Details: Do you get recognized more often since the success of The Hurt Locker?
Anthony Mackie: You know, it's funny. With all the movies I've done, I still get recognized from my episode of Law & Order more than anything else. It never fails. I always know when my episode comes on. I'll walk out my door and someone will be like, "Hey! It's the guy!" I'm like, "Law & Order, right?"
Details: Did you have a hunch that The Hurt Locker was going to win Best Picture?
Anthony Mackie: Nobody expected that. If anybody tells you they expected that, they're a damn liar. Oscar night, I put all my money on Avatar. I was like, "Yay, we won! Goddamn, I lost all my money."
Details: You're testing the sci-fi waters yourself, first with The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Philip K. Dick story, and then with Real Steel, about futuristic boxing robots.
Anthony Mackie: It's like Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots for adults. I play a promoter, a real raunchy "I'll break your leg if you don't give me five dollars" type of guy. Like a 2035 Don King. I love Don King. He once said, "One thing I've learned in this business: If you set yourself on fire, everybody in the world will pay to watch you burn." That's the best advice I've ever heard.
Details: What can you tell us about The Adjustment Bureau?
Anthony Mackie: Matt Damon's character is not supposed to meet Emily Blunt's because she changes his future, and the Adjustment Bureau are the guys who try to put him back in his line of fate. I'm like a social worker, and Matt's character is my client in the realm of fate.
Details: Sounds complicated. Is it going to be tougher than Inception?
Anthony Mackie: Right, like, "I'm in a dream, but not really, and there's another dream . . . Oh, I need a drink." Nah, this one's pretty simple. We made it for guys just like you.
Details: You're also working on a film called Bolden!, about legendary New Orleans jazz musician Buddy Bolden.
Anthony Mackie: Yeah, it's the story of Buddy and his descent into schizophrenic depression.
Details: Being a New Orleans man yourself, were you familiar with the story?
Anthony Mackie: I was very familiar. I played the trumpet when I was in school, so the trumpet teachers would always talk about him. He's a legend in Louisiana, the way Batman is in Gotham City.
Details: You recently starred with Christopher Walken in a Broadway production of A Behanding in Spokane. Is he as weird as he seems?
Anthony Mackie: Not at all! When you meet him, he's just a regular old dude. I was expecting him to come in being weird—standing on his head in the fuckin' corner of the room. For six months I waited on him to go crazy: "Come on, man! Do something!" And it never happened. I was very disappointed.
Details: Early in your career, you were Don Cheadle's understudy in the play Topdog/Underdog but quit the show when Mos Def replaced him. Are you not a fan of rappers turned actors?
Anthony Mackie: I don't go to a hospital and let the janitor perform surgery on me, you know what I mean? But if you look at what Ice Cube, LL Cool J, and Queen Latifah have been able to do, it's ridiculous to say their talents should be disregarded because they started out in music. At the same time, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Sam Jackson these days, because young actors wouldn't be given those roles now. The film business is destroying itself by not breeding talent or nurturing young actors—and that's why all movies suck now.
Details: You got so frustrated a few years ago that you almost left the business altogether.
Anthony Mackie: I took a hiatus. I went back home to New Orleans and chilled out, enjoyed a few daiquiris, and built a house. I got a mask and some dirty old clothes and rebuilt an 1865 Victorian bed-and-breakfast. Sheetrock and plastering—that's my thing. If the acting don't work out, I'll have a future in construction.
Details: What are you building next?
Anthony Mackie: I'm opening a bar in Brooklyn called NoBar, and it's just a really cool, low-key place where you can have a good drink. I think a lot of bars in New York have lost a level of discretion. The music is so loud and there are so many people and the drinks are so expensive you can't really enjoy yourself. Mine is going to have a late-1800s rustic French style—you know, before everything became slick and contemporary. Everything is wood and handmade, and there's a beautiful walnut-and-mahogany pool table.
Details: So no Big Buck Hunter, eh?
Anthony Mackie: If you want to play Big Buck Hunter, just stay home with your girlfriend and chase her around the house.
Jack Huston Has More Than a Famous Name
Aaron Johnson: Britain's New Wonderboy
Seth MacFarlane Has 100 Million Reasons to Keep the Fart Jokes Coming