Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
April 22, 2013
If you played a bodybuilder whose steroid use caused size and performance issues in the downstairs region, you'd expect people to ask about that. But still.
“This [female journalist] asked me, ‘I’ve never seen a crooked, small penis. So can I see yours?’ ” recalls Anthony Mackie, whose role as steroid-induced impotence sufferer Adrian in “Pain and Gain” has him co-headlining alongside Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson. “I basically looked at her and said, ‘You know, the problem with that is, once you start the launch sequence, there’s no abort. So you can’t push the fire missile if you’re not ready for that missile to go off.’ ”
Mackie notes—seriously, I think—that before shooting the film, opening Friday, he obtained written proof that his sexual capabilities are A-OK. Viewers are more likely to focus on one of Hollywood's most reliable young supporting actors (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Adjustment Bureau”) getting big exposure in the Michael Bay-directed action-comedy.
“Pain and Gain” is based on the true story of a pair of buff, hapless Miami guys (Wahlberg and Mackie) who recruit an even buffer, born-again ex-con (Johnson) to help them kidnap and rip off a wealthy businessman (Tony Shalhoub). Spoiler alert: The real victim, Mark Schiller, survived and isn't thrilled about a movie that seems to draw laughs from his near-death situation.
By phone from Miami, the 33-year-old Mackie, who lives in his native New Orleans and soon will play the Falcon in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” talked about bulking up for “Pain and Gain,” why the film's abundance of scantily clad Miami girls doesn't do it for him, and who in Hollywood might want to take a likability steroid.
When you signed on to “Pain and Gain,” what were the terms of how large you had to get, and how were you feeling about that process?
We never talked about size. Basically what happened was I signed on [and] I told Michael [Bay] I'm committed to putting on muscle and working out and getting started on this project. I only had three weeks before I started shooting, so I did a pretty intensive work-out.
I was in L.A. for the Oscars, I guess it was about a year and a half ago, and I bumped into Dwayne. I have this thing about me, it's really weird: Whenever I see a dude over 6-foot, I instantly want to fight him. If a dude's 5-11 or under, I'm cool—shake hands, talk [bleep], have a good time. But if you're over six-foot, I instantly want to fight you. Not sure why.
So I see Dwayne, I go up to him, I'm like, “What's up, man?” He goes, “Yo, what's up.” I'm like, “I just signed onto 'Pain and Gain.’ ” He's like, “Oh, good for you.” “Oh, good for me? Good for you.” [Laughs.] He looks at me and I was like, “Yeah, I'm hitting the gym, kid, I'm going to be bigger than you when I show up to set, so get ready.” And he goes, “All right, man, good luck with that.” [Laughs.] I'm like, “I'm going to give this dude the business!”
So instantly I went back home, started training the next day and changed my diet and put on about 17 pounds of muscle.
You did that all in the next day.
I started my workout the next day. Dwayne is one of the biggest people I've ever come across that wasn't a professional football player or a rugby player—just an average dude walking around. He's the biggest average dude I've ever been around. He was training for WrestleMania so he put on a lot more size than he normally is. So he was massive, man. I got up to 213 pounds. I show up to set and dude is like 250.
You, Mark and Dwayne all look pretty huge in the movie. How would you describe all of you standing next to each other—medium, large and extra large?
[Laughs.] Put it this way: Standing next to Dwayne, a friend and I made a joke. If he's the Rock, my nickname is the Pebble.
And you're OK with that?
[Laughs.] [All of us together] was kinda small, medium and grande.
Why do you think there are so many dumb criminal stories out there?
[Laughs.] It's funny. You ever watch the show “The First 48”?
OK, it's an A&E crime show, and it shows the detectives going through the first 48 hours after a murder, and you realize that most people [who] commit crimes commit them because they're not smart enough to think their way out of a situation. You want people to feel like criminals are dumb because it makes them feel good about not being a criminal.
Well, I can't speak from experience, but I imagine all criminals have that moment of, “We've plotted the perfect crime; this will go excellently.”
The great thing about this movie is, and how it works, if you look at these guys, they got away with the crime. They got away with the first one. So if they were idiots, they never--how many people you know can get away with a crime?
I'd have to ask my friends; I'll get back to you on that.
How many crimes have you gotten away with?
[Laughs.] Stealing candy bars don't count. I'm talking about real, full-fledged crimes.
OK, then two.
[Laughs.] Well, that means you're super highly intelligent. I think you have to be pretty smart to get away with a crime, and I think you see it with these guys as well.
I've seen a bit about Mark Schiller complaining about the movie making the criminals seem likable and the victims seem unlikable. Any movie that's a true story takes some creative license, but what do you think about this guy being alive and seeing the guys who tortured him on screen coming off as fun?
Well, I definitely understand that because he was a victim and it makes sense. The sad part about it is he's reacting to a commercial and not a movie. I would like him to see the movie before he passes judgments on a promotional commercial. But I definitely understand his reaction; if it was me, I'd be smacking somebody as well.
On another note: Can a movie ever have too many girls in bikinis?
Not a Michael Bay movie. I don't think women are allowed to shop anywhere other than a bikini shop in Michael Bay's movies.
It saves money on material.
It's definitely eco-friendly.
How difficult was that for you to stay focused?
It was Miami girls; they don't really do it for me. If we were in New York or Atlanta or Chicago, there would be consequences and repercussions.
Why don't Miami girls do it for you?
I like more of the natural, down-to-Earth, cool chick. The pin-up doll is not my thing. If you look at my girl, she's a beautiful girl, but she's just a regular chick. I kinda like normal chicks.
For years you've been widely known but on the cusp of “big stardom.” With your roles in “Pain and Gain” and the new “Captain America,” how much do you feel like that is now on the horizon, despite the challenge of there not being many great, big parts out there for black actors?
One of the most frustrating things about being an actor is everyone's summation or view of where you are as an actor as far as celebrity-wise. The funny thing about it is I enjoy what I do. I enjoy my position in the business right now. I'm not so much looking for stardom or celebrity, to be invited to parties and stuff like that. With “Pain and Gain” coming out, with “Captain America,” I'm not sure how much it'll aid the process of me being the next big guy, but I feel like as long as I continue to do good work and work with quality people like Dwayne, Mark and Michael, sooner or later that type of thing'll happen. So I'm just riding the wave, man, enjoying it. Enjoying my anonymity.
Steroids are such a big thing in sports, but you never hear about them in Hollywood. If actors were going to take steroids, what would they be trying to enhance?
[Laughs.] Their likability. Their ability to do bonehead things and then get in the press for it. I think with actors you don't hear too much about steroids just because it's not so present in the acting world because they can make you buff. They can airbrush you, they can do whatever they need to do to make you look like what they want you to look like. And we're paid to stay in shape. So we really don't need that. We don't need those shortcuts because it's part of our day-to-day lives. But they would definitely try to enhance their likability.
Who would be most likely to take that magic pill?
I think you're likable enough.
[Laughs.] No, I would say Anne Hathaway.
I don't know, dude. She's a sweet girl, but I was reading online. It was the cover of AOL: “Why people don't like Anne Hathaway.”
So you think that gets to her and she needs to take a likability steroid just in case?
I don't know if it gets to her, but it's definitely something that ... [even if it didn't] help, it wouldn't hurt.
On Chicago: “First of all, I love Chicago. Taste of Chicago is one of my favorite festivals outside of New Orleans. One of my favorite bars in the country is Buddha Bar in the West Loop. I love Chicago. But that being said, O'Hare is the worst airport in America. I've slept in that airport more than I've slept in a hotel in Chicago.”
Why he doesn't like hotels, other than his favorite, the Kempinski Hotel in Zanzibar: “It annoys me thinking someone else has slept on my couch, and someone else has slept in my bed. Stuff like that. The early morning noise in the hallway with the hotel staff. Thirty dollars for some scrambled eggs.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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