'Pain & Gain' actor's workout regime was painful but helped him gain confidence


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Talk about the breakfast of champions. Or gym rats.

Anthony Mackie had just three weeks to prepare to play bodybuilder and steroids abuser Adrian Doorbal in "Pain & Gain." That turned his diet -- the guy lives in New Orleans, for heaven's sake -- into a parade of protein and sensible sides.

"At 6 in the morning, I would drink six egg whites and one egg yolk and that would be my breakfast. I would go to the gym, work out, I would do a protein shake smoothie after my workout with bananas, peanut butter and powder and skim milk," he recounted in a recent phone interview.

Every three hours he would consume either fish, turkey or chicken the size of a deck of playing cards along with a half-cup each of brown rice and veggies. If he was hungry before bedtime he would allow himself a handful of unsalted raw almonds, two boiled eggs or string cheese.

And he would dream about eating ice cream or drinking whiskey although he allowed himself a good dinner on Sundays and one glass of red wine a week.

This coincided with two-a-day workouts -- cardio and light weights in the morning, alongside co-star Mark Wahlberg, and heavy weights in the evening -- and he made sure he got eight hours of sleep nightly "because your body grows when you sleep."

The disciplined results are evident in "Pain & Gain" alongside the equally pumped up Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Mr. Wahlberg.

They star in the Michael Bay action comedy as personal trainers in 1990s Miami who try to steal a piece of the American dream and end up entangled in kidnapping, torture and murder. The movie is based on a real story.

Asked about the take and tone the director was after, Mr. Mackie says, "He wanted to capture the reality of this sick, ridiculous situation. He felt like these guys put themselves in a position where they couldn't win.

"It was more so the idea of what happened, as opposed to who did it. So he really just let us go as far as we wanted to go, but he wanted the truth of the situation as opposed to just making it up as we were going along."

The New Orleans-born actor, whose long list of credits include playing a member of the bomb squad in the Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker," a defensive back sidelined at school by injury in "We Are Marshall" and a shadowy figure in "The Adjustment Bureau," had no desire or need to meet the real-life Doorbal, who is on death row.

"I stayed as far away from that wormhole as possible," he said. "Adrian Doorbal is a real person but no one really knows him. No one really knows anything about him. No one really knows his temperament, his shortcomings."

It's not as if he's playing someone like, say, Jimi Hendrix and "everyone feels like they know that person so you're required to bring those realistic aspects of him to the screen."

Besides, the actor heard a story about Doorbal that told him more than anything the man might have said about himself. He went missing one day during the trial and they found him in the rest room in a compromising position with his paralegal.

Doorbal is defined by his steroid use and abuse and Mr. Mackie talked with his personal physician along with friends who are doctors or bodybuilders about that side of the character. Online videos provided a window into the world of weightlifting.

Mr. Mackie's physique will be essential to one of his next characters: Sam Wilson/the Falcon in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." This time, though, he's trying to mold himself in a different way.

"I didn't want to get too big for the Falcon so I've been doing a lot of cardio and just elongating my muscles as opposed to building them up. ... A dancer, you have those long, lean, beautiful lines, those long muscles, that's what I was going for with the Falcon."

Mr. Mackie, who starred in the 2003 revival of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," took to heart advice he once received from August Wilson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Talking about the Pittsburgh-born playwright, he said, "One day I was doing the play and he came up to me after the show and he said, 'Your character's funny. The audience likes you, the work you've done is really good work.' I said thank you. He said, 'Give the people what they want, don't give them what you want them to have.'

"That kind of just stuck with me 'cause basically he was telling me I was doing too much, I was overacting, I was pushing too hard to try and make the people laugh. Whereas if I just give them the character, they'll appreciate it and go on the ride with me."

As for Mr. Jackson, the highest grossing movie actor of all time, the younger performer asked how he stays so busy all the time. He told him no one likes a jerk, although he used a different seven-letter word.

"He said most people that work, they work because people like having them around. He's like, the first day of the movie, you go on set, you learn everybody's name, you call them by their name, you make them feel comfortable and want to come to work."

Mr. Mackie follows that advice and introduces himself to everyone, whether they're keeping the craft services table stocked with bite-size candy bars or producing the multimillion-dollar project.

He wants them to know their jobs on the film are just as important as his, which is also why it never hurts to treat everyone to a beer as a thank you for their hard work on the set.

"My dad [owned a roofing company] and he always made everybody feel special, down to his secretary, and every Friday, he would get a big ice chest full of beer and sit it outside the warehouse and give all the guys a beer after they came in after a hard day's work," he said.

"I never forgot that. I remember the first time I got to sit and have a beer on the back of the truck with them."

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies. First Published April 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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