Now whatever you do, don't call Anthony Mackie a sidekick. The star of Half Nelson, 8 Mile and The Hurt Locker has quietly built up an impressive body of work alternating between smaller and more mainstream movies but this year sees him taking on his biggest role yet.
He stars as Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, opposite Chris Evans who returns in the central role. But Falcon is no Robin and Mackie is no Chris O'Donnell. The 35-year-old actor flies into the Marvel universe with a bang and we took some time out with him to discuss out-lifting Captain America, whether he'll be in The Avengers 2 and why he's still a part-time barman...
This is the fourth time you've played a soldier. How are you with actual combat? If you were in a bad situation, could you defend yourself?
Pretty good. I can definitely hold my own. I've done enough tactical military training to where I can handle a weapon no matter what weapon it is. The great thing about being an actor and doing movies is you have the ability to go and hang out with actual gun experts and martial arts experts and stuff like that. So yeah I can handle myself.
Was it quite competitive with you and Chris Evans in the gym?
Oh yeah. Every time we walked past a weight, we would have a competition to see who could lift it the most. I mean we're really competitive guys but I think there's a negative connotation when you use the idea of people being competitive but it was fun. Chris is a really good dude and I firmly believe that a large reason why I got this role is because of my relationship with him. But yeah, we were competitive as shit. Every day.
Surely being competitive just means that you're passionate?
Yeah and you want more. When I showed up I was in good shape because of Pain & Gain but when I saw Chris, he looks like a Greek god. I thought, well shit, I gotta work out more. So I dropped like 12 lbs and just really got in good physical shape so I could stand next to him and not look like a joke. But then I was like, I want spandex. I want the tight under armour shirts and they gave him all the tight shirts and gave me sweat shirts. So I was asking the Russos, if I'm in part three then some point in time I want to wear the wings with no shirt and baby oil.
Captain America 3, do you even know anything about it yet?
Literally, I read it in the trades like everybody else. Every time I bring it up to the Russos or Kevin Feige, all they say is "Yeah we have a really good story for part three". The only thing I know is Chris Evans is in part three. I don't even know if I'm going to be in it.
You haven't signed on for the next 10 years of your life then?
No, I wish. I told them, I was like, “Can I get a 20 picture deal?” I want to be in as many Marvel movies as possible. Even if it’s the dude in the background that goes "Hey there's Iron Man". Not too many studios have figured out the Marvel process but it works really well. They take care of actors. They treat you like people.
So you're not going to be in The Avengers 2 either?
I have no idea. All I know is that the movie starts in like two weeks. I haven't gotten a call or a letter so I'm guessing I'm not in it but I kept my summer open [laughs]. So if at any point in time, they're like "Robert Downey Jr's hurt, we need you to fly in", I am here. Who knows? I would love to be a part of it. I loved the first Avengers. I would love to have the opportunity to work with Scarlett and Chris again. I'm a huge fan of Ruffalo from his early New York days and I'm proud of the fact that he made the Hulk such an endearing and enjoyable character. And I'm a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr and I'd do anything to be in another movie with Sam Jackson.
I understand you weren't a big comic book guy as a kid. When you take on a character like this, surely you have to deal with a lot of rabid fanboys?
I don't really think too much about those guys. At the end of the day, there are things in our world that are far more important than how the Falcon looks or if the Falcon has long enough wings, especially to a thirtysomething or fourtysomething man.
You spoke recently about Michael B Jordan and some of the negativity he's been getting about his role in Fantastic Four. Do you still think race is still a preventative factor in Hollywood or do you think we're getting past that?
I don't think it's a preventative factor but I think it's an obvious factor. If you cast a black actor to play John F Kennedy or if you cast a white actor to play Martin Luther King then that's wrong because they're real people. But in these movies, in any movies, you should just be willing to cast the best actor. I think Michael B Jordan is a damn good actor and he's a damn good person and I think if anyone deserves the opportunity, black or white, then I think that he's the guy.
I read that you own two bars and you built them yourself...
I built the tables, the floors, the bar and redid all the walls and plumbing...
That's rare anyway but also for what the conception of what an actor is and I think a lot of people assume that actors have everything done for them. Do you find that sort of mentality frustrating in Hollywood?
I'm very fortunate that I don't live in LA. I live in New Orleans and the thing about New Orleans is that it's all about being who you are. It’s the only society in the world where a billionaire will have a drink with a homeless person and have a general conversation about their lives and it be cool and normal. So it's not that outrageous for me as an actor that when I'm not acting, I will go to my bar and bartend. It's fun. I opened my two bars because I like human interaction. I think the best weapon for an actor is the ability to talk to normal people.
When you're working in the bar, do you get recognised?
All the time. It's weird because people don't get it. They're like, "Why are you here? Why are you bartending?" Just because I'm in movies, it doesn't mean that I'm not a normal person. I still have passions, I still have things that I think are fun. There are so many people that want to become famous just so they can be assholes. The idea of being an asshole was never something that was cool to me. I would rather make drinks and hang out and talk shit than lock myself in my house and talk about how cool I am.
Surely people must assume you're not doing so well for yourself if they see you bartend?
[laughs] There are people who will come in and say "I guess those movies don't pay as much as they do". I'm like, I own the place!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits cinemas on Wednesday.