Our Brand is Crisis: Anthony Mackie Talks Politics, Branding and Superheroics

Anthony Mackie sits down with ComingSoon.net to chat about his performance in David Gordon Green’s Our Brand is Crisis and gives us an update on his bright future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

2015 is a huge year for Our Brand is Crisis star Anthony Mackie. Following double Marvel Cinematic Universe duty (appearing in both Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron and Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man), Anthony Mackie has, in addition to this Friday’s David Gordon Green film, roles in two very different Christmas comedies: Jessie Nelson’s Love the Coopers and Jonathan Levine’s The Night Before. It won’t be long, too, before his Sam Wilson returns in next year’s highly-anticipated Captain America: Civil War.

Our Brand of Crisis sets Anthony Mackie as part of a political management team that, alongside Sandra Bullock’s “Calamity” Jane Bodine, heads to Bolivia in an attempt to boost the failing political campaign of Bolivian presidential candidate. As one might image, the story has less to do with the specifics of the actual 2002 Presidental election and more to do with the way voters are manipulated with the right story at the right time.

Sitting down with ComingSoon.net, Anthony Mackie explained that his teaming with director David Gordon Green has been a long time coming. In the below interview, you can read about Anthony Mackie’s thoughts on Our Brand is Crisis‘s central message and even get a tease of Sam Wilson’s expanded role in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

CS: Take me back to when Our Brand is Crisis began for you

Anthony Mackie: Ironically enough, I was shooting this movie and our sound guy came up to me and was like, “Hey! My friend is doing a movie! Want to do it?” I was like, “What?!” He said, “Yeah, yeah! My friend is directing this movie with Sandra Bullock and he wants you in it.”  I had never had a movie come to me through the sound guy! It kind of worked out. G-Bird, who was the sound guy, David [Gordon Green] and I all went to North Carolina school of the arts together. I had been trying to work with David for like ten years. Ever since I saw George Washington. It never really came to fruition because I was doing something or he was doing something different. When I finally talked to him through G-Bird, it worked itself out. It was a project where he and I had the same ideas and vision about the character. I was on board the moment I talked to him.

CS: There’s very much a team aspect to Our Brand is Crisis with you and Scoot McNairy sort of playing left and right arm to Sandra Bullock’s Jane Bodine. Is that dynamic something that you and Mr. McNairy work out in advance?

Anthony Mackie: You know, Scoot’s really interesting because I feel like Scoot’s character, Rich, and my character, Ben, are very good friends. I think they went to college together. They were probably in the same fraternity. They just hung out together and then got into this political world. I don’t think Scoot’s character is a political analyst. He’s someone that I bring in in the same way that Sandy’s character brings in [Zoe Kazan]’s LeBlanc, to effectively do things that I’m not good at. I need a new campaign, so I call my message guy. Even though they’re wildly different, I think they’re very, very good friends. That was a conversation we were always having, about our backstory and our friendship. When you’re working on something with long hours like doing movies, you want to surround yourself with good people. You want to surround yourself with people you can trust. With Scoot’s character, he was one of those guys that Ben trusted.

CS: A big part of the film’s story is about building a narrative. In the film, it’s about manufacturing a political discourse, but the idea of building a story is also what you’re doing as an actor for an audience. Do you see any similarities between what you do and what Ben does?

Anthony Mackie: I see similarities with my job and politics. It’s funny. We are the generation of branding. “I’m the guy who fixes flats! I’m the celebrity tired guy to the stars!” I think the most telling thing about this movie is the title. “Our Brand is Crisis.” It’s not “Our Brand is Politics” or “Our Brand is Selling the President” or “Our Brand is Getting Elected.” It’s about actually branding crisis. If you look at the debates right now and if you look at all of it, it’s about branding crisis. If people live in fear, they’re more apt to vote for you. You just see it over and over and over again. With me and this movie, one of the things I really enjoyed so much was that this isn’t your quintessential George Clooney political movie like Ides of March or anything like that. This is moreso a political satire that can be set in any part of the world. It can be as simple as cereal. If you’re selling cereal to an audience, who do you connect with? Toucan Sam or Tony the Tiger? And if you don’t connect to Toucan Sam, what do we have to do to make you buy these Froot Loops? That’s what politics have turned into. You’ve got politicians who are going to tell you whatever you want, any way you want to hear it. They will lie about their past just to get elected. Then, once they’re elected, it’s like, “F–k you! I’m in! Let’s do it! Our friends are all getting contracts!” I think that’s where we lost scope of the power of political advantage.

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CS: Was it important to you to be a part of a film that has that kind of message?

Anthony Mackie: Yes, although I don’t think that in this movie the message has anything to do with politics, specifically. When I read the script, the one thing that drew me into the movie was the character of [Reynaldo Pacheco]’s Eddie. I think that, as adults, we need to realize that what we do affects the next generation. Eddie is such a great character in this movie because he’s so full of promise and hope. To see that hope sucked out of him, it really breaks your heart. He’ll never be that innocent kid again. He’ll never believe again. I think that’s where we are. Once you’ve lost your political virginity, you’re never in that position ever again.

CS: There’s also kind of the sense that, even though no one is really trying to do anything terrible, the collective result of everyone’s actions can lead to some terrible consequences.

Anthony Mackie: Right. I don’t think anyone goes into it twirling their mustache and going, “Haha! I’m the bad guy!” It’s like being a lawyer. You believe that your client is innocent, even though you know he’s guilty. You believe he’s innocent. It’s the same with these characters in politics. I think that, if you take these characters out and put them in another industry, they can work across the median on any board. That’s why, when you look at Ben, he’s talking about having worked at a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Now he’s doing this. Then he’s off to Israel, not for an election but to work with this group for this or that. It’s branding. That’s what’s most important and interesting to me. The idea of being sold sugar and then you get home and open it and it’s s–t.

CS: But there are awesome brands too. I mean, you’re an Avenger now!

Anthony Mackie: True! Sometimes brands are awesome and they give you exactly what you want. When it comes to politics, though, a  brand never gives you what you want.

CS: I did want to ask about the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how, as an actor, it affects the rest of your career. Does being part of the Avengers now with such films on the way mean that your time for other films is diminished?

Anthony Mackie: Not at all. The great thing about Marvel is that they know within two weeks when they’re going to start and when they’re going to finish. Every movie, four years from now. The great thing is, you just plan around those days. It’s probably the most non-intrusive, easiest schedule you could ever get as an actor. I know when we’re starting Infinity War. I know, I knew when we were starting Cap. I had to be done by this day and I can start another job this day.

CS: But then something like Ant-Man can come along. Wasn’t that kind of a surprise?

Anthony Mackie: That was a pop-up, yeah. Ant-Man and Avengers were both like, “What are you doing next week?” What they do, which is really cool, is they give you a window. If they’re shooting for four months, they say, “You have a week off. Why don’t you pop down and do three days on Ant-Man?” They make it really convenient or they wait till reshoots. They’re great. They realize how chaotic of a situation it is.

CS: Do you keep up with the comics at all?Just earlier today there was an image of an upcoming issue with the Sam Wilson Captain America kissing the Jane Foster Thor.

Anthony Mackie: She-Thor! Yeah, yeah yeah! Really? Yes! I haven’t seen it but, once Sam became Cap, I started buying all the comic books. It’s so hard to find a comic book store now. I was in Pittsburgh shooting a movie and, walking outside my hotel, I found a little run down comic book store. I went in and asked, “Do you have any of the Sam Wilson Captain Americas? Give me all of them!” That was the only way I’ve been able to catch up. I haven’t the opportunity to delve into them, though, because I just can’t find them.

Catch Anthony Mackie when Our Brand is Crisis hits theaters this Friday, October 20.