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Anthony Mackie had a room of journalists in stitches on the suburban Atlanta set of Captain America: Civil War last June. Unlike most actors who choose their words ultra-carefully to say all the right things, the 37-year-old actor is outspoken, self-deprecating, brutally honest, brash, and on top of it all, ruthlessly funny.
He got on a roll on this particularly day, ragging on Chris Evans’s taste in music, getting riled up over the “awful” name of an app he’d never heard of, Grindr, and sharing his irrational fear of Birmingham, Alabama. But it all began with one startling confession: Mackie, who plays Cap’s ex-sidekick Falcon (aka Sam Wilson) in Marvel’s Avengers movies, had no idea that his character was being promoted into the ranks of the superhero team at the end of last summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron when he filmed the scene.
In fact, he didn’t know Falcon’s fate until he was actually sitting there watching the film at its Hollywood premiere last April. “When we were at the premiere, I was like ‘Cool.’ I’m with my son and he gets to see his daddy in two scenes in The Avengers,” he said. “By the end of the movie I turn around and they’re like, 'Avengers Assemble!’ I’m like, 'Holy s–t! I’m an Avenger!’
"So I turn around to everybody with me and they were like, 'Dude, you’re a frickin’ Avenger!’ 'This is f–king amazing!’ So, that’s the story of my Marvel life.”
Mackie on the red carpet at the premiere of Age of Ultron, approximately two hours before he discovers he’s an Avenger (Getty)
Marvel is especially secretive with its high-profile properties, and apparently that secrecy can extend to its own actors. Or maybe just the loose-lipped Mackie. “It’s weird, you never know. They never send you the whole script,” said Mackie, who first appeared as Falcon in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. “Like when they asked me to do Avengers: Age of Ultron, they sent me two scenes. There are two hours and seven minutes around those two scenes, but I never got to read it.” Later, when Evans is told about Mackie’s admission and asked if he got to read the whole screenplay for Civil War, the third standalone Captain America movie, he replied, “Yeah,” with a tone that insinuated a more assured of course. “I don’t mean that to sound bad. I think that’s just Mackie, though.”
Mackie said he was completely oblivious to context as he shot Ultron’s climactic scene, in which Captain America (Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) gathered “hitters” Falcon, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Vision (Paul Bettany) at the team’s headquarters. The fist-pumping finale ended with Cap’s anointment, “Avengers, assemble!”
“I had no idea. I flew in, Chris and Scarlett are up top and the rest of us are standing there. It was like, 'Cut. Anthony, fly in. Action. Hrm-hrm-hrm. Cut. Alright, thanks!’ That was pretty much it.
"Six months later you go to a premiere and you s–t yourself. Everybody was like, 'Why are you so excited?’ I’m like, 'I just found out I’m an Avenger!’”
Mackie, who also had a surprise cameo in Ant-Man, said he’s been in the dark on every Marvel project so far, but doesn’t seem to mind. “That’s pretty much how it happened over and over. That’s how Cap 2 happened, over and over and over again. So I’m used to it.
"I’m interested to see what’s going to happen with this movie.”
As its title promises, Civil War will split the Avengers into two rival factions: Team Cap, which includes Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan); and Team Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), which takes Black Widow, Vision, War Machine, and newcomer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).
Come back to Yahoo Movies tomorrow, March 8, for our full report from the set. Captain America: Civil War opens May 6.