Talented, outspoken & a thrill to watch, actor Anthony Mackie spoke with Collider over the weekend about his upcoming films, enthusiasm for his craft, and what he calls the ‘re-contextualization” of history as a means to educate today’s youth.
In addition the release of his latest film Real Steel, the 32-year-old actor spoke of 2 other movies on their way to the theaters. In next year’s film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Mackie portrays Lincoln’s best friend, William H. Johnson. When asked what attracted him to the role, Mackie replied:
“I’m a firm believer in the re-contextualization of history. I feel like education is the only aspect of our culture that is still one-dimensional. You have kids that go home and play video games with 3D TVs and crazy phones. They have a cell phone where they can play a game, but they go to school and it’s just a blackboard with an old lady and a piece of chalk. That’s crazy, to think that you can learn, in that way.
I think what (author/screenwriter) Seth [Grahame-Smith] did with this book was re-contextualize history. That way, you have to go and look up Abraham Lincoln (played by Benjamin Walker) and find out that his best friend was a black dude, named William H. Johnson (played by Mackie), who died on their way back from Gettysburg. Lincoln paid with money out of his own pocket to have him buried at Arlington cemetery, and his headstone read, “William H. Johnson, citizen.” Did you know that? Now, don’t you want to read more about Abraham Lincoln?
If you have to add vampires to history to make, not even kids, but people – because we don’t even know our own history – interested, then I’m with that. I’ll do Martin Luther King, Eel Fisherman, if it will make you go back and read about Martin Luther King because he was a dynamic figure in our history.”
The Hurt Locker star also discussed another upcoming saga called The Gangster Squad, co-starring Sean Penn and Josh Brolin. Mackie describes his role in the picture as a LA Lieutenant in 1940’s LA who hands in his badge and takes an unconventional approach to rid the local Black community of heroin. He explains, “Josh Brolin’s character comes to me because he knows of my special skills, being a weapons expert and a guy who just has his ears and nose to the street, and asks me to be a part of the Gangster Squad. My character looks at it like, “If I can get Mickey Cohen [Penn’s character], I can stop the heroin from coming to Compton.” So, I go after Mickey Cohen.”
A common question for a bona fide artiste, Anthony Mackie was asked if there was anything specific he considers when choosing a role. With a response reminiscent of another gifted actor – Vipaka co-star Sanaa Lathan – Mackie declared that he’s always on the look-out for something different:
“I feel like I’m blessed because I get to do what I love. Why wouldn’t I go to work and have a good time, and enjoy myself, and do something different, and challenge myself? So, I always try to find something creative. F*ck, Johnny Depp shouldn’t be the only dude having fun doing this shit! I wanna have fun. I wanna put eyes on my eyelids. He did that in Pirates, if you haven’t seen it. I want some Willie Wonka fun. I wanna wear make-up, and not in an L.A. way. I just always look for something different and fun, and something interesting. If it’s different than everything else I’ve done, then nine times out of 10, I’ll do it.”
Anthony Mackie’s latest picture, Reel Steel, opens on October 7.