Look, most actors would do just about anything in order to portray one of Marvel’s beloved superheroes. Who wouldn’t want to have superpowers on screen? Plus, you’ll probably get turned into an action figure. But such physical roles certainly have their drawbacks, as Juilliard-trained actor Anthony Mackie, who portrays the Falcon, has since learned since joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In remarks shared by Entertainment Weekly, Mackie spoke about some of the physical hazards he has faced while portraying a superhero, and credited what he learned about physical acting from his education under famed Juilliard professor Moni Yakim. The interview results from Mackie’s appearance in the recent documentary about Yakin, Creating a Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy.
Mackie reveals that when he was signed to play the Falcon, he studied the flying habits of birds to determine how the character would land after flying. He explains, “The Marvel movies were the first time I had to do an action thing. My character’s the Falcon, so I show up, I sit with the graphics team and the directors, and they’re like, ‘We want you to land like a bird.’ Because you have wings… you have to pull your legs in, swoop your core in, let your wings slow you down, and then land on your feet. Being the weird actor that I am and going back to my mime and clown days, I went and started studying all these birds and the way they land, the way they took off, they way they flew, and all this stuff.”
Unsurprisingly, even with that preparation the rig for the wings led to some, well, not-very-graceful landings. Mackie continues, “The first day — I think we were doing Civil War, and there’s the scene where [Vision] shoots Rhodey out of the sky and I land to see if he’s okay — I’m supposed to land, so they pull me up like 30 feet off the ground and I’m on a pendulum, so I’m supposed to pull my legs under me and land to a stop. I didn’t realize how much my lower body weighed, so I pull on the ropes to try and bring my legs under but I can’t get my core in, and I literally land face-first in the dirt and bounce for about 10 feet. I have grass and mud all in my face. The crew is just dying laughing. Everybody is dying laughing.”
He jokes that no matter how much he plans or prepares, he thinks the team behind the rig have it in for him. He says, “It became a comedy of errors of every day when I had to land and how they were going to kill me. To this day: ‘How do we crash him into something?'”
Mishaps aside, Mackie credits the physicality of his Juilliard training for keeping him healthy during these crash landings. He says, “The physicality of that directly stems from the work — the physical work, the clown work, mime work, the body inhabitance — that we learned in Moni’s class”