Before becoming a global superstar with his role as Sam Wilson/Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Anthony Mackie became a breakthrough actor in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker.” The war drama was an awards season darling, winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, but one name that was left out of the race was Mackie’s. In a new interview with Men’s Health, Mackie admits to being hurt after not being included as one of the film’s nine Academy Award nominations.
“I put everything in that movie,” Mackie said. “That little fucker matters. We try to protect ourselves and say, ‘I’m doing the work for the work.’ But when that happened with ‘Hurt Locker,’ it hurt. I had to take a year off of work.”
When Mackie was ready to return to acting, he began lobbying hard for a role in the up-and-coming Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mackie said it was always his dream to play a superhero, so he emailed Marvel Studios about any character they might be casting. The email read: “Yo, I’m the black dude from ‘The Hurt Locker.’ I would love to work with you guys.”
Mackie’s persistence landed him an audition for the villainous Mandarin in “Iron Man 3.” The actor lost the role to Ben Kingsley, but his screen test caught the eye of Joe Russo and producer Nate Moore. The two men were in the process of developing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and were looking for an actor who could bring the charisma Mackie showed off to a new MCU character, Sam Wilson/Falcon.
“He has charisma, but he also has the ability to convey integrity in a way that very few actors can,” Joe Russo told Men’s Health. “And there’s a level of trust between him and the audience.”
Mackie auditioned for a secret role and got the part, but he didn’t learn he would be playing Falcon until two months before production because of Marvel’s super-secretive approach to filmmaking. “Growing up, I’d always loved Falcon, because he was a comic-book hero who was black who didn’t have ‘Black’ in the title,” Mackie said. “He stood on his morals. He stood on who he was.”
Mackie debuted as the character in “Civil War” and has gone on to play the fan favorite superhero in five more Marvel movies, including the record-breaking “Avengers: Endgame.” The actor told Men’s Health that in his early days as part of the MCU he would get confused for Don Cheadle, who stars as Jim Rhodes/War Machine.
“I’d be like, ‘That’s the other black guy,’ ” Mackie said. “Now, they know exactly who I am.”
Mackie’s role in the MCU has expanded so much that fans were thrilled when during the final moments of “Endgame” the character officially became the new Captain America. Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers passes his shield to Sam, who shockingly accepts the new position. It was Evans who revealed the superhero twist to Mackie. Mackie did not get the full script, but Evans was so excited by the plot point that he gave Mackie his script to read.
“Chris gets the look of a six-year-old kid on his face, runs away, and comes back with the script,” Mackie said. “I’m reading it, and it dawns on me what’s happening.”
Mackie said the gravity of the situation settled in on the day before filming the scene. “They were like, ‘Are you ready for tomorrow? You’re getting your shield,’” the actor said. “I’m like, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ ”
The actor compares taking on the Captain America role to “winning the Oscar.” At this point, it’s unclear how Sam Wilson will continue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character will appear with Sebastian Stan’s Winter Solider in a new Disney+ streaming show, and that’s all Mackie knows at the moment. The actor is clueless about the show’s details (“I haven’t even seen a script”) and Falcon’s future on the big screen, but whatever happens he’s thrilled to be Captain America.
Read Mackie’s full Men’s Health interview here.