch Me if You Can meets Jason Bourne with a bunch of superheroes, so you know it’s got the best of both worlds, and that’s why I think it works perfectly, I don’t think you need to go any further because it would just make it too dark.
There were always rumors about you being in talks for the Black Panther previous to this role, was that ever something that you were interested in?
Definitely. When I finished The Hurt Locker, I felt like my career was on a huge up-swing, and my goal as an actor when I first started, when I was 21 years old, I said I want to be a superhero and I want to do a western, preferably with Clint Eastwood and then Morgan Freeman too my damn role [laughs] just kidding, Morgan Freeman is amazing, but after Hurt Locker, I contacted Marvel, “In any capacity you wanna use me? I’d love to be in one of your movies”, and I did that every six months up until five years. I finally got a response, they said “Never email us again. We’ll call you”. A year later, I got a call. They said to come to LA, we want to talk to you about a character. So I had been constantly working on the idea of Black Panther and all the emails I sent them, Black Panther was always the topic of subject because I felt like that was such an amazing character and I knew they had been developing that for so long, I just felt that it would be a perfect fit. But, when we had lunch, they pitched me The Falcon. It was never an idea of them to say “We’re developing Black Panther, but we’re doing The Falcon”, it was always an idea of me asking them about Black Panther because I read that they were developing it and them saying “No, it was The Falcon”. So if it was Black Panther, I wouldn’t have been mad about it but The Falcon is kind of dope. If you look at what they’ve made this character into, he’s unlike any other superhero and I think once you get into his backstory and the idea of who he actually has become being a soldier, working at the VA hospital and all of the things about his character, I feel like it would be as equally gratifying to playing the character.
Would you say that you are more of a slow and steady kind of guy like the Falcon is in the movie or do you think the movie also explores that rivalry between going fast and going slow? (Q from University of Miami)
It’s interesting if you look at the Falcon as juxtaposed to Sam Wilson because even though they are the same person, they are very different people. If you look at Sam Wilson, he’s more like me. I’m the type of guy where slow and steady wins the race and I think that I’ve shown that in my career. I’d rather be a small role in great movie then the lead of an awful movie. I feel like oil always rises to the top and that’s kind of how I’ve lived my life, but if you look at the Falcon, it’s like “Get it hard, get it now!” That’s what I love about this character, he has no fear, he has no boundaries, he’s a morally defined superhero and I think that’s something all of us aspire to be.
If the Falcon’s movements and flying doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work. It was so fluid, and natural, like at the scene when he landed. Can you talk about the experience of doing that [flying]?
Well first of all, that was really me landing, so thank you [laughs] because I thought I looked pretty stupid. It was extremely difficult. I have a great stunt man, this guy named Aaron Tony, and literally in every movie I do, I don’t care if I have to walk and look cool, I call him and get him on the movie because he works it all out for months. He’s like a martial arts black belt, jiu jitsu expert like hands registered as weapons, three-touch-kill-you type of guy. He works for months on these stunts, and I show up and we work for like 2 to 3 weeks. We did it for Abraham Lincoln, for every movie I’ve done that’s heavy in action, he works all of this stuff out, breaks bones and I show up and he sets it to me like dance, and with this movie is the exact same thing. He worked me out, he stretched me out, got me fit and literally every time I got up there.. there’s literally nothing in human nature that works as landing like a bird, you know you have to bring your entire torso and legs under you so you can land and then move. We had so many sequences like that it was just figuring out how to work that out with my body. For the flying stuff, they developed this 4 point harness which is basically when you see like The Matrix. They put you in like a body suit and hook wires to it and just float you around. I had a pick on each leg and on my shoulders so I could move in either direction. They could move me vertically, laterally and they could swing me in any direction, so all that stuff when I’m going under the plane, I was actually doing that, and that’s why when you see it in the movie it looks so good. The Russos decided that they wanted to use as little CGI as possible, so they put the actors in a position where we had to do our own stunts and luckily we were up for the challenge. It worked out really well, a few bumps and bruises, but it looks real because a lot of it was real, and the wings were CGI. That’s just Marvel spending the money in the right places. Those wings.. I was like “I’ll sign into the movie, just don’t make me look stupid” and I feel like if any other studio would have made the movie those wings would have looked really stupid. They worked on it. That’s why they take a year to make a movie.
What was the most challenging part of doing the movie?
The most challenging part of the movie was fear, like I’m a certified skydiver, I have over 25 jumps under my belt and I never realized the difference between jumping and coming towards the ground, feet first as opposed to face first. Very different. So the idea is that jumping out of the plane you see your feet so you can brace yourself, but when you’re flying everything is like [points face towards ground] so overcoming that fear the first day of shooting helped me out a lot. Once again, my stunt man was there. There’s a scene where I’m supposed to fly down, get Cap and turn around and bring him back up. So they put my stuntman 300 feet in the air on a crane. They said “Alright Anthony, we’re gonna take you up, we want you to do a backflip and come straight down face inverted to the ground and we’re going to drop you 5 feet from the ground” and I said “Aaron Tony!” [laughs], so they put him up and literally I’m watching him and he does a backflip, picks up Cap and they just let him go. Those are the type of stunts that made it work that I couldn’t do. I tried it from 50 feet and I screamed and they were like “Alright, you’re never doing this again”. The Russo’s come up to me and say “Well, you know, The Falcon can’t scream” [laughs] so I was like “Alright, let’s do this again” and they dropped me and I’m like [screams] those were my sadder moments [laughs].
I’ve seen quite a few of your roles, this has to be one of your funnest roles so far. (Q from GastricGeek)
Definitely. I’ve known Sam [Samuel L. Jackson] for a long time, he’s my mentor for like 8 years, and I’ve known Chris [Evans] this is the third movie we’ve done together, I’ve known Sebastian [Stan] for a long time, I’ve known [Robert] Redford for almost 10 years and there’s nothing like showing up to work knowing that the movie is going to be good. As an actor, there’s so many people that have a hand in making the movies, and you never know if it’s going to be good or bad. Usually, as an actor, you have an idea of who the character is, the director has an idea of what the story is, but then you have to deal with the producers, the studio, the editors, so by the time the movie comes out you have no idea what’s going to be on the screen. Working with Marvel and what’s so great about it is that every movie they put out is a good movie. They have good taste. So that’s why, literally, when I got that many chips I was like “I want to be in a Marvel movie” because you know it’s going to be a good project. So you show up for work and it takes all the pressure off, and you can have a good time and do stuff like jump of a crane! Because I know I look stupid, but they’re gonna make it look good! And if the movie doesn’t work, they’ll go back and reshoot it and make it work. They’re not gonna spend the money on trailers and lunch, they’re gonna spend the money on CGI so those wings look REALLY cool. That’s why it was shits and giggles, “I’m in! I’m in! Whatever you need me to do!”. It was a good time all the way around.
In a past interview, I read that your brother was the one that read the comics. Was he jealous that you got the part? (Q from FIU)
Not jealous. My brother has this living-through-me-vicariously thing because he’s like this 6’2, 50 year old version of me, so he always goes around saying “You know who my brother is? I look exactly like him”. So now he goes around saying he’s The Falcon’s older brother [laughs]. He loves it. I mean, he grew up reading so many comic books. He was so into the idea of who these characters were in that universe and it’s just as gratifying for him as it is for me.
I know that you like indie movies better, I was curious if you could really impact your character at all in a high budget film like Marvel, would you step in and say “This doesn’t feel okay for the character”, because in a way I feel like the Captain and Sam bonded a little too quickly because you guys ran together, talked a little bit, and now you’re his most trusted confidant. (Q from MDC)
Very good observation. We had that conversation. That was the first note I gave them. The problem that I had with the script from the beginning was, that they needed one more scene, one more instance, one more thing to happen for that relationship to be honest. But then, once I saw the movie I got it. What we did to combat that, was that in that first scene we added that conversation about their military background and that draws them into a kindred spirit. If you know anybody from the military, as soon as they meet someone from their same branch [snaps fingers] it’s like “Where were you stationed?”, “What did you do?”, “Oh my God, let’s get a beer”. After I did Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, I flew out to the Middle East with the Navy to premiere the movie on the USS Abraham Lincoln on the middle of the Persian gulf. In the military, they have these little coins, and on the back of the coin it says “If you meet anybody with this coin and it’s in his pocket, and they show you the coin, you have to buy them a beer”. Just military camaraderie, just brotherhood. I get on the ship, I see these fighter jets, these FA teams, landing on the ship and I see a black fighter pilot, and I’m like “Oh my! It’s a black maverick!”. So at lunch, I see him and I run up to him and put the coin on the table. He’s like “Where did you get that?” and I was like “Well, so and so gave it to me, so you know that’s my chip”, and he goes “I owe you a beer”, and from that moment on, we talked all night. We were leaving the next day, and he came up to me and he said “I wanna thank you for coming out, I wanna thank you for your support” and he gave me his flight suit. I get emotional talking about it, but it was absolutely amazing. That was the thing that I wanted to connect between The Falcon and Cap. If you have soldiers coming back from war, you don’t really understand war unless you’ve been there. You don’t understand the pain, torture and insecurity that comes with coming back from war. Once you meet a kindred spirit, that has had that experience, you’re [snaps fingers] instantly best friends. Just me being on that boat, meeting that soldier, having that connection, this was a dude that had like 25 kills with his suit and he’s flown over a thousand missions, he’s been in the military for over 30 years, and he gave me his flight suit with all the patches and everything, just because I had that coin. I thought about that, and that’s why we added that sequence to that first scene because anybody in the military would look at that and go “That’s real”. That’s why the whole Marvin Gaye thing came in, and stuff, that’s what made it real for it and justified not adding another 5 to 10 minutes and my damn mug in another scene [laughs].
So you do give feedback a lot?
Yeah, and I read the blogs and I watch the stuff, that’s why whenever I have the opportunity to talk to people and those who say stuff online like “That’s stupid”, I like to meet those people [laughs]. We found out that Batman vs Superman is coming out the same day as Captain America 3. So I know Ben Affleck, that’s my boy, and as boys, you talk shit. Do you talk shit with your friends? I know I do! So I’m like “If Batman vs Superman comes out the same day as Captain America, what am I gonna say? Am I going to ask to move the date? No! You better move your date!” [laughs], but then this little dude on Twitter was like “That was very inappropriate and disrespectful”, so I’m like “My dude, you need a friend because obviously you don’t have friends. You don’t know how friends talk to each other!” You know what I mean? If there’s one piece of candy left, and you’re with your friend, you and your friend are going to talk shit about getting that candy. [laughs] Right? It’s the reality of it. You have to realize that actors are friends too, they are people too, and that’s just what it is. We’re wearing costumes and flying around, come on dude! I’m not talking about your mom! I’m at a press conference in Miami talking about my wings, it’s not that deep.
Thank you for reading!
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier premieres on April 4th 2014