Anthony Mackie

*At the press junket for “The Adjustment Bureau,” Anthony Mackie was in top form. The movie presented a question that probably begs to be answered. The Film Strip asked Mackie, who stars in the film as Matt Damon’s guardian angel Harry, if he believes in predestination?

“I believe that we are all fated for something great and I believe that our free will is what f**ks it up,” Mackie laughs. “I think I’m sitting here today because I’m fated to be here. If you look at my background and everything that I’ve done, there’s no reason why I should be sitting where I am.

“I was fortunate in that I needed a village to raise me and every time that I got off the path or every time that something went wrong or my free will didn’t work out, which was 99% of the time, I have two great brothers. My brothers were in line with where and what I’m supposed to be in my life. So every time that something happened, when I almost got kicked out of school, my brother drove to North Carolina and punched me in the face. When I almost got kicked out of Julliard, my brother flew to New York and punched me in the face. So I’m very fortunate.”

What do you think of the idea of there being a greater power keeping things on track? “I think the idea of there being a greater power that knows better is completely different from the idea of there being a greater power helping you to find better,” Mackie offered. “I think a lot of times you would be hard pressed to find ten people in your life right now that are truly happy, like, dipsh*t happy. I know two people. I know two people. One of them is just cuckoo and the other one is a school teacher friend of mine who had an amazing job, who was making damn near seven figures a year and quit to become a schoolteacher.

“Boom. She got a dog. Got a house. Teaches kids. That’s it. And she’s happy. She likes the headaches that these kids put her through and my other friend, it’s like he’s living the life. He has a girlfriend. He has a ’76 Cadillac and he has a tattoo now and a job. He’s happy. But everybody else that I know is just desperately unhappy in one way or another. I think that’s because we place too much on fate and not enough on free will. As human beings we have the ability to change any aspect of our lives. That’s just the way that I was raised. My daddy was like, ‘If you ain’t happy, don’t do it.’ Every time I go to a governmental office, like the post office or the DMV I’m like, ‘I hate everybody in here,’ because everybody is just working to make your life like a living hell. I’m sorry, I went to the DMV this week. That being said, I think that we place too much power on the unknown and not enough power on the active known right now.”

Since you played Tupac in “Notorious,” how would you feel playing him in the starring role?  “Tupac was a monumental figure in my life,” he enthused. “I grew up with two hardcore parents and five amazing siblings and because of that my adventures into the outside world were limited. So the only access that I had to the streets and to that lifestyle was Tupac. My first CD was a Tupac CD that I spent $17.99 at Tower Records. Playing Tupac in ‘Notorious’ is something that, if done wrong, will be a great disservice to our generation. Boom.”

In “Night Catches U,” you played a panther that was hounded by the FBI and now you’re in a way with big brother, which is what the original source writer Philip K Dick had in mind. Can you talk about switching sides and if you have a special interest in politically themed films?

“You are awesome! Geez, I’m glad that you remembered that. Damn!  You’re a bad motha-.  The Black Panther movie, ‘Night Catches Us,’ was very important to me because I feel like it’s a travesty how wrongly represented and how under recognized that time in American history has become. I feel like now that the FBI has come out and admitted to the things that they did to those organizations at that time and what we know from people in the neighborhood about what the Black Panthers were doing at that time, it’s a travesty that has been overlooked. In ‘Adjustment Burea,’ the idea of being Big Brother is something completely different because we’re here as ushers. I’m Stockton and the chairman is Carl Malone. So it’s more of a helper of fate as it is Big Brother having his hand on every aspect of your reality.

“And to answer the second part of your question, I do. I think politics is something that should be read, acknowledged and left alone. I feel like now we have too many people having their hand in politics that know nothing about politics…But it’s not my job to throw your politics and my beliefs in your face. It is my job to point and tell stories that relate to your beliefs and understandings about where we are as people. That’s why I did ‘Hurt Locker’ as opposed to any other war movie because if you believe the war was a good thing, it’s good for you. If you believe that it was a bad thing, then good for you. There are a bunch of men and women over there dying for your beliefs and you should be aware of that.”

Mackie enjoyed working with Matt Damon for the first time, whom he considers a kindred spirit. “He’s a great guy,” Mackie remarks. “It’s rare that you meet people like him; the only person I know who can talk more trash than me.” See Matt’s interview here next week.

*The day before “The Last Lions” opened, filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert came to town to promote their film. It’s an amazing story of a lioness struggling to feed her three cubs in the midst of wildfires, stampeding hordes of buffalos, killer alligators and would be poachers. Although a wonderfully shot and emotional story, The Film Strip asked them why should we be concerned about a dying species that can also be predators?  “The short version,” Dereck says, “is that everybody needs to be concerned about these lions because, first of all, they’ve gone from 450,000 to 20,000 which is shocking in and of itself. But if we take the top predators out of the world, all ecosystems start collapsing and we’ve already started to see this in parts of Africa, West Africa in particular.

“You take the lions out of the system and immediately the prey swells and then stagnates and then collapses, as do all the predators. So, who cares about wild ecosystems anyway? Well, there are communities in Africa that rely on these desperately. Eco tourism feeds about $80,000,000,000 dollars a year into Africa and a lot of that goes to communities. If we do not keep that going, those communities will get poorer and poorer and poorer and then they will have to get handouts and aid. This system will collapse and fail. So, keeping lions is vitally important for everybody.”

Beverly went on to say that, “If we allow those lions to die, we’re also going to lose those wilderness areas and we’re pretty much going to lose the spirit of Africa, which is also interconnected in many ways. [It’s always been said] that when you come to Africa you will feel like you’ve returned home. It’s because that’s your DNA. So it’s not only vitally important to keep that for the spiritual reasons, but also by taking out wilderness areas, by deforesting we’re losing much of this earth. So, keeping lions is vitally important for everybody.”

*A very relevant story by Gary Susman called, “Why Are There No Black Oscar Nominees,” appeared in Moviefone on January 26, 2011 after the nominees were announced: http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/01/26/black-oscar-nominees-2011/ The New York Times made mention of the omission this month also. Hopefully, this is a wake up call for all those folks who think equality is not a problem in this country. And it’s just not Hollywood-just look at the covers of Vanity Fair that always promotes the ‘fair’ sex on its covers. It’s ironic that The Oscars always occur in February, Black History Month. By the way, there are a few more black movies you should add to your collection if you haven’t already: The HBO TV film “Tuskegee Airmen with Laurence Fishburne,” that should’ve also been released in theaters; “Proud,” starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, and “Blood Done, Sign My Name,” also based on a true story that stars Nate Parker, Ricky Schroder, Lela Rochon and Darrin Dewitt Henson.