By Brian Price, Reporter for SNY
[Ed. note – Be sure to check out the companion post to this article, “Big East Salutes Our Troops,” where Price interviewed USO tour veteran and Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, among others.]
After being on stage for the “Hurt Locker’s” Oscar win for best picture, Anthony Mackie has continued to tear it up on Broadway in the hit “A Behanding in Spokane.” He’s part of an all-star cast featuring Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Zoe Kazan. Mackie discussed the new show, his experience filming “The Hurt Locker,” and his appreciation for our servicemen and women with USO guest writer, Brian Price.
BP: Oscar night: You’re on stage after the “Hurt Locker” has just won best picture. Who came out the biggest winner?
AM: I’d say it was a 50/50 even split between the award being ours and it also belonging to all the men and women in the armed services who we made the film for. We all went into that movie with the right frame of mind. We didn’t go in thinking it would win best picture or that it would even get nominated. The only expectation we had was to go in, work hard, and do the best job possible. The thing about “Hurt Locker” that moved everybody so much was that it resonated so deeply with the men and women in the military. That was something that we made ourselves aware of everyday [when filming]: We were doing this to tell their story. The film is about the lives that are being [risked and] sacrificed for our freedom as American citizens.
BP: What did you do to prepare for your role as Sergeant JT Sanborn?
AM: Spending time on chat rooms and being on the internet gave me a great chance to talk to individuals who were serving all over the world. I would just log on, find a soldier and ask a question.
I spoke with a Sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He told me that at the end of the day, he joined the military thinking that it would give him a way to provide for his family and get his college degree. He never realized the reality that he might not make it home alive. He never considered that he might not see his family again or that he might not be able to give his wife a baby. Hearing that was something I thought about, and continue to think about, everyday.
BP: Where did you film?
AM: We were stationed in Amman, Jordan for the majority of the filming. When we first arrived I didn’t know what to expect but I was so taken aback by how humble and welcoming the people there were. They were so kind and really tried to incorporate us into every aspect of their culture. It was a great experience for me and my co-stars, Jeremy Renner and Brian Geraghty.
BP: Was the overall experience of being there life changing?
AM: Yes. The thing about the Middle East is you’re walking through history. Everyday we had off we would go down to Aqaba or to Shonasheck. We’d also go down to the Red Sea or Petra. Filming in the Middle East gave us a chance to see so many amazing places. We were 25 minutes from the Dead Sea. We were a stones throw from Saudi Arabia and Israel. Having access to all these historical locations always gave us a chance to take a trip, clear our minds, and appreciate where we were and the importance of what we were involved in.
BP: While filming the Hurt Locker did sports help to maintain your mental sanity. Was it part of what you did recreationally?
AM: No, I wish. I played rugby once and just got pummeled and never played again. [laughs].
BP: How has John Crowley influenced your experience while starring in “A Behanding in Spokane?”
AM: My understanding of the play and my approach towards the play has changed (since we first started.) I’ve never done a comedy before. John Crowley took a huge risk by casting me in this play. John is such an amazing director because he really hones in beat to beat, moment to moment of the story. Not that many directors do that type of work. Because of his [fearless direction] the audience is presented with a very unique type of play. It all works so well. Spokane is not melodramatic or offensive. It’s not boring. You can sit for an hour and 30 minutes and be entertained from beginning to end. The work that John put in with the actors when rehearsals first began to the last preview set a tone. Not details were overlooked.
BP: Is Christopher Walken really a wild man?
AM: Not at all. I had heard so much about Chris coming in and I expected this [other worldly] person. He’s just a tame and totally regular dude. [laughs]. He doesn’t go out or party after the show. He doesn’t run around set doing crazy stuff. He comes in, has his little home prepared salad, we talk about politics and current events and after the show he goes home.
BP: He’s supposed to be a great cook. Can you confirm that?
AM: No, not yet but I did give him my recipe for brisket which he loved. [many laughs]
BP: What’s your take on March Madness this year?
AM: I will say that the refs kind of robbed Robert Morris of a victory over Villanova. I pull for those Cinderellas and I think there are a lot of teams that could be big surprises. I would love to see Sienna make a run. But the truth is if Kansas plays to their potential they’re going to be hard to stop. I think the Jayhawks are going all the way. Additionally, I would love to see Cal get knocked out in the first round.
BP. And other thoughts on sports?
AM. I’m hoping my Saints go undefeated next year. [laughs.]
BP: Favorite New York City restaurant?
AM: My New York is very quiet. Gansevoort 69 down in the West Village is one of my favorite restaurants.