Anthony Mackie is probably best known for his critically acclaimed performance as the cool counterpart to Jeremy Renner's wild-man bomb-disposal expert in the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker." But the 33-year-old New Orleans native has been a compelling -- and award-winning -- presence for a decade in film ("8 Mile," "Notorious," "The Adjustment Bureau") and theater (an Obie Award winner for "Talk"). The son of a carpenter, Mackie is also a skilled workman who owns NoBar, a Brooklyn hangout that he built himself. In his latest film, "10 Years," he's one of the attendees at a high school class reunion. He spoke to Newsday contributor Lewis Beale.
I left school kind of abruptly my junior year in high school and graduated from a boarding school in North Carolina . We had a very small class, and we had kind of our 13-year reunion recently. Everyone has become their own person, but in the room, everyone fell back into what they were in high school.
Your role in the film isn't really that big. Why did you do it?
Jamie Linden is a good friend of mine, and he wrote [the 2006 film] "We Are Marshall," which was one of the first big acting opportunities I was given. So when they called me, I figured it was a bunch of friends hanging out in Albuquerque , and I'm down.
What did "The Hurt Locker" do for your career?
Everything. It basically separated me from the pack. It almost didn't happen, because I was shooting another film that went over. Because of that, I had to pull out, and they offered it to another actor, who turned it down because the money was too low, and they came back to me. Everybody saw that movie, and after that, everyone pays attention to you. It put me in a position where I was receiving larger and more diverse roles. And most of my roles are not race-specific. Most of the scripts I get are not described as a black guy walks into a bar wearing jeans and a T-shirt. "Hurt Locker" took me out of the realm of that racial stupidity.
I've heard that your father passed away because of things that happened during Hurricane Katrina. Is that true?
The majority of the people who passed away didn't pass in the storm, they passed because of complications of the storm. My dad was a cancer survivor, and the hospitals were shut down, and they lost his records, and by the time he got to Baton Rouge and was diagnosed, his cancer came back full-blown.
Well, you certainly picked up some skills from your dad, like carpentry, which helped you when you decided to open NoBar. Is the handyman thing attractive to women?
Not in 2012. My dad was a contractor, and everybody used to appreciate the idea that if something breaks in my house, I can fix it. But nowadays, people appreciate not what you can make, it's what you can buy. Men walk into the bar and go, "Wow." Women walk in and say, "Get me a drink."
You're also the star of a rather legendary film, "Bolden!" about early 20th century New Orleans jazz man Buddy Bolden, which started shooting five years ago and still isn't finished. Will it ever be released?
We're going back to finish it up this year, five years later. It's kind of becoming a passion project for everyone involved. It's become a labor of love for Dan , and he wants to tell it the best way he can. It's a hard story to tell, to figure out and make work, it's so time-specific and genre-specific.
You're also about to make history because of your recent casting in the new "Captain America" film. Tell us about it.
I'm playing the Falcon. He's this guy in Harlem who moved to California and became a drug dealer. His plane crashed, and he was genetically altered, and he can fly, has telepathic powers. He's the first African-American superhero. It makes me feel all the work I've done has been paying off. I have a son, nephews and nieces, and I love the idea that they can dress up as the Falcon on Halloween. They now have someone they can idolize. That's a huge honor for me.