Anthony Mackie, star of the new romantic thriller "The Adjustment Bureau," talk sacrifice, happiness, and being punched in the face by his mother.
BY: Evan Derrick
PHOTOGRAPH: ANDREW SCHWARTZ / UNIVERSAL
The film we’re here to discuss, “The Adjustment Bureau,” is yet another entry in Mackie’s serious and thoughtful acting resume. The film is a romantic thriller about presidential hopeful David Norris (played by Matt Damon), the woman he loves, and the shadowy Adjustment Bureau who are determined to keep them apart. Mackie plays Harry Mitchell, a Bureau agent assigned to David’s case who must answer to the Chairman, a mysterious figure who controls events from behind the scenes. The film heavily implies that the Chairman and Bureau agents are stand-ins for God and angels respectively, although Mackie dismisses that interpretation. “I think if we put the title of God on the Chairman,” he says, “we lose the idea of what the film is trying to say…we lose the point of our free will…I’m from the South and I’m a firm believer in family. I feel like every person on this earth, their fate is dictated by the way their parents raised them. I believe that. I would not be here sitting in this seat right now if my mom didn’t punch me in the face everyday.” Although Mackie says this last bit with a laugh, there’s an honesty to the statement that indicates he received his fair share of smacks to the head. “I think when you look at the Chairman and the idea of who the Chairman is, the Chairman is [different for] each one of us individually…for me, the Chairman is my mom because she will punch me in the face.”
Mackie’s mother was obviously a powerful force, both in her life and death. She passed away when he was 16, prompting him to strike out on his own. “I literally just packed up my little Nissan Sentra and saved up all my money for two years and went to boarding school and like a thief in the night, like the Baltimore Colts, I just left…I realized it was about time, in order to become a man, sometimes you got to strike out on your own and fall sometimes.” Boarding school led to Juilliard, and Juilliard led to trouble. “I almost got kicked out of Juilliard, [but] my brother came up from New Orleans and stayed for a weekend and begged my teachers to keep me. ‘Don’t kick him out!’ And he told me, ‘I had to beg these people to keep you. So if you don’t do right, I’m going to take you home and you’re going to work on a roof for the rest of your life.’” The threat of death by shingle-laying was apparently enough: Mackie graduated and quickly landed his first prominent film role in “8 Mile.” “Every time I get off track…my two brothers are the two that kind of put me back on track. So, they are like my Bureau members,” he says, bringing the analogy full circle.