Anthony Mackie on pushing around Justin Timberlake in ‘Runner Runner’

Anthony Mackie plays a sadistic fed in the thriller "Runner Runner." Credit: Getty Images
Anthony Mackie plays a sadistic federal agent in the thriller “Runner Runner.”
Credit: Getty Images

Since playing Eminem’s arch-nemesis in “8 Mile,” Anthony Mackie has been one of America’s most exciting actors. Juggling stage and screen work, he’s also juggled small films and bigger productions, impressing in “Half Nelson,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Night Catches Us,” plus biggies like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Pain & Gain.”

In the thriller “Runner Runner,” he plays a small but pivotal role as a ethics-challenged FBI agent trying to coax Justin Timberlake’s online poker exec into ratting on his shady boss (Ben Affleck).

Your character isn’t a villain, but he is a fed who has a certain evil quality.
I feel like every good guy has a tinge of bad. Even if you are a good guy, sometimes you gotta do a little bad to get the job done. I don’t necessarily think that’s wrong. We changed the character a little bit to make him more of headcracker. He was more of a mild-mannered neutral detective like, “Ooh I’m going to take you down.” He’s now more of a bad guy.

Is it fun playing bad?
It is. Because you get to justify all the evil thoughts you have every day. [Laughs] Living in New York, driving around the city or simply just going to the grocery store, you always want to crack somebody in the head. I feel like being the bad guy allows you to take up that aggression you get just simply walking around New York.

Was it fun pushing around Justin Timberlake?
It was the highlight of my year. None of that was in the script, so I told Justin that I took the job just so I could smack him around. I feel like he and Ben are the luckiest guys in the world. They can do no wrong. Ben goes around and wins poker tournaments and s—. I was like, “I’m going to bring these guys down to earth.”

You get a lot of Hollywood work despite living in Brooklyn, not L.A.
I’ve been very fortunate. I love doing theater. I feel there’s a certain cachet that comes with saying “I’m a New York actor.” If you look at the list of actors that live in New York and primarily work in New York, it’s a pretty remarkable list.

Do you not like L.A.?
No, no, L.A.’s cool. It’s just kind of like “Groundhog Day.” Every day you wake up, you go to the same coffee shop, you see the same people. It’s very relaxing. New York is more about interaction with different people and bad food and just trying to maintain your sanity. In L.A., it’s more about you, whereas in New York it’s more about you interacting with everyone else. I need a rainy day every now and then.

How much do you have to change up your style for theater versus big films like this?
It’s vastly different. Movies like this take so long to do. There’s so many people involved. The thing about theater that I love so much is once the curtain goes up, no one has control over your performance. There’s no editor, there’s no director, there’s no producer, there’s no one telling you what you can and can’t do. It’s all about the integrity of the show.

You try to bring personality to roles in big films. I’m assuming the same thing happens with Falcon, the first African-American superhero, in the “Captain America” sequel?
The Falcon has been introduced into the comic book world in three incarnations. The big challenge for [director Anthony and Joe Russo] and I was which one do we choose and which direction do we go with the character. So they allowed me luckily enough to be very involved in that and make him more of a human being, as opposed to a caricature of what people wanted Falcon to be.

You’ve been prepping a Jesse Owens film for awhile. How do you prep for that?
Run, run and run. That’s the biggest thing for that movie. Since he was so lean and so fast, it’s been just about training with the best trainer. He had such an interesting running style and most of it is me trying to find and match that.

It seems like it’s been overly difficult to find someone to get that project off the ground?
The thing about it developing a project is it takes so long because in Hollywood there’s no longer a business of doing projects that you think are good. Everything now is a passion project. If you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, your passion is everyone’s passion. If you’re Anthony Mackie, your passion is your passion. So I have to find someone with the same passion.

Do you find it hard to do physically demanding roles like that and “Pain & Gain,” where you bulked up to 215 pounds?
It’s not difficult to do, it’s just difficult to maintain. I feel like when you’re doing press interviews in the morning, then you’re shooting for 13 hours, you’re doing phoners in between, it’s hard to find time to just maintain it. I’m getting old, so I have to find ways to look like I’m still in my 20s. You have one beer and all of a sudden you’re 20 pounds heavier.

That must be difficult since you own a bar (NoBar in Crown Heights, Brooklyn).
Every time I open a new bar, I’m like, “Why am I doing this?” Because every time you go in people are like, “Hey, let me buy you a drink!” It’s hard not to drink Jack Daniels when you own it. I have a bar of free alcohol to drink.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Deron Williams leads Nets over Raptors in Game…

The Nets traveled to a raucous Air Canada Centre but came out with an important Game 1 victory over the Raptors.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.