Where you know him from: She Hate Me, Half Nelson, We Are Marshall, Crossover, Million Dollar Baby
Ideal Career Trajectory: As successful as Denzel Washington, as bankable as Will Smith, yet still as interesting and daring as Samuel L. Jackson
Worst Case Scenario: Cuba Gooding Jr, post-Oscar (God, what a mess)
I first saw Anthony Mackie in 2004 in Clint Eastwood's emotionally moving (if somewhat facile) Million Dollar Baby. Although his part was small (a clear villain. They're so easily identifiable in Clint Eastwood movies) I couldn't help but take notice to how Mackie commanded attention each time he was on screen. His presence is undeniable, his talent and range seemingly limitless. He next caught my attention when I watched indies like Brother to Brother and most notably Half Nelson where he comfortably held his own against the film's two powerhouse leads (Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps). It really upsets me when I read lists of hot rising talent in Hollywood in magazines like Entertainment Weekly that fail to mention actors like Mackie, clear forces to be reckoned with to anyone who's actually paying attention and watching films—the people who do tend to rank also speaks volumes about the people making said lists, but that's another issue entirely.
Things are slightly easier for a black man in Hollywood than they are for a black woman (read: slightly). That's why Mackie has been relegated to certain roles less than worthy of his greatness. The somewhat forgivable We Are Marshall and the unfathomable Crossover are just two titles on that list. He was also in 8 Mile, which some people regard as having certain merits, though I was uninterested, as I am with Eminem in general. But his filmography is actually not so disastrous as most up and coming black actors, which is a good sign. When you're as talented as he is, it may pay off in the end to show some discernment and taste when it comes to what roles you take. Just heed my warning to all up and coming black actors, Mr. Mackie: steer clear from the double-edged sword that is Tyler Perry. Not. Worth. It.
What does the Future Hold:
Look for Anthony Mackie to break into mainstream consciousness in a big way within the next couple of years. In 2008, he has The Great Observer a silent (ballsy) film about young Louis Armstrong (he's not playing Louis). He also has Iraq-war thriller The Hurt Locker, which sounds interesting enough, but after Stop Loss, I'm not getting my hopes up. He also has a supporting role in Eagle Eye, the new Shia Labeouf vehicle which should guarantee some viewership. Hey, the ends justifies the means, okay? It's 2009 that should have Mackie fans hearts aflutter. Two biopics, one in which he plays a lead. There's Notorious, the biopic about slain rapper Notorious B.I.G in which Mackie plays Tupac Shakur. I'm shaky and nervous about how this film will play out, but it will definitely be a cultural event and guarantee some ink for Mackie. Then there's Jesse Owens, which tells the story of the African-American Olympic athlete. Confession time—biopics are not my thing most of the time. But they usually get attention, and for once I'm glad that attention will be turned on a worthy performer. And who knows? Maybe, we'll be hearing Mackie's name uttered alongside the elusive O-word sometime in the not so distant future. One can dream, right?