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Anthony Mackie on Captain America, Spandex, and Crashing the Avengers Sequel

Anthony Mackie. Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty

Some of the actors who play superheroes can be reluctant when called to duty, but not Anthony Mackie, who joins Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the heroic Falcon. “I feel like I won the lottery, man!” the giddy actor told Vulture. Indeed, in a giant sequel with a whole lot of characters to serve, it’s Mackie’s Falcon who makes the biggest impression, spreading his mechanical wings and swooping through Washington, D.C., to help his new ally, the superpowered Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Mackie called up Vulture recently to discuss just how eagerly he signed up for the franchise (he didn’t even know what the part would be) and the amusing bits he tried to sneak into Winter Soldier and the Avengers sequel.

Did you get to try on tons of different superhero costumes until they found the right look for you?
That would’ve been hella fun, but no. I told them I wanted Spandex! I was in the gym like a monster working out for that movie, and I said, “If Chris gets to wear tight shirts, I want tight shirts! I want Spandex, everything Spandex!” My choice would have been red Spandex, head to toe. They shot me down. [Laughs.]

You already got pretty buff for last year’s Pain and Gain, but both you and Chris Evans are super-jacked in this film. Is this now your new normal, to be at this body type?
You know, if you’re a part of the Marvel universe, you have to be pretty consistently in shape because the movies shoot and rotate so quickly. Chris is a good friend of mine and I’m super competitive, so when I see him built like a Greek statue, I’m like, “You know what, Captain Small-Ass? If you’re gonna work out every day, I’m gonna work out every day, too.” My whole goal was to get as buff as he was.

Were you lobbying the directors for shirtless scenes?
I was just like, “When’s the scene where I get to wear a tight shirt?” Every day, I’d come out of my trailer in the tightest shirt, and they’d say, “Where’s your wardrobe, man?” I’d be like, “Uh … is this it?”

How did you come to this role? I know Marvel execs can be super secretive when they’re casting a new project.
I had been contacting Marvel for a few years, asking about Black Panther and trying to see if there was any way I could be part of the Marvel Universe in any capacity. I enjoy their movies, respect the kind of films they make, and I thought it would be a good fit for me as well as them. I would say about five years after our initial contact, they invited me to L.A. to have lunch with [directors] Joe and Anthony Russo and one of the producers on Captain America, and we had a fifteen-minute conversation where they told me absolutely nothing about the movie they were making. They couldn’t tell me about the character, or when or where they were shooting, but they wanted to know, “If we had a movie, would you be interested?” And I was like, “Hell yeah!” So a month later, I got an official offer to be in a Marvel movie.

Did you sign a long contract with a lot of sequels?
Definitely, I signed up for as many movies as I could. I feel like to be in a Marvel franchise can only help me in my career and help me as an actor, so I was willing to go as far as they would let me, in whatever capacity they wanted to retain me. I signed up for, like, 50 movies. [Laughs.]

You get to fly a lot in this movie. Any downside to something as thrilling as that?
The pain of the wires, and also the landing. You’d never realize how difficult it is to land and stop from flying until you actually do it! You show up and they tell you, “Okay, you need to fly and land this way,” and I’m like, “Dude, there’s nothing in the human body that knows organically how to fly. It’s not gonna work out that way.” But it’s a lot of fun, man. Once you’re under control and you know what you’re doing, there’s absolutely nothing like it.

Are you excited to have the best toy? I mean, every other toy just walks around. Yours gets to fly. Everyone is gonna want to play with him.
I mean, when I saw the movie and those wings came out, I literally jumped up and screamed. I couldn’t contain myself. One thing I’m excited about with Falcon is that he’s so different from any other superhero from any other comic series. What Marvel has been able to do with constantly developing and evolving and changing the Falcon has just made him cooler and cooler for every generation that’s had the privilege of experiencing him. So I feel like with this one, he’s evolved from the last Falcon we know into what he is now, and he’ll continue to evolve.

You’ve said that your secret motivation in many scenes was to try to flirt with Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha. I feel like in the very first scene, where she pulls up at the curb, she’s kinda flirting back with you!
So my subtext in this movie is that Natasha is always trying to get Steve a date, because she’s secretly dating Falcon. It starts in the first scene where I see her and she’s like, “What’s up?” over Chris’s shoulder, and after that, we’re practically a serious couple for the entire movie. I came up with a lot of ridiculous subtext throughout this movie.

Rumor has it that Natasha is dating someone in the Avengers sequel. I think Falcon needs to get in there and defend his game.
Goddamn, I’m gonna shut him down real fast. Real fast. I don’t know if I’m in Avengers yet, but even if I’m not, I’m just gonna show up on set and be like, “Yo, my man. Sit down for a minute.”

Anthony Mackie on Captain America, Avengers