Role called for its own ‘Pain & Gain’

Actor Anthony Mackie arrive at the LA Premiere of
Actor Anthony Mackie arrive at the LA Premiere of "Pain and Gain" at the TCL Theatre.

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 similarly pumped-up Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and 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, 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.”

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.”

Doorbal is defined by his steroid use and abuse, and 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.

Mackie’s physique will be essential to one of his next characters: Sam Wilson/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.”

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Barbara Vancheri is the movie editor for the Post-Gazette.

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