In Our Brand Is Crisis, Anthony Mackie trades in his Captain America superhero tights to play Ben, the leader of a political management team that is brought to Bolivia to assist a presidential candidate who is failing in the polls.
Ben ends up working very closely with Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), who uses every tool at her disposal to make this candidate a winner regardless of whether or not she buys into that man’s politics. What makes Ben stand out is that, while the other characters constantly question their own motives and agendas, he has a strong perspective throughout the movie about how politics can and should work for the people. Ben has a strong moral center from start to finish, and Mackie makes sure you never forget that.
During the recent press day for Our Brand Is Crisis, we caught up with Mackie for an exclusive interview. He talked at length about how he prepared for the role and the research he did, what it was like working with Sandra Bullock, and he also gave us an update on what to expect from him when it comes to the Captain America universe and the upcoming Marvel movies that he’ll be starring in.
Check it out below, and enjoy.
Terrific performance as always.
Anthony Mackie: Thank you so much.
This movie was very interesting to watch in how it observes the business of political consulting, and it’s also a movie that could’ve taken place anywhere.
Anthony Mackie: Right.
The fact that it takes place in Bolivia is really beside the point.
Anthony Mackie: And what’s great is I think it’s a topic that can be transitioned to anything. I think the title, Our Brand Is Crisis, says a lot about the movie. It’s branding. You’re taking a guy and selling him to the world, so you could put this in any industry and it’ll work. It just happened to be politics.
That this movie takes place in the world of politics is fascinating because there is always a lot of trickery involved in getting your candidate to win.
Anthony Mackie: Always (laughs).
Your character of Ben is one the most likable characters in this movie because he looks like the one who has the most perspective on the realm of politics. What kind of research did you do to prepare for this role?
Anthony Mackie: I had dinner with (James) Carville and talked to him and asked him about how all this stuff works and what you do once you hit the ground. A really good friend of mine is a senator so I called him and talked to him a lot, and then I just threw all that shit away. The great thing about this project is, with Ben, it’s about believing what you’re selling, so I just tried to focus in on that and just be as pure to that as possible.
Did you by chance get to see the documentary that this movie was suggested by?
Anthony Mackie: I did, yeah. Before we started I watched the documentary and that was really helpful because these guys are really just stiff, rigid guys. They are not like regular guys. They swoop in, do their thing and get out of there. They are just very odd people, so I wanted to capture a bit of that oddity when I was doing the movie. I wanted that awkwardness, I wanted that frustration and fear and acceptance of failure but excitement to succeed. I wanted to wrap all of that in there, so just trying to figure that out was the hard part.
What was hardest about that?
Anthony Mackie: The hardest part for me was at what point do you buy into the bullshit that you’re selling? I see this with lawyers all the time and that’s why I don’t trust lawyers. You know the guy that you’re selling is a loser. You know that the guy you are selling is a bad person, but at some point in time you convince yourself that he’s not. I feel like that’s the ultimate lie, so just when do you buy into that and accept it? At what point do you make that decision?
Exactly. Speaking of lawyers, you played one in Black or White who was determined to win his case and show no weakness throughout the trial. The similarities are very interesting in terms of what the characters will do to win, but Ben seems more in tune to making sure his candidate does good by the people.
Anthony Mackie: Yeah. What I love so much about the character was his ability to realize his carbon footprint on the world around him. He always wants to go to a place and make it better than when he got there, and that’s why he started in Tibet and he wanted to be a monk, and then he came out and started working here. Then he started this Bolivia campaign and now he’s going to Israel. He has a very strong moral compass on the world he lives in and how he’s going to affect the people’s lives that he’s coming into.
It’s got to be great have a job that allows you to travel to many different places.
Anthony Mackie: Right, and see different people in different situations. What I loved about this movie so much was the character of Eddie (a campaign volunteer played by Reynaldo Pacheco). When I read the script I was really blown away by the way they crafted him in the story and make you realize that’s the innocence lost. That’s what he is. He believes so much. He had this picture of him and the president and his dad. He just wanted so much for a Bolivia to be a better place, and he realized that he’s the only one who wants it to be a better place.
I think in Our Brand Is Crisis 2, Eddie becomes a 30-year-old and he runs for president. I feel like that’s the next movie. When you see someone who’s been downtrodden and tortured for so long, how do they turn that into good? How do they allow that to influence their next step in life?