Archive For The “Profiles” Category
It’s hard to miss Lee Daniels.
Forget the pastel polos, the black rimmed glasses or the Don King-like hair – his personality alone demands attention. As he makes his way toward the table I’m sitting at, jotting down questions, I notice Lee Daniels doesn’t walk. He struts. I notice he doesn’t smile. He gleams.
He exudes the confidence that most first time directors usually hide behind doubt.
But, then again, Lee Daniels is different. And that may be the strongest quality he has. His confidence is the reason everyone within a fifteen foot radius knows Lee Daniels is, well, within a fifteen foot radius.
Although he’s making his directoral debut at the 2nd Anuual Bahamas International Film Festival with his film Shadowboxer, he is nowhere near being a rookie. He produced the Oscar-winning film Monster’s Ball, then followed that success with the critically acclaimed picture The Woodsman.
As Lee Daniels promotes Shadowboxer to whoever will listen, it’s apparent that the hair isn’t the only thing he and Don King have in common. King’s knack for promotion is also there.
“Shadowboxer is my soul,” he emphasizes. “I put my soul into whatever I do. Especially this movie. I put all I could into this.”
His soul wasn’t all he put into the movie. During production, Lee Daniels found himself putting his heart into the movie. Two months ago, the 46-year-old suffered a heart attack at the hands of exhaustion and hard work.
“Directing is… a tsunami,” Daniels laughs. “It’s very humbling. It’s easier to produce, but it’s so much more exciting to direct.”
Despite his success, Daniels’ greatest achievement has nothing to do with the cinema. He’s a proud father, something that makes all of his behind the camera success seem distant.
“That’s my greatest achievement,” Daniels said. “Being a dad.”
As a first time director at a sophomore film festival, Daniels sees positive outlooks for both him and the festival.
“I think the festival is going to grow and grow,” he said. “(Festival founder) Leslie Vanderpool has done a phenomenal job putting groups of people together. I think the future festivals will attract many people.”
As for him?
“I’ve got a couple movies left in me,” Daniels grins, the ultimate magician talking about future tricks up his sleeve. “I’m producing a new film called Tennesse and co-directing another with Lenny Kravitz.”
Despite a late start as a director, Daniels doesn’t take anything for granted. After his near-death experience, Daniels has developed a relationship with God and realizes how fortunate his is, not only to direct, but to still be alive.
“I’ve realized I’m very blessed,” Daniels said. “I’m trying to keep focus in prayer. I’m finding out what happiness is.”
One day, Anthony Mackie will be the one of the greatest actors in Hollywood.
He’ll be swarmed by agents, mobbed by fans and have enough Oscar statues to play chess with. His name will be top billing in box office hits that will attract half the world into the theatre.
But, right now, he’s just an optimistic actor from New Orleans, sitting next to me, gulping a Jack and Coke at the Bahamas International Film Festival.
“In five years I hope I’m blown up,” Mackie laughs, stirring his drink. ”I just want to continue to do diverse and interesting roles. Continue to do one play a year, continue to do three films a year.”
Mackie is evolving into a star, using his on-screen presence to turn ordinary films into extraordinary ones. In his film debut, the smash-hit 8 Mile, Mackie took the role of Eminem’s cross-town rival Papa Doc and made you absolutely hate him. In his two latest films, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me and Rodney Evans’ Brother to Brother, Mackie hasn’t just shown that he can really act, but that he’s one of the most versatile young actors in Hollywood.
“I’m on my way to that,” Mackie tells me, concerning his flexibility as an actor. “Well, like a few more projects and I might get up there. But, now, I wish.”
In Brother to Brother, Mackie plays Terry, a gay teenager who befriends an older black writer at a homeless shelter. The film has received critical acclaim for both the picture itself and Mackie’s too-good-to-be-true performance.
“I did a lot of research for Brother to Brother,” Mackie explains. “Like when (Marlon) Brando did Streetcar, he used to stand outside of strips clubs and watch men come in and out. When I read that, it tripped me out. So when I was doing this film, a friend of mine showed me this gay club and I used to stand outside and watch the men come in and out. I would watch their movements and everything like that. I just applied that to my work and didn’t judge it.”
Mackie’s other latest feature is Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, a politically driven film that deals with everything from whistleblowers to same-sex parenting. In the film, Mackie somehow finds himself in the middle of a moral dilemma as his successful life turns into a whirlwind of confusion. Playing a recently fired, desperate young executive who impregnates women for $10,000 each in one film, and a homeless gay teenager in the other, Mackie discovered similarities between directors Spike Lee and Rodney Evans, which helped him develop each character.
“Well it’s interesting, they just have similar styles of work,” Mackie said, leaning forward. “Rodney had a very specific vision about this film. It was basically him setting the performance on the actors. Where as with Spike, he casts people because of their ability and he works with that to form the character. So, Spike’s more of an actor’s director, where as Rodney’s really a director’s director.”
Mackie’s film resume includes cameos in The Manchurian Candidate, with Denzel Washington, and upcoming films such as Million Dollar Baby, with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, plus The Man with Samuel L. Jackson. He has worked with some of the best actors in the world, enhancing his own technique by observing the work of others.
“I would just hone in on my own working process by watching their process,” he tells me. ”And how to treat people.”
I ask him to explain that.
“When Sam (Jackson) got on the set everybody knew it because he knew everybody’s name. He made sure everybody was upbeat and cool. He was cracking jokes on everybody, cracking jokes with everybody. Everybody was cracking jokes on him. They really taught me, when you get to that level, how to treat people to make them want to come to work.”
For now, Anthony Mackie is cast into roles that either save or make the films, something that helps establish himself as one of the best young actors of Hollywood’s new generation.
When asked how he gets those roles, how he has met these people, he sums up his acting career in three words.
“I’ve been lucky.”
Originally Written For BahamasB2B.com