Under the Circuit: Anthony Mackie

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Most Known For: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “The Hurt Locker”

Snubbed For: “The Hurt Locker”

The crop of talent Marvel has built up for central roles in its cinematic universe is an impressive call sheet of actors. A number of them Academy Award-nominated performers like Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner. They also have an impressive list of actors who somehow have been overlooked thus far by the Academy, one example of which is Anthony Mackie. Mackie may soar as the Falcon in “Captain America,” but he’s hit some questionable turbulence when it comes to landing his first Oscar nomination.

Mackie’s film career started with roles in films like “8 Mile,” “Hollywood Homicide” and “The Manchurian Candidate,” but it was his appearance in Clint Eastwood’s Best Picture winning “Million Dollar Baby” that really got our attention.

004MDB_Anthony_Mackie_001Mackie played Shawrelle Berry in the film, an arrogant young boxer who inhabits the gym owned by Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn, and he is effectively despicable as he taunts both Hilary Swank’s lead and Jay Baruchel’s undersized but determined hopeful. He didn’t really steal any scenes from his heavyweight co-stars, but he did prove to be a great piece in the ensemble.

2006 would be a busy year for Mackie as he starred in five films including Ryan Gosling’s “Half Nelson,” “Freedomland,” and “We Are Marshall.” The latter proved to his most substantial role, playing one of the surviving members from the original Marshall football team that tries to rebuild the program after a devastating plane crash.

While his early work proved he had the potential to be a solid and reliable actor, and his more recent performances continue to support that and grow his budding star potential, the elephant in the room as far as Mackie’s history with the Academy is “The Hurt Locker.”

Mackie starred opposite Jeremy Renner, who was nominated for his performance in the film, as Sergeant JT Sanborn, who often butted heads with Renner’s James. “Hurt Locker” would be another Best Picture winner on Mackie’s credit, but this time around the omission of his performance would be a much harder pill to swallow.

the-hurt-locker-anthony-mackie1021011Mackie is fantastic as Sanborn, whose conflicting personality with Renner makes their relationship nearly as explosive as the bombs they are attempting to defuse. But by the end of the film, in a brilliant monologue from Mackie, we learn just what kind of impact this war has had on this tough soldier.

While it’s impossible to argue Chirstoph Waltz winning Best Supporting Actor that year, some of the nominees are questionable in hindsight, especially when held up to Mackie’s performance – most notably Christopher Plummer for “The Last Station” and Matt Damon for “Invictus.” Mackie would have to settle for nominations from the Indie Spirit Awards and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics and ensemble wins for “The Hurt Locker.”

But between his new role in Marvel and his other post “Hurt Locker” roles, Mackie is now a fixture of Hollywood and should have a number of opportunities down the line. Just on the horizon we will see him as part of what could easily be one of the best ensembles of 2015 with John Hillcoat’s “Triple Nine,” he’ll join Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Jonathan Levine’s upcoming Christmas Eve movie, and there are rumors he may make an appearance in “Avengers: Age of Ultron;” if not we know he will be returning for “Captain America: Civil War.”

Perhaps most intriguing for Mackie will be David Gordon Green’s “Our Brand is Crisis.” We know the film focuses on the use of American political campaign strategies in South America and stars Sandra Bullock, but we don’t fully know what role Mackie will play in it, but with that type of logline and from an interesting filmmaker like Green, there are a number of interesting possibilities.

I’d be surprised if Mackie doesn’t end up an Oscar nominee one of these days, it certainly seems like he will have the opportunity to should he want to go for the gold. He’s proved he can be a valuable supporting player, and if/when that chance to be a leading man ever comes up it would be no surprise to see him succeed there too.

Mackie can next be seen in “Black or White,” which opens in theaters this Friday, Jan. 30.