THE HURT LOCKER
An Interview with Anthony Mackie
By Wilson Morales
June 25, 2009
Coming out this week is an extraordinary film called ‘The Hurt Locker,’ which is about an elite Army bomb squad unit 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 Anthony 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.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Mackie talks about his role in the film, filming in the Middle East and his upcoming projects.
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 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.
Do you now have a different outlook towards the war in Iraq or the soldiers in it?
AM: My outlook on the war is the same, but I do have a different appreciation for the people fighting the war. Our military is something that I now hold very dear and sacred and I feel that we should all take some time every day and pay attention and give appreciation for.
What’s next for you after this film?
AM: I’m doing this movie with Kerry Washington called ‘Stringbean and Marcus’ and I’ll be doing that in Philadelphia. Then I’m back in New York doing a play at the public, ‘The Bacchae,’ which is in Shakespeare in the Park after ‘Twelfth Night.’
What’s ‘Stringbean and Marcus’ about?
AM: It’s about two Civil Rights activists who come back together after spending some time apart. They see how they relate to each other in their neighborhood that they are in. Tanya Hamilton is directing the film.
Will this be your first time doing Shakespeare in the Park?
AM: It is. It will be a daring experience because of the raccoons. (Laughing) The Greek plays are meant to be performed outside and I’m exited to be working with director JoAnne Akalaitis. She’s a pioneer of the American Theater. I’ve known her for at least 12 years and it will be cool to work with her on stage and put some crazy costume together.
What’s the status with the films you had on your plate such as ‘Bolden’ and ‘The Jesse Owens Story?’
AM: ‘Bolden’ is wrapping up. They have put together more than half of it and we are hoping to have it ready for the 2010 festival circuit and with ‘Jesse Owens,’ we haven’t started yet. We are solidifying the script and looking for a good director, which is the hardest thing to find.
What is it that you want to do that hasn’t come your way yet?
AM: Comedy. I think I’m a pretty funny dude. I don’t want to do a Wayans Bros. type of comedy. I’m more interested in satirical, witty, straight forward comedy. I’m tired of being the Black guy in the movie. I want to do a movie with a group of people that look like the world that I live in.
How do you balance your life when you’re doing films, theater, and other events?
AM: It’s easy. I don’t go out and party and do all that stuff. I have my girlfriend and we have a great relationship. She looks out for me when I travel and most of the time she’s with me. My life outside my work is pretty much my family. I don’t carry an entourage around me. It’s really special when you try to be everything to everybody.
Why should anyone see ‘The Hurt Locker?’
AM: It’s a good story that has good characters. I think it’s a war movie the same way ‘Three Kings’ or ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was a war movie. It’s not about Iraq. It’s not about the war. It’s not George Bush or Saddam. It’s about the characters and how they relate to the world that they are forced into.