pain-and-gain_web.jpgYou may not know the name Anthony Mackie, but you definitely know his face. Remember that calm, yet outspoken and entertaining black man in Real Steel, Adjustment Bureau, and Gangster Squad? Yep, that’s the same man.

He’s also played Tupac Shakur in Notorious, Papa Doc in 8 Mile, John Henry “Jack” Armstrong in Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, and will soon play Sam “The Falcon” Wilson in the Marvel universe sequels of Captain America and The Avengers.

Mackie is one of those rare actors who seems to blend into every character he portrays, and he leaves you with a good feeling long after you’ve left the movie theater. He is the kind of actor who chooses his roles carefully and makes the most of all that he is given.


“I think as an actor, our only right, our only power, is having the ability to say, ‘no’,” said Mackie, a New Orleans native. “Too many people say ‘yes’ and do stuff that they shouldn’t do.  It’s all about association. I just try to associate myself with the right people and do the type of work that I know my background deems me prepared to do.”

Mackie’s latest film, Miami-based and -filmed Pain & Gain (written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely), allowed Mackie the opportunity to portray a man whose heart was in the right place when he committed murder, and to work with one of the best action directors in the business. 


Pain, out in theaters April 26, is based on Pete Collins’ lengthy Miami New Times article of the same name, about a group of body builders who resort to kidnapping and murder in order to obtain the American dream. The men who perpetrated this crime are all on death row, awaiting execution.

The film adaptation, directed by Transformers helmer Michael Bay, also stars Mark Wahlberg as Daniel Lugo and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Paul Doyle.  Of the trio, which includes Mackie as Adrian Doorbal, Daniel is the mastermind, Paul is the Jesus Christ-loving muscle, and Adrian the more settled of the trio.

“I think all three of us were able to find the humanity in our characters.  If you look at (Adrian) Doorbal, he is the grounding force of this movie,” said Mackie, 34, during an interview with South Florida Times about his Pain & Gain character.  “He was the only apprehensive force in the entire movie. But, once he got a taste of taking another person’s life – that drug – he was in 100 percent.”

This trio, known as the Sun Gym Gang, kidnap and torture Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub) in order to force him to sign away all of his assets.  After three months, Kershaw relents and the gang try to kill him to cover up the crime. After forcing Kershaw to drunk drive into a crane, setting his car on fire, and driving over him twice, the gang did not succeed in killing him.  By the way, this is all based on a true story.

“There was a story I heard about (Adrian) when he was on his trial – the day he was sentenced,” Mackie said about his research for his character. “They found him in the bathroom having sex with his paralegal. And, that told me everything I needed to know about this dude.”


Pain & Gain, while being a testament to truth being stranger than fiction, is a great film. The laughs it illicits, however, tend to make its audience cringe from the knowledge that these bad things happened in real life to real people. But Mackie isn’t too concerned about the film’s perception, despite family members of the victims speaking to the media about their loved ones’ portrayal in the film.

“It’s a story. And, I feel like the way Michael (Bay) has decided to tell the story is the only way it would work as a movie,” Mackie said. “Reality is about perception and it’s not so much how you act, but how people perceive your actions. From my research, the situation is more important with this movie than the perception of how someone is perceived.”

Perception is everything. The same is true for being the first black comic book character with supernatural powers. Mackie’s portrayal of The Falcon will bring a third black comic book character to life in the Marvel universe. Mackie, the consummate
professional, takes it all in stride.

“To say that I’m in the conversation with Don Cheadle and Sam Jackson is cool with me,” Mackie said. “If it’s the three of us that get the opportunity to play superheroes I’m glad to be one of the three. They’re good people to be associated with.”