Tag Archives: movie star

Anthony Mackie and the Definition of Stardom

I was struck by this exchange between actor Anthony Mackie and Jai Tiggett over at Shadow and Act.

JT: There’s been some talk on our site lately about your career and whether you’ll go on to play the leading man more consistently, in large studio films. Is that your goal, or do you prefer to stay under the radar?

AM: Hollywood’s a business, and until someone puts their finger on you and decides you’re the guy who’s going to carry that movie, it’s not going to happen. So I’m just enjoying the position that I’m in right now and trying to make the most of it.

JT: So would you say that yes, Anthony Mackie wants to be “the guy”?

AM: [Laughs]. Most of the time when you see a movie, the best character in the movie is not “the guy,” it’s the guy next to the guy. So I enjoy playing “the guy next to the guy” because it’s always – in almost every movie last year – the best character in the movie. It’s just fun as an actor to get the opportunity to do something where you can really sink your teeth into it.

What I like about this exchange is that it suggests that Anthony Mackie is incredibly self-aware and very comfortable with the choices he’s making as an actor, regardless of how they might be perceived by the public.

I think it’s somewhat strange to be thinking about “who the next Will Smith will be” partly because Will ain’t goin nowhere and partly because the question suggests that his model is the only model of what it means to be a black movie star.

I think we’re limiting ourselves when we have this conversation. Anthony seems to understand that in a way that I don’t think people appreciate enough. I think he’s quite eloquent in chafing (without chafing, really) at the notion that he’s not “successful” because he’s not a Big Willie. He’s consistently suggested that there are other models for success and that our obsession with Will’s assimilationist model isn’t the only one we should aspire to.

In my mind, the guy that says this:

and this:

isn’t concerned about the Will Smith model. He’s thinking about his own.

We need to start listening to Anthony Mackie, man.

Imitating Life

I think Antoine Fuqua is right to cast his Tupac biopic with unknowns.

I actually don't understand Hollywood's penchant for casting movie stars as real people in biopics. The hardest job of a film actor is to make you forget that you've seen them in other things. That is even harder for movie stars – assuming they care that deeply, which I don't think most actually do – because they have cultivated a persona that threatens to supercede everything else in the performance.

When you add to that playing a real person who may or may not have notoriety or with whom an audience will have some familiarity, casting movie stars just seems unwise. I mean, did anyone really see anything other than Leo in The Aviator or Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line?

The Tupac biopic will likely be a standard biopic. It's unlikely that it will tell us anything new or interesting or revelatory about Tupac, especially given the fact that his mother is executive producing.

But in spite of that, Tupac himself could be the role of a lifetime for some young actor who can capture his great humanity without playing him as some weird contradiction the way he was characterized for so much of his career.

And the right performance can make even a bad film at least watchable.