Conversation with . . . Anthony Mackie

14 07 2009

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One of the best films of the year is the intense war drama, “The Hurt Locker” and a major reason why is star Anthony Mackie. The star sat down with Wilson Morales to discuss the film, his career and what’s up next.

“The Hurt Locker” tells the story of an elite Army bomb squad unit that must come together in a city (Iraq) where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb. The film is directed by Kathryn Bigelow and stars Mackie, Jeremy Renner, and Brian Geraghty.

For Mackie, who plays bomb expert Sergeant J.T. Sanborn, it was a new experience for him to shoot a film and get a new perspective on the war and the soldiers in it.

The New Orleans, Louisiana native also has a slew of upcoming projects following this that includes a film with Kerry Washington, a return to the stage in Shakespeare in the Park in New York, and possibly playing Jesse Owens on film.

What attracted you to the role?

Anthony Mackie: It was the script. When I read the script, the one thing I felt about it was that it wasn’t about the war. It was the stories on the lives of these three guys and their surroundings.

How much research did you do?

AM: I was down in North Carolina shooting ‘Bolden’ right before we started, so I wasn’t able to go to any military camp or anything, so most of my research was done online. Because I near Fort Bragg, I met a few guys but nothing extensive that the other guys did.

Once you started shooting, were there any bomb experts on the set to give you some guidance as to what you were doing in a scene?

AM: Because we were shooting in the Middle East, we ran into a little bit of everything. One night we were having drinks in Aqaba, which is a big city, and this guy came up to us and was like, “Either you are in the military or you are bored man.” It turns out he was a former military soldier, and there were a few on set who helped us with the bomb suit and gave some pointers on weapons training and stuff like that.

What did you learn from director Kathryn Bigelow as you shot the film?

AM: That she is a great director. The biggest lesson I learned I think was patience. This was such a big movie done with a low budget that a lot of the stuff had to be done on the fly, and sometimes that could be great and sometimes that could be very stressful for an actor. You just have to roll with the punches.

How was working with Jeremy (Renner)?

AM: It was great. Jeremy was a lot of fun. There are a lot of leading men that do the work just to get into parties and get free stuff and Jeremy is an old school leading man. He really knows how to command the set and really knows how make everybody work to their highest ability. It was fun because I couldn’t come on the set unprepared knowing how prepared he was.

Was there anything you guys did to establish chemistry for it to be genuine on film?

AM: Nothing in the least. A lot of the times when we had weekends off, we would travel together. I had known Brian (Geraghty) for awhile. With Jeremy, we had met before, but this was our first time working together and we bonded really quickly.

With a lot of your films, you’ve been part of many ensembles. Do you tend to stay in touch with some of the cast after filming is complete?

AM: It depends. There are some people that you’ll never speak to again. If you are a freaking idiot, I’m not going to be cool with you just because we were in a movie together. Eugene Byrd from ‘8 Mile’ and I had been friends for 8 years now. Jeremy, Brian, and I will probably be friends forever just because of the situations we faced in the Middle East. When all is said and done, we looked out for each other and took care of each other.

To read the rest of Mackie’s interview, click here.

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