Marvel doesn’t fill its films with he-men and beefcakes. They often go for interesting actors from independent and international cinema. One of those is Anthony Mackie, the acclaimed star of “Half Nelson,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Triple 9” — in addition to big-timers like “Real Steel,” “Pain & Gain” and “The Night Before.” Since “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” he’s played Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, the winged friend of Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. Falcon returns for “Captain America: Civil War,” joining his buddy’s side when the Avengers split over whether or not their do-good-ery should be regulated by the government.
I might be the only person you’re speaking to today who didn’t grow up a comic book nerd. Were you one?
I wasn’t at all. It’s funny: Every time I meet somebody they say, “Oh, I was such a comic book nerd growing up.” I’m like, “That’s interesting, because when I look for a comic book store I don’t know where they are. So if all these people were reading comic books when I was a kid, why did all the comic book stores go out of business?” But growing up I would read mysteries, like The Hardy Boys. I didn’t read comics at all.
I can’t believe there’s never been a Hardy Boys movie. That should be the next franchise.
I agree, I agree. I was joking with a friend mine that we should get a group of black dudes together and make a Hardy Boys movie. That would be hilarious.
Well, you can do that. I assume being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gives you some power.
One would think, but not so much.
No. Not at all. [Laughs] I thought that would happen when I singed up as Falcon. I thought I’d be able to do my small, two million dollar projects that I feel are just as important as these films. But it’s not as cut-and-dry as you’d think it would be.
Indie movies are in such a weird space right now.
I did this movie last year — this amazing little movie that Paul Bettany [his “Captain America” co-star, as it happens] directed called “Shelter.” People just couldn’t find it. It just wasn’t in enough theaters. And now it’s on Netflix, and people are like, “This is the best movie ever!” I’m like, “No shit.” [Laughs] It’s frustrating because I’m proud of my work, same as I’m proud to be a part of the Avengers. But people will see one but they won’t see both.
What finds its way into most theaters tends to be blockbusters. There used to be a mix.
Fans are just different now. It used to be that Denzel did one movie and you’re like, “Wow, this guy’s amazing. I’m going to see all of his movies.” But now people are like, “Anthony Mackie is great, I’m going to see him in ‘Captain America.’” I’ve got other movies; go see them.
Speaking of being in the Marvel films, do you sometimes watch the stunts and CGI your character is doing onscreen and go, “Oh, I did that?”
[Laughs] It’s funny, because on “Cap 2,” which was my first Marvel movie, I was like, “I’m going to do all my own stunts. Tom Cruise does his stunts; I’m going to do my stunts.” And about a week into it I thought, “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.” [Laughs] It hurts really bad to do those f—ing stunts. When I watch the movies I’m really excited to see what my stuntman was able to pull off while I was sitting in my trailer.
Do you do any stunts?
I did. I wanted to do all of them, but the Russo brothers [the directors] told me I suck at stunts. [Laughs] I would say, “I can pull it off, give me some time!”
And you didn’t even know you were in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” until you saw it, right?
I didn’t. I had no idea. They fly you in and shoot little stuff. Then the movie comes out and I’m like, “Holy s—, I’m in the movie.” [Laughs] That means I have to be in Part 3, right?
Is that how you wound up appearing as the only member of the Avengers in “Ant-Man”?
That was the same thing. I was hanging out and they were like, “What are you doing next weekend?” “Nothing.” “Cool, why don’t you come down to Atlanta and shoot something for us?” I thought it was a test or something for the next movie. It just happened to be “Ant-Man.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge