10/08/2013 10:18 am ET Updated Oct 08, 2013

Anthony Mackie On Playing The Falcon, Drinking George Clooney's Whiskey, And His Crush On Laura Linney


Admittedly, it's a little odd that this interview with "Runner Runner" co-star Anthony Mackie took place the day after that film opened with $7.7 million in ticket sales, placing it well behind box-office phenomenon and fellow new release "Gravity" on the weekly chart.

It wasn't supposed to be this way: For weeks, the idea of going out to Mackie's Brooklyn bar for an in-person sit down was bounced back and forth, but because of Mackie's busy schedule -- the 35-year-old is an incredibly busy guy, with three movies coming out this fall, not to mention the next Captain America movie next spring -- we couldn't make it work. Not that it mattered, as Mackie was in great spirits when we finally spoke by phone on Monday, this despite the "Runner Runner" opening number. (Something tells me that Anthony Mackie is often in great spirits.)

As noted, Mackie is in three movies this fall: The aforementioned internet gambling thriller "Runner Runner," the Julian Assange biopic "The Fifth Estate," and the coming-of-age drama "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete." There's also his turn as The Falcon, Captain America's new partner in April's "Captain America: The Winter Solider," to look forward to -- a role that Mackie calls the "coup" of his career, and a role that Mackie talks about here at length.

Mackie also discusses his attempts at bringing his passion project, a biopic of Olympic hero Jesse Owens to the big screen. It's an effort that he seems positive about achieving right now, but he's also running into problems because everyone has a passion project these days, and unless you're at the top-tier of Hollywood's A-list, it's easy to get drowned out. (To be fair, Mackie is getting closer and closer himself to the top-tier of Hollywood's A-list.)

But, first, Mackie reveals his secret work crush, which happens to be his "The Fifth Estate" co-star.

It's a little weird we're talking about "Runner Runner" after it's come out.
Oh, I agree. After we know what it's going to be. I think this is one of those movies that's going to have legs. And I'm fortunate having three movies coming out with "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete" and "The Fifth Estate."

I've seen "The Fifth Estate."
Oh, really? I feel like everybody has seen it but me. I'm the only person who hasn't seen it. Did you enjoy it?

I did enjoy the chemistry between you and Laura Linney.
Laura Linney has been my work crush for about 12 or 13 years now. So I was very excited to get the chance to work with her.

Did you tell her that?
No, no. I was about to. I was like, "I've been in love with you for 15 years." [Laughs]

I believe she's married. I'm not sure how that would have went over.
She is. That's why I didn't tell her! I just smiled. Every time she would say something I would just smile.

So, we know the box office results for "Runner Runner." I do think it will be one of those movies that people are always re-watching on cable.
Exactly. One-hundred percent, I agree with that. I think it's a movie that's going to have a life and legs further down the road. The movie market place is just so upside down right now, you never know what people are going to go see. You just never know.

Too bad you weren't in "Gravity." You'd be really excited about those results right now.
[Laughs] I guess -- considering there were only, what, two people in it? I think the odds of me not being in it were much higher than me being in it.

We can pretend. "What was it like working with George Clooney?"
Nah, I wish. I've drank whiskey with George Clooney before, but I've never worked with him.

What's that like?
Actually, it's funny, we were at the Oscars and I was around the whole "The Hurt Locker" crew -- this is right after Matt Damon and I had done "The Adjustment Bureau," so he and Matt were talking. And I walked over and he said, "Hey!," and he had a flask in his hand. So I took his flask and I took some of his whiskey. I'm like, "I'm drinking whiskey with George Clooney!" -- and everybody just looked at me. My thing is I don't care how famous I become or how long I'm in this business, there are certain people I admire for one reason or another -- and Clooney is definitely one of those people. Like when Tom Hanks announced Best Picture [for "The Hurt Locker"] and I'm on stage and I turn around and I'm like, "Oh, shit, it's Tom Hanks." You know, certain people you just have to appreciate when you have the opportunity to be standing face-to-face with them. I mean, I'm not getting invited to Lake Como anytime soon.

No, I'm never getting an invite to Lake Como from George Clooney. You have a much better chance than I do.
[Laughs] I told Ben Affleck, "Look, you're my George Clooney, so you have to invite me somewhere and I've got to hang out with you."

But "George Clooney with a flask" is a great George Clooney story.
Exactly, right? I went up to him and took his whiskey!

I feel you've been busy lately. You're in a lot of stuff.
Definitely. I mean, I try to keep busy because if you're not busy, you're unemployed. So, I try to just do as much as I can. And I think a lot of people are just hung up on the size of their roles that they're offered. I feel like if you put these three movies together, the roles are very small, but they're very distinct. If you look at "Runner Runner," I don't really get to be scruffy and aggressive and smack people around and be the main antagonist in a film -- I don't get to do that too often. If you look at "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete," I told them, I want to grow my facial hair out and I want to have a crazy haircut -- I want to be the neighborhood lunatic. With "The Fifth Estate," I was given the opportunity to be basically a stately gentleman ... as an actor you take those small roles to play something different. The large roles is where you get pinned in to a specific character.

Remember in "Beverly Hills Cop" when Axel Foley is trying to get that nice hotel room?
[Laughs] Yeah.

And he pretends to be a reporter working on a story called "Michael Jackson is Sitting..."
[Laughing] "On top of the World"! Right!

That's you right now. "Anthony Mackie is Sitting on Top of the World."
I would pay -- I would do that movie for free, to be Axel Foley.

That's a great idea, actually.
I mean, I am -- I'm very fortunate and very lucky. I have a wonderful family and a great career. You know, there are always downs that come along with ups. But I'm fortunate to have a lot of ups right now. So, I'm not complaining -- at all.

When I was a little kid, The Falcon was one of my favorite superheroes. My dad had a bunch of "Captain America & The Falcon" comic books that he gave me.
Oh, nice. It's like the coup of my career to be able to be cast as The Falcon and have the ability to play it in that Marvel world. You know, the great thing about it is Marvel is so open to allowing you to create a character and go as far as you want. They are very specific about what they want, but they are very liberal as far as allowing you to play in that spectrum. So, the fun thing about it is, Kevin Feige and everybody over there, they just really gave me, I feel, the opportunity of a lifetime and I tried to do the most I could with it. And I think, because of that, when you see the movie, The Falcon comes off as a great character.

I was re-reading a few of the comics the other day. In those issues from the '70s, The Falcon is the voice of reason a lot of times to Captain America's more earnest world view.
No, I read those. The great thing about The Falcon and his relationship with Cap' is the fact that he's not a sidekick. They actually become co-heroes in all of the adventures that they go on together. And I feel like they kept true with that in the movie. The Falcon is definitely not a Robin to Captain America's Batman: They're friends, they're colleagues, they have mutual respect for each other. That's where I feel their relationship in the movie works so well.

When Marvel was telling you that you'd have some freedom, you should have said, "I need Laura Linney to be in this movie."
[Laughs] That's what I should have done. "You know, I have a great idea: Laura Linney." "For what?" "Whatever you want to use her for. Whatever."

Though, they might have been on to you with your work crush.
Real fast. That's why I play the slow burn.

After this interview publishes, you might get a note from her. I need to watch "The Fifth Estate" again now that I know this.
Yeah, you can see it because I put it in the movie. There's a natural antagonist nature between me and Stanley Tucci and every time Laura's character speaks, I smile and say, "OK, whatever you want." But every time Stanley speaks, I'm like, "Boo you" [laughs].

So the message of "The Fifth Estate" has nothing to do with Julian Assange, it's about your crush on Laura Linney.
Julian Assange is so 2008. We're passed that.

What's the status on your movie about Jesse Owens?
We're still pushing to make it happen and getting all of the right people together. I feel like we have one shot at it, so we're going as slow as we can to make it work.

Do you feel confident that it will work out?
I think people want it to happen. Because the problem with film right now is that it's become a passion industry. People have decided that it takes too much of them to make a movie. So, when you have a movie like the Jesse Owens project, if I was Will Smith or, say, Leonardo DiCaprio, my passion would be everyone's passion. But, if I'm Anthony Mackie, my passion is my passion.

I feel your clout has grown quite a bit -- especially in the last year.
It's grown, but it definitely hasn't grown enough to make someone dedicate themselves to my passion. If you look at it, Jesse Owens saved the free world -- and I feel like that movie deserves to be made and that story deserves to be told. If you can make a movie about a racehorse, you can definitely make a movie about Jesse Owens.

Ben Stiller made his passion movie, which was "Walter Mitty," and I get that because he has the clout and worked hard. But shouldn't something like a movie about Jesse Owens be more than just your passion? I don't understand why it wouldn't be everyone's passion.
I agree. And that's why I've been pushing and working so hard to get the movie made. But, you know, like I said, it's the business of passion. You have so many actors directing now because they can't find a director to buy into their passion project.

Which is what Ben Affleck had to do.
Exactly -- with all of his movies. So, it's becoming a dog-eat-dog cycle because I don't think that many actors should be directing, but I think so many actors have taken on the directing helm because they can't find a director to do their project.

When I spoke to Michael Bay he basically said he couldn't get a movie you're in, "Pain & Gain," made without doing "Transformers 4." And that's a guy who has made billions for studios.
Right. But that's the sort of thing that gets tricky. Even if you look at "Pain & Gain," if I were to go to Bay and say, "I want to do this movie on Jesse Owens, would you be willing to do it?" It would still be a hell of a selling process to try to get somebody like Bay -- who I have a great relationship with and who I worked with.

Is there a solution?
Not now.

I do hope the movie happens.
I think it will -- one day. I don't know if I'll be in the position where I'll be young enough to still be able to play Jesse, but it's such a dynamic story that I'm willing not to play Jesse so that the movie can be made. I feel like we're at a short notice now for quality projects and dynamic stories --and we're just in the business now of making Jesse Owens the most dynamic story we can.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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