Less than a week before I interviewed the great, versatile actor Anthony Mackie, I spoke with Mark Wahlberg about working with Mackie on their late-April release, the Michael Bay-directed PAIN & GAIN. I'll have that full conversation for you in the next day or two, but one of the things Wahlberg said to me was that he advised Mackie that his career was a marathon, not a sprint. Seems like sage advice.
And while it appears that Mackie will continue to have a long and fruitful career ahead of him, he appears to be nearing a few major mile posts along the way, including a starring role in PAIN & GAIN, co-starring opposite Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton in the already-shot RUNNER, RUNNER, and perhaps most significantly, playing Captain America's most popular sidekick The Falcon in CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER, which begins shooting in about three months and is due for release in April 2014.
Mackie has built a solid filmography that began with a role as a rapper in 8 MILE and an early lead role in Spike Lee's SHE HATE ME. He went on to an impressive list of supporting parts including ones in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, the fantastic indie drama HALF NELSON (also starring Ryan Gosling), and WE ARE MARSHALL. But then came his turning-point work in THE HURT LOCKER, a film that opened up the flood gates on Mackie's career. He did an impressive job as Tupac Shakur in NOTORIOUS, starring along side Kerry Washington in the politically fueled period piece NIGHT CATCHES US, played a sympathetic man with a hat in THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, and was an organizer of robot fights in REEL STEEL.
I won't lie to you, 2012 was not Mackie's best year, although he never let us down as a performer in the January release MAN ON A LEDGE or the summer weirdness of ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. The film GANGSTER SQUAD was supposed to come out last fall, but a likely insane man who brought guns into a movie theater not only held up the release of the film but also made the studio decide that a reshoot was in order since one major sequence included an army of gangster shooting their way through a movie screen into an audience. I'll let Mackie provide more of the details on both the reshoot and the reasoning behind it.
The film was released this past Friday, and in it Mackie plays Officer Coleman Harris, the sole black member of the off-the-books team of police officers who are tapped to shut down the criminal empire of Sean Penn's Mickey Cohen. Coleman in one of the most interesting members of the Gangster Squad, and Mackie plays him perfectly. In person, he's a charming and exceedingly funny man. Since he had very limited time here in Chicago last week, I decided to do something I don't normally do: record my Q&A with him after a screening of GANGSTER SQUAD. I always want my Q&A guests to feel like they can be open and say what they like in front of the audience, but this was pretty much the only way I was going to get any significant time with him on record, so I made the exception. Clearly, Mackie isn't holding back on any subject. I've labelled which questions were mine and which came from the audience, most of which were quite good. But even the bad ones got great responses from our guest. Please enjoy my conversation with Anthony Mackie, which actually began in the movie theater's bar as the final minutes of the film were rolling…
Capone: How are you, sir?
AM: Good. It’s nice to meet you.
Capone: I talked to Michael Peña a couple of months ago when he was in town promoting END OF WATCH, and we talked a little bit about the GANGSTER SQUAD reshoots. I’m wondering, which sequence is one that replaced the movie theater scene?
AM: That was the Chinatown scene.
Capone: Oh? That’s a great scene.
AM: That’s the one that we reshot and put in, and the great thing about it is because the movie theater sequence was so epic. I mean, it was a huge scene, and because they reshot it as the Chinatown scene, they had a little bit of extra [running] time available to us. So they put other stuff back into the movie, which I think make it a better movie. They put story elements back into the movie. So instead of it being all violence, now you actually get a decent story, and some of the performances are clearer now, because they had saved so much time by reshooting that sequence.
Capone: So that’s the silver lining.
AM: Exactly. That's the positive outlook.
Capone: What was the mood during those reshoots?
AM: We kind of had a good rapport with each other. All of us either knew each other or had worked with each other at one time or another. So getting back together was pretty simple, and we had a good time shooting the movie. So literally, we came back and within 30 minutes, we picked up where we left off.
Capone: Right. Mark Wahlberg was here a couple of days ago for his new film. He told me to tell you: “What’s up, Julliard?” [Mackie graduated from The Julliard School in 2001.]
AM: That sounds about right.
Capone: I was at an event in December where Michael Bay sent some footage of PAIN & GAIN--it might have been the trailer plus a little bit more. That movie looks so ridiculous.
AM: It was a lot of fun to shoot. I mean working with Dwayne [Johnson] and Mark was a great time. What I’ve seen of the movie, it just turned out really well. You can't be Harvard graduates and so shit as dumb as these guys did. [laughs] Plus, I think Michael has a way of shooting people to make them look their best, so I’m excited to see the whole movie just as much as anybody else.
Capone: It doesn’t seem like you guys are playing the brightest of men.
AM: They're knuckleheads.
Capone: There’s that one line that Mark has--“I’ve seen a lot of movies; I know what I’m doing.” That's what we're dealing with here.
AM: There are a bunch of lines in there like that and a bunch of stuff where, when we were reading it, we would just stop sometimes and go, “Who would come up with this?” They kidnap this guy and drive his car around and expect to get away with it.
Capone: But they kind of do for a little bit.
AM: The funny thing about it, like my character in real life was training this guy, and the guy is working out and he goes, “Hey, dumbbell.” So the guy in real life thought he was calling him a dumbbell, so he goes into the office to get a pipe to beat the shit out of this guy, and the guy looks at him and was like, “No, I was asking you to reach me a dumbbell.” So he’s like, “Oh, sorry.”
[We're told the credits are rolling, so we move into the theater to continue the conversation.]
AM: Hello, everybody. I just want to thank you for coming out and staying. Congratulations to the winners. [Notices a guy in the front row.] And you brought a date, so “Winning.”
Capone: Let’s just talk a little bit about assembling this squad. Tell me about how you first found out about this movie.
AM: Being an actor is like a really bad dating experience, because you call and you ask and they say “No.” That’s when they go after the prettier guy and the prettier guy is like, “I’m dating a prettier girl.” So then they come back to you, and they're like “Okay.” And you’re like “No, because a prettier girl called be first.” That’s when the prettier girl is like, “Well, I don’t have any money,” so you go back to the not-so prettier girl. It’s a really bad dating experience, so we kind of asked each other, and they had somebody else and he said no. So then they came to the cheaper version of him. [points to himself] This guy!
Capone: I’m not even going to ask you who that other guy was.
AM: I have no idea.
Capone: But you know there was somebody?
AM: My career has been made on people saying "No" to good movies, because there’s not enough money. I’m just content with being poor. [laughs]
Capone: Has there never been a point when someone has come to you first?
AM: No, well… I don’t know, there’s a lot of… No, no I don’t think so. [Laughs]
Capone: Okay, I don’t want to jump ahead here, but I’m going to. You were announced late last year to be playing The Falcon in the CAPTAIN AMERICA sequel. Were you not the first choice in that one?
AM: Okay, I was the first choice for that one. I forgot about that. But that was another one of those things where they are like… Actually wait, was I? I was! You got me, that was it. But I can’t talk about it. I’m in it.
Capone: Are you going to have a pet falcon named Redwing?
AM: I will have wings. I will be able to fly. I will be a superhero and fight people, namely The Winter Soldier.
AM: Does anybody read comic books?
[A smattering of audience members applaud.]
AM: Me either. I had no idea what the fuck…
Capone: Once you were hired, what kind of research did they lay on you to say, “Okay, this is your backstory. You’ve got to learn this.” Did they through a bunch of books are you?
AM: It was funny; a lot of the research I found was online. My older brother was a huge comic book buff. So when the news came out online, he called me and just gave me the whole rundown. Luckily, I have a lot of friends who weren’t cool growing up, but who are really cool now, so they read a lot of comic books. So I would just call and ask them, and they would send me all of this stuff online, and I got to read a bunch of the old comic books. It’s fortunate, because it’s a take off the comic book, it’s not the exactly storyline of the comic book.
Capone: There are a couple of different stories with him, but will you have a pet falcon?
AM: Man, I told you I can’t talk…[laughs] This is the first job I got asked to do first, and you’re trying to get me fired first. I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Capone: You’re entering franchise territory. You’re not used to hiding things.
AM: This is what I learned about franchises. They can always cast somebody else and say, “Well that last person died,” or just not address it. You see the second movie, and the guy is a different guy than the first, and they're like, “Yep, same dude to me.” "I am very happy to be here." [said in Eddie Murphy's COMING TO AMERICA voice.]
Capone: They’ve done that. They did that in this universe. Okay, I understand.
AM: Yeah, I can’t have that happen to me, Jack! [Laughs]
Capone: When do you start shooting?
AM: April 1.
AM: Did you all get my COMING TO AMERICA reference? [laughs]
Capone: I read an interview with you at the end of last year, and you were fantasy casting your version of LETHAL WEAPON with you, and interviewer asked, “Who would play Riggs?” and you said “Chris Evans.”
Capone: And that was way before you got hired for CAPTAIN AMERICA…
AM: Chris and I have been in a lot of dark places together, and the thing I love about Chris, we met over some "apple juice" and it was like one of those experiences where there’s a dude you meet and you’re like “Man, you’re a cool dude.” Then a whole bottle of "apple juice" later you’re like “Man, we're friends.” Just a dark, dark place.
Capone: Okay, let’s get back to this movie, unless you want to talk some more about it. I know you want to tell me more.
AM: Dark place… Dark place…
Capone: So with GANGSTER SQUAD, you’ve worked with Ryan Gosling before in a wonderful movie called HALF NESLON. That was about five or so years before this. How has he changed?
AM: When we did HALF NELSON, I was a stately gentleman, and he was young and Canadian. Where are my Canadians?
[No one answers.]
Capone: We’re not that close to the boarder.
AM: I guess the migration didn’t make it to Chicago, eh? But it’s a wonderful place. He’s a really nice guy and he’s kind of become his own. It’s weird when you think of him in "The Mickey Mouse Club" with Justin Timberlake and to see him now. But you know he’s a real cool dude, and we get along and work really well together, so it’s always really fun to work with him.
Capone: I know Ruben Fleischer, the director, is a huge movie fanatic. Did he give you a few titles to say “We are going for this vibe”?
AM: My biggest fight with Ruben was, you know, this is 1949, so we are on the heals of Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, the black art experience in America was exploding at this time. I wanted to bring that to the character, but this movie is called GANGSTER SQUAD and not MY CHARACTER SQUAD, so we had to compromise on just what the feel was at that time, because South Central Los Angeles was bustling with culture and everything.
So once we figured out exactly what we were going to do as far as him being the black dude in the squad, everything kind of fell into place. That wasn’t the movie he was trying to make, and he was very clear that he wanted him to be an individual and to stand out as the moral backbone of the story. It’s funny when you look at the character, he'll go as dirty and as dark as he has to for the good of the people. When I read the script, I was kind of like, “That’s kind of how I feel. I feel like there should be some cops out there…”
Capone: I’m guessing that switchblade wasn’t regulation.
AM: No, but at the same time when everybody else had Tommy guns and everything, he had his snubnose .38. I wanted to make specific choices to define the person that he was.
Capone: Was there ever a discussion with you and Ruben about, realistically would there have been a black officer in a squad like this?
AM: That was another part of our argument--because it wasn’t a conversation, it was an argument [laughs]. It was very realistic. If you look at the police force in Los Angeles, and specifically on the west coast at that time, there was a firm belief in everyone policing their own. So when you went to Chinatown, all of the police were Chinese. When you went to Little Italy, all of the police were white, and when you went to South Central, all of the police were black. So it was very realistic, especially coming back from the war. People were finding themselves in higher positions than they were in before the war.
Capone: We were talking a little bit about it outside, but the film got a little bit of notoriety last year because they had to hold the release, because they wanted to reshoot a sequence where there was a shootout in a movie theater. The replacement scene you told me was the Chinatown scene. What was the mood on the set when you all had to come back and do that, and thinking about the reason that that had to happen?
AM: Just to lay the groundwork, there was a sequence where the gangster guy, the hitman with the funny eye… There was a call from Mickey Cohen to him saying, “There was a drop. I need you to go pick it up. It’s at the movie theater.” So we set up a sting to follow him to the movie theater, get the drop on him, and everything go good, but it was a setup. So he goes into the movie theater and goes behind the screen, the five of us go in and follow him down the aisle. They come through the movie screen with machine guns and literally mow their way through the movie theater [long pause]. Right. Which is pretty much 98 percent factual to what happened in Colorado.
When we went back everyone understood that we make movies. We're not politicians. We're not people out here working 12 hours a day to try to bring food home to put it on the table. We make movies. We are here to entertain. So we have to be respectful and understanding and open-minded to our audience, because if you all don’t buy tickets, we haul wood and I ain’t going back to hauling wood. I ain’t doing that.
Capone: One of the things I liked about this group of characters is that they're all outcasts in the police force.
AM: It’s funny, because that’s kind of like who we are in real life. I mean everybody but Ryan! But then there’s something about him, that guy, but all of us in real life and in the movie is we all have our own lane, you know? This movie went so well, and I think it works so well, because nobody got out of their lane. Nobody was trying to be “Sean Penn” or “Josh Brolin.” Michael Peña knew “Okay, I’m the Mexican dude guy. Got it.” I’m like, “I’m the black guy, got it.” “Okay, the nerdy dude? Got it.” “Old white dude? Got it.” “All right, we got it.” Everybody respected that, and I think a lot of times in Hollywood, just in general, people get in trouble when you get out of your lane. If your job is to put staples on paper, shut up and staple some paper.
Capone: There’s something about this era it was a time when people were about to stop dressing like that. But when you put on the suit and you put on the hat and you look at yourself in the mirror, is that like most of what it takes to get you to where this guy was?
AM: For me it was the hat. I mean once you put on one of those fedoras…
Capone: You have a history with fedoras, like in the ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.
AM: I have a huge history with them, yeah. It started with my uncle. My uncle had a fedora collection, and I come from the age of “whoopin',” and every time I would go over to his house, I would try on his fedora and he would catch me and he would whoop me for messing with his hat, so I have an issue with fedoras. [Laughs] But no, this is the end of the era of craftsmanship. Everybody was proud to be an American. If you worked in a factory, you worked to do your job the best you could possibly do it, and that’s what was so great about coming out of the war, cooing out of the Depression really, into what has made America today.
When people left the house, they were presenting themselves to their neighborhood, so they dressed up. You would dress up to go to the movies. It was an event. You dressed up to go to the grocery store. It wasn’t like cut up t-shirts and skinny jeans, you know? It was you presenting yourself, and people took pride in that. So putting those clothes on. Mary [Zophres, costume designer] literally brought us in one by one and was like, “Here this, that, and the third.” The high waist pants and suspenders changes everything.
Capone: All right, I’m going to throw it to the audience in a second, but let me ask one more question about something you’ve got coming out. You’ve got this movie called PAIN & GAIN that looks like it is so much fun and a ridiculous movie, with Michael Bay directing a comedy again. I’m a big fan of BAD BOYS 2 personally, so I hope it’s as ridiculous as that. Tell me a little bit about that. It’s a true story about these body builders.
AM: It's organized chaos. It’s a true story. These body builders in Miami wanted to experience the American dream, so they started training these rich guys, kidnapping, extorting, and killing them. That was how they achieved what they wanted, but they got caught because one of the guys decided that he was going to keep the guy’s car. So if you’re driving around in a dead man’s car, you’re going to get caught. So they got caught and they're still on death row today. They are still in prison today, yeah.
Capone: Alright, who has a question for Anthony?
Question: I work with someone, and his cousins are the directors of the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA sequel, so I was wondering if you could kindly give me any special hook up or anything.
AM: Yeah, they're the Russo Brothers.
Question: Yes. I’m familiar with them.
AM: Yes, that’s your hook up. [audience laughs] Nope, nope, nope. We are in a recession, and you are not fucking up my job.
Question: I’m just curious, watching those big action sequences, for us it was fun obviously, how was it on set? Was it really fun for you guys to grab those Tommy guns and go nuts? Was it an intense choreographed thing?
AM: Good question. It was a lot of fun. I mean I wanted to be an actor, because I wanted to do a gangster movie and I wanted to do a Western, but you know there’s not much “noir” in noir, so I felt like the gangster situation was a stretch, but it worked out for me. The great thing about Tommy guns and stuff like that and the great thing about being an actor, you get to learn a lot about different periods in time and different weapons. We went to the gun range and got to shoot them with real ammunition. We got to take them apart and put them back together. They're not the most practical of weapons, but there’s nothing like 2am in the middle of the Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles shooting a Tommy gun in the middle of the street. There’s no other city. There’s nothing like it. I mean nothing like it. It was a lot of fun.
Question: You touched on something I was going to ask with this question here. It seemed like a nice composite of UNTOUCHABLES on crack with a little bit if John Woo and the video game L.A. NOIR. Was there one or more than one inspiration that you had for your character?
AM: Did you ever see the movie HOME ALONE? [big laughter from audience] In HOME ALONE, there’s this movie playing on television when Macaulay Culkin is running around. So this movie is very rare. It’s called ANGELS WITH FILTHY SOULS made in 1938. It’s a great movie. So my favorite line of all time in a gangster movie is on that clip on the TV in the background in HOME ALONE. That was my inspiration. I had to go real specific. That was mine. That little clip is the quintessential gangster moment. He goes, “I didn’t do it, Jimmy,” and he goes, “I believe you, but my Tommy gun don’t!” [Mackie is partly right: the line actually appears in HOME ALONE 2.]
AM: These dudes are trigger happy, you know? I mean there ain’t no conversation. So that was it.
Question: I know you were in THE HURT LOCKER, which is obviously a great movie. Have you seen ZERO DARK THIRTY?
AM: I have seen ZERO DARK THIRTY.
Question: What did you think of it?
AM: I thought ZERO DARK THIRTY was a very good movie for many different reasons, but the reason it worked so well was… If you haven’t seen it, ZERO DARK THIRTY is a movie by the director and producer and writer and everybody who made HURT LOCKER made this movie. It’s about the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, and coming off the heals of HURT LOCKER and living in New York during 9-11 I thought I knew everything about what was going on at that time. What was amazing to me was what I didn’t know and how they put everything together, and that’s what kept me interested. Jessica Chastain, who I went to Julliard with, the last five minutes of her performance made the entire movie, and that last five minutes is worth watching the entire movie.
Capone: The other two hours and forty minutes are pretty good, too.
AM: [laughs] They are pretty good, but that last five minutes… you’re just sitting there on the edge of your seat, and when she takes that moment in that airplane, it’s exactly what you want to do. I’m like “That’s filmmaking.” That’s the experience you want your audience members to have. So I liked it.
Question: I’ve been following your career. You were in an independent film that was here premiering in Chicago at the Black Harvest Film Festival. I forgot the name…
AM: Uh oh, are you sure it was me?
Question: Yeah, it was you.
AM: I get a lot of those. “Boy, I loved you in FOUR BROTHERS.” “Well, that wasn’t me…” I was the most famous actor on "The Wire" that wasn’t on "The Wire." Just tonight, this woman was like “Oh my God, can I take a picture with you?” I was like, “Yeah, sure.” “You’re so good in your movies. What you been in?” [Everyone laughs."
Question: I wanted to know if you’re open to doing other independent films, and if so, is it just based on your seeing a script? How can someone get a script to you?
AM: I started my career in independent films. I look for independent films all of the time. I write and now produce independent films. I feel like the stories we grew up liking are being made in the independent medium now.
Question: Was your character [in GANGSTER SQUAD] based on an actual detective that worked this case or was it a composite?
AM: It was. His name was Rocky Washington. We didn’t get rights from his family, so we couldn’t use his name. The most amazing thing about this dude, he was promoted to sergeant, and basically they put him in a neighborhood to force all of the Asians to move out for white people to move in, and he couldn’t do it, so he went back to walking the beat on Central Avenue and gave back his promotion. When I heard that story, I was like, “That takes a certain type of dude,” because in 1949, if I could make more money, I just might have to move a few people out. [laughs] But for him to do that, that’s a stand up cat.
Question: This could apply to GANGSTER SQUAD or any of your previous movies, but how much input do you have in your characters that you play, line-wise, performance-wise, or otherwise.
AM: Good question. It depends on a director and the writer. I grew up in the theater, so there’s a saying that the best writer is a dead writer. [Everyone laughs] I mean I don’t say that, but people say that. I love writers, if there are any writers here, but it depends on the writer and the director. Sometimes the director is so into his vision, he wants every word the way it’s written and he wants you to move and say exactly what he tells you and how to move and say it. So it all depends. Like on this movie, I had a lot of input. There were a lot of lines where I was like “Come on, this dude is cracking heads on Central Ave. He’s not going to say 'Well I think we should go in there." So it all depends.
Question: Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?
AM: Oh, this is the question. Do I have any advice for aspiring actors? My advice is this, you have to be deathly honest with yourself if you want to be a working actor or if you want to be a movie star, and those are two completely different things. I went to school for 12 years before I had my first paycheck. I sacrificed a lot. I went away every summer to summer actor school. I left home at 16 to go away to acting boarding school and I never went back home until I was 22. I sacrificed a lot.--prom, friends, everything. So you have to decide what you want to be.
If you want to be a movie star, as soon as your feet hit the concrete go to L.A. and become a movie star, but you have to realize the shortcomings that come with that, because not everybody is a movie star, and most of the people that are movie stars aren’t movie stars. Now a working actor, that’s something different. I went to the theater, because I admired people like Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Jeffrey Wright, a lot of people who’s names you wouldn’t recognize, but when you see them you’re like, “Oh him.”
Like Robert Patrick, the dude who played the old cowboy in this movie. Robert Patrick has been in the game 25-30 years. He has done over a 120 movies, not counting TV. So I’m like wow, that’s a working actor. That dude is working. “You’ve got two lines, $25, and per diem? I’m there.” That’s a working actor. I thought when I got out of school that I would be doing a play in Poughkeepsie or here at the Goodman until I was 40 years old and somebody would see me and be like, “Let’s put that guy in the movie.” Then all of a sudden everyone would be like, “Where have you been for the past 20 years?”
I never thought I would have this amount of success at the beginning of my career, and that’s why in my career I’ve been on Broadway three times, I’ve been off-Broadway five times. I’ve done more independent films than studio films, and I’m not saying that to brag; I’m saying that to say that I like to be considered a working actor as opposed to a movie star. If you want to be a movie star, there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t let them tell you nothing different. Go out there and do what you’ve got to do, but just know there are certain shortcomings that go with that and certain sacrifices you’ve got to make. I wasn’t willing to make those.
Capone: Let me ask you a follow up to that. Just looking through the films that you have done, you really have avoided getting pigeonholed into a type. You don’t repeat yourself at all. Every role is so different from the last one. You’ve played cops before, but not like this. Is that something you sort of strive to avoid, or is that just the way it’s worked out?
AM: I have good representation. I have a good agent. I have a really good manager, and the thing about it is, the business is changing. The fact that I’m the first black superhero, and there have been a whole lot of superhero movies. I mean, can a brother be an orc? Frodo don’t live near the 'hood nowhere? So the business is just changing. We’ve been very focused on doing different things, and I like doing different things and I think a lot of that comes with people see me in a theater and they see me doing independent movies, and they're like “Maybe this dude wont do this type of movie.” So they don’t call me about them, and we’ve been very fortunate. A lot of the movies that I really wanted and I didn’t get have turned out to be awful movies. I mean awful, awful movies. So I’ve just been lucky. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been really lucky.
Question: Yeah, brother Anthony…
AM: Ungawa, black man.
Question: I saw you in a movie--I forgot the name of the movie--but you were with a whole lot of women.
AM: See what I’m talking about? Welcome to my life!
Question: You were in there with some fine women. Kerry Washington…
Capone: He’s talking about SHE HATE ME, right?
Question: Yes, sir.
AM: Damn! You’re the first white guy… damn.
Capone: I know that movie. I see every Spike Lee movie.
AM: Damn! This is a real moment for me.
Question: How did you like making that movie?
AM: I grew up with three sisters. Let’s just say that, and this is what I know in my life. One woman is a blessing. Two women is awesome. Three or more is the worst experience of your life, and we all know that from watching the "Housewives" shows. You get three of them together, and it is complete chaos. So it was a great experience, because it was my second time working with Spike, and I love working with Spike. Spike is a unique human being in every facet of the word unique. It was just unlike any other experience, because every day it was a different woman and a different reality, and you just have to navigate your way through that or else you will get screamed at.
Question: Nick Nolte made a film called MULHOLLAND FALLS, and then there was a later TV series called "The Hat Squad," and it had all of these guys… a group of people…
Capone: What’s the question?
Question: Do you know the references?
AM: Yes, I know what you’re talking about, and no, MULHOLLAND or "The Hat Squad" were not the basis for GANGSTER SQUAD at all. They were basically just based on a group of cops back in the day during that time, and Nick Nolte is just somebody everybody tries to get in every movie, so that’s the only connection.
Question: I saw you in THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. I loved it, so I just have a question about that. Were you supposed to be the chief? The head guy?
AM: Very good question. When we shot that movie… This is one of those movies that I got and I was like, “Oh my God.” When we shot that movie, we shot four different endings at one time. This is the funny thing. We shot an ending with an actress who wasn’t American. I don’t know where she was from, Transylvania?
[People begin to shout out country names.]
AM: Okay, Iran right? Next to Transylvania. Her English was so bad. She was talking and everybody in the scene was like, “What are you saying?” She had this thing where every time she talked, she walked like a ninja. So she held her hands like this and she goes, “I am the chief and you must understand.” So everybody is like, “What is happening now?” So they shot that for two days. The director was like, “Don’t walk like that. Don’t sit like that. Okay, sit in the chair and she’s doing this, and he’s like “Cut! What are you doing?”
So for two days they tried to get her to stop being a crab, and she wouldn’t. So they cut it together, they looked at the scene, and she literally was a space alien. So we go back and there was reshoots, so we shoot four endings. One, I work for the person. Two, I’m the messenger, the middleman between them, and I’m his angel. Three, I was the person. And four, I don’t even know how to explain it to you. That was the art-house ending. So there were a bunch of them. We just ended up with the one that worked the best.
Question: So you were?
AM: No, I wasn’t. That's a whole other conversation. There’s not enough apple juice to have that conversation right now. I wasn’t supposed to be. The idea was “we all are connected to this higher being, therefore making all of us a branch on that tree that is that higher power.” Boom. Deal with that. I shut you down. (Laughs)
Capone: I feel bad for people who haven’t seen that movie right now. I loved that movie. Who’s next?
Question: With 8 MILE, the Biggie movie, and even SHE HATE ME to a certain extent, I was just wondering what influences hip-hop have on how you perform and how you approach your roles?
Capone: You played Tupac in NOTORIOUS.
AM: Very good, this guy. Hip-hop is my life. I mean I grew up in hip-hop. I was doing hip-hop before it was cool. My background is this, when I was 14 I started a record label with my cousin called Take Four Records, real rap, and we used to throw shows in the middle of New Orleans at the Riverboat Hallelujah, and we used to charge people to come in and sell CDs. We used to get in a van and literally from Texas to Georgia we would go around and put on these shows.
This was the only good thing that came out of Katrina. All of my sins were washed away. I do not exist before 17 years old. So I had this public access TV show called PBT, and it was by far the worst thing on television ever, and we got cancelled, because the rapper Mystikal beat me up on air. [Laughs] And that was my last stint with hip-hop, and I got out of it. I love hip-hop. I feel like it’s taken a turn to something that it wasn’t originally meant to be, just like everything else. It’s growing and evolving, but you know every character I play, I buy a piece of art that represents him; I pick a song that represents him, and that’s just how I create a person that’s not me.
Capone: Somebody asked how old you were.
AM: I’m 34 years old. I was born in 1978 in New Orleans, Louisiana Charity Hospital. That’s short for charity. That was the free hospital.
Question: Did you watch this movie all the way through? Do you watch all of your movies all the way through?
AM: Yes. I love my movies. I love my movies so much, dead serious. I’m good with separating myself. I love to sit down and watch movies and just laugh at how bad they are or rejoice in how good they are. I saw this movie for the first time at the premiere last night or two nights ago. On Friday, I’m going to go buy a ticket and go see this movie, because I always go opening weekend just because I’m lucky. I'm fortunate. I get paid a king’s ransom to do a boy’s job. Everybody would love to be in movies, and I’m blessed to say that I get to do movies.All of my friends hate their jobs, and every day I go to work, I’m like, “I get free food and I get to do movies. I love it. For real, that’s what I’m saying. I have a good time doing it.
Question: I’m a really big fan of the movie. I loved it. I had a question about CAPTAIN AMERICA not relating to Captain America.
AM: Oh boy, don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy.
Question: It’s okay. Joe and Anthony Russo, the Russo Brothers. They are mostly known to that community for "Community," and I wanted to know if you had any love for that show, or if it played any part of you wanting to be part of this movie.
AM: A little bit. The thing about "Community" is it’s not a natural sitcom. It works really well and it’s very character driven. So when I saw the show, because I have a friend on the show, I’ve seen it a few times, I was surprised that they picked the two of them to direct it. But then after the success of the THE AVENGERS, I understood why. THE AVENGERS did really well, because it was serious at times and funny at times, and it was just a lighthearted, feel-good, buy-some-popcorn movie, and they are really talented guys and they are really open to the idea of bringing a new spin to the CAPTAIN AMERICA franchise, so I look forward to seeing what they do with it once I read it.
Capone: I think both Joss Whedon and these guys are über geeks. They will know exactly how to strike that balance that you're talking about. And by the way, you’re really good on "Community." Oh, wait, that’s not you. Sorry.
AM: [Laughs] See? That’s how it happens.
Question: How long did it take to shoot the movie?
AM: We shot the movie for about two-and-a-half months. Then we did two weeks of reshoots, and then they cut it together and made it awesome, but it only took me about a month or a month and a half, because each action sequence took a week, then it was all of the little stuff in between that.
Question: I wanted to know if you'd heard about Spike's comments on DJANGO?
AM: I’m sorry; I couldn’t hear your question. [clearly he heard the question]
Question: [Another person] Have you seen DJANGO?
AM: Goddamn it. I haven’t seen it, just because I’ve been busy with this. I look forward to seeing it though. Have you seen it?
Question: No, I haven’t. What did you think about Spike’s comment?
AM: I didn’t hear your question. [Someone in the audience repeats the question.] And you're going to repeat the question. [Laughs] I haven’t read Spike’s comments. I’ve been out of town since like December, so I literally just got back to the United States from a place with no news connection or Internet or email [audience applauds].
Capone: Anthony, thank you so much for coming out and bringing the movie and talking to everybody for so long.