Since his appearance as Papa Doc in Eminem’s 8 Mile, Anthony Mackie has remained one of the busiest actors around, with 42 film and television credits over the past 11 years. And with a new movie in theaters every weekend for the next three weeks, this Brooklyn transplant is showing no signs of slowing down. Out tomorrow is Runner, Runner, a thriller about high-stakes online gambling that costars Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. For his part, Mackie plays Agent Shavers, a savvy FBI operative willing to step outside the law to get Timberlake to squeal. Rolling Stone chatted with the New Orleans native about food, friendship and the film biz, including his upcoming introduction into The Avengers universe as Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon) in Captain America: Winter Soldier.
What was it like working with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake?
Those are two of the coolest, luckiest guys in the world. I don’t know how they do it. When Ben’s not acting, he’s winning poker tournaments or directing Oscar-winning movies. Rough life! And Justin, anyone else in his position would be a jerk, but he’s just dedicated to the material. So you want him to succeed.
Did you make him perform at the wrap party?
[Laughs] Nah, we let him off easy. He was all about acting. I would walk by him and whisper sing verses from his songs. I’m not sure if he appreciated that or not.
Speaking of partying, you built a bar across the street from your house. Why so close?
I love having a bar, somewhere where I can grab a drink and be social. I’m opening another one, and looking to get into the restaurant game, too. They just opened a New Orleans bar a block away from my house in Brooklyn and it’s terrible! There’s no good New Orleans food in New York, so I want to open one and show them how to do it. You’re not allowed to talk shit in the movie business, so I may get into the restaurant game so I can.
You were on an egg white diet plan for Pain & Gain. Where are you now weight-wise?
I’m the smallest I’ve been since college – I look like a homeless dude – but I got to see a whole new level of working out through Mark Wahlberg. Before I was in a lot of movies I always worked out, but never to that level or intensity. We would start every morning at 5:30 a.m. and get in a few hours of serious work outs. Before anyone else was up, we were in the gym.
You’ve got the Captain America sequel coming up. Did it help to get fit for that?
I wanted Falcon to be really lean, so it couldn’t have worked out better timing wise. I worked so hard to get my body in shape that I wanted to show it off. So I told Marvel I just wanted to be in spandex. But they decided that they wanted Falcon to be more of a military character, which I’m not complaining about, because my gear looks dope and I get to kick a lot of ass. Ever since I got in good shape, though, I’m all about spandex.
Were you nervous about what people would think of you as Falcon?
You know what? The comic book world is 100 times more fickle than movie audiences, so I’ve been trying to avoid reading any fan blogs or thoughts on how I might be a miscast or whatever.
Have you seen any of the footage?
Yes, and it looks amazing. It’s so much bigger than everyone thought it would be, and we’re kicking a lot of ass. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of, especially with Samuel L. Jackson, who’s been my mentor for so many years.
A lot of actors in the Marvel universe hear about sequels for the first time second hand. Is that rough?
It can be frustrating at times, because if you’re not “in house” with them, if you’re not one of the people making the vision and you have no way of knowing what’s going on. It’s kind of like a sports game – something great can happen at any moment. One day you’ll get a call from Marvel that’s like, “Hey, we need you in New Mexico right now for The Avengers 2.” I’d ride a moped to that set if I had to. My friends keep saying, “you’ll be doing these forever,” but I don’t know about that. If it works out, it works out. It’s all very hush.
You’ve been in a few movies with Chris Evans. Are you getting sick of him yet?
We’ve been friends for about four years now, and we also have A Many Splintered Thing coming out soon. I’m going to visit him while he’s directing his movie 1:30 Train. I’ll bring him a beer at the end of the day and make sure that he doesn’t mess it all up.
Sounds like you guys have a lot of fun.
We’re like Ebony and Ivory!