Anthony Mackie Thinks ‘Twisted Metal’ Will Blow You Away

tm-ft-1-1 - Credit: Peacock
tm-ft-1-1 - Credit: Peacock

It used to be said that “Sega did what Nintendon’t,” but in reality it was Sony’s PlayStation that garnered a reputation for bigger, more mature games that Nineties kids yearned for. One such game was Twisted Metal.


Original ‘Mario’ Creator and Composer Unlock ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’

'Street Fighter 6' Is a Knockout for Gamers of All Levels

The Creators of 'Diablo IV' Want You to Go to Hell

Co-created by David Jaffe and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, Twisted Metal centered around demolition derby-style vehicular mayhem, with players taking on the role of different drivers – each with their own unique shtick and thinly-defined origin – traveling the globe in a tournament of death. The end goal? Survive the slaughter and have your deepest wish magically granted by the shady contest owner, Calypso.

More from Rolling Stone

A true product of the Nineties, Twisted Metal was equal parts goofy and grim, firmly leaning into the tongue-in-cheek excess of the era in both design and aesthetic. Every character felt like a devil’s reject from a Rob Zombie video – until Rob Zombie himself eventually joined the roster in the 4th game – and their stories generally ended with a morbid monkey’s paw-twist on their heart’s desire.

In some ways, it’s tough to see why this specific property would be next up on the ever-growing adaptation slate for the newly-formed PlayStation Productions, but it makes sense given that its creative team consists of Michael Jonathan Smith (Cobra Kai) and the writing duo of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool, Zombieland). It’s also got an Avenger as its lead.

Anthony Mackie, formerly The Falcon, but now donning the stars and stripes in next year’s Captain America: Brave New World, both executive produces and stars in this adaptation of Twisted Metal, which begins streaming July 27 on Peacock. Billed as a half-hour action-comedy with bite, it’s looking to set itself apart from the crowd of video game adaptations made up of blockbuster children’s films and, somehow, prestige dramas.

Rolling Stone recently sat down for an exclusive interview with star Anthony Mackie to discuss facing down a killer clown, the essential makeup of a Nineties mixtape, and why it’s time for kids to play other games outside of “all this Minecraft shit.”

A scene from 'Twisted Metal.'
‘Minecraft’ doesn’t have serial killer clowns.

How did you get mixed up with Twisted Metal?
I was looking for something different; I was looking for something in a comedy vein. It kind of came up luckily because the original group that put it together [brought] me on board. [When] I read the pilot, I was a big fan of MJ [Michael Jonathan Smith], who was the showrunner, [and] also did Cobra Kai, because I love that show. And once he told me what episodes he had done, I was like, “Oh, wow, [this] is really fun TV.”

With Cobra Kai, MJ has worked a lot with nostalgia, which plays heavily into Twisted Metal – specifically Nineties nostalgia. How did that work into the show from the get-go?
It was fun man! You know, the Nineties was an amazing decade. If you look at R&B, you look at hip-hop, if you look at rock, even punk. I feel like the Nineties was the pinnacle of our generation’s music kind of like how Motown was the pinnacle of our parents’ generation’s music. People were allowed to be goofy and funny and make fun of themselves in the Nineties. [We] took artistic liberty with that and went as far as we could.

Did you work extensively with executive producers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (of Deadpool fame)?
I did because I was a producer on it. We did many calls together and many reads and many notes and spent a bunch of time together. And those guys, just the two of them, when I heard they were on board… [you] don’t usually get an opportunity to work with writers like that. So, it was fun. It was fun just to spitball ideas and bounce ideas. The thing about comedy, you just throw out every bad idea. That’s when you might have one that’s just gold. So, I was able and allowed to be as silly and idiotic as I usually am, and everybody either laughed or said no.

John Doe (Mackie) and the mysterious Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz) get to lean into 'Twisted Metal's' gonzo tone.
John Doe (Mackie) and the mysterious Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz) get to lean into ‘Twisted Metal’s’ gonzo tone.

Despite being very funny in the Avengers films, you rarely do straight-up comedy. Why were you looking for this opportunity?
I feel like the context of it and the people who were working on it, it was kind of like the perfect storm. If you sit back and tell somebody, “Well, we have the writers from Deadpool, and we have this and we have that,” [you’re] not going to get much better than that. It became something that… I don’t know, I guess because I’m more of an “intimidating” figure, most people don’t see me as a “funny guy,” or a “happy-go-lucky guy,” or a guy who likes to crack jokes. It’s a hard world to break into unless you’re doing slapstick comedy. It was interesting to finally be not only indoctrinated but accepted in that world.

Speaking of intimidating figures, what was it like working opposite wrestler Samoa Joe as series mascot Sweet Tooth the killer clown?
I’ve been a fan of Samoa Joe’s for a while now, just for wrestling, and he’s just a nice guy. He’s one of those guys that’s so huge that he just has to be nice, because nobody’s trying to try him. [He’d] break you in half. He doesn’t have any natural predators! So, he’s just a nice guy.

It’s funny because we have a few toss-ups, a few fight scenes in the show, and I have to say, I was really impressed by him, just specifically in his ability… it was almost like commedia dell’arte watching him work because his face was covered, and it was all body gestures and stuff like that. It was really, really impressive, the work he was able to do and the way he brought this character to life. It’s funny to see somebody who – the way that [Dave] Bautista did in Guardians of the Galaxy – once you take somebody’s identity away, all of a sudden, it frees them up to be whoever that character is. And Samoa, he embraced that one hundred percent and made Sweet Tooth, I think, a crowd favorite from this show.

Franchise mascot Sweet Tooth is played by Samoa Joe onscreen and voiced by Will Arnett in 'Twisted Metal.'
Franchise mascot Sweet Tooth is played by Samoa Joe onscreen and voiced by Will Arnett in ‘Twisted Metal.’

What’s it like staring down that mask in a scene?
It was the first day on set. I had to catch myself. I walk in, and they’re putting on his wardrobe and his mask. The scene that we were in… [the] Las Vegas scene of him, in Las Vegas after the apocalypse, and just seeing him with that backdrop with that reality was really jarring. And, as much as he was acting, I don’t know if he was just beating me up because I’m in The Avengers. I don’t know what it was, but he was pulling no punches, flinging me around like a bag of potatoes. It was fun, though! I can say I got beat up by Samoa Joe and I lived to tell about it.

Your character is named John Doe, but he’s not from the games. What’s he all about?
Yeah, John is a “milkman,” going from city to city and picking up and dropping off packages. He’s a loner. That’s the big thing – I loved Twisted Metal growing up. I had the game and I would play the game. I wasn’t good at it because the original game was basically bumper cars. There were basically cars just shooting each other and blowing each other up with nondescript characters, but characters nonetheless, that we never got to see. And what we did was we took [that] reality and gave it a backstory and gave it characters who you can really relate to in a television sense.

John Doe starts off as a nondescript milkman, just a guy with a lot of flair and flavor, a guy who has adapted to the world in which he lives in now, and has developed the ability to [navigate] himself through that world in a successful way. And because of that, you really get to know him and like him, because just like the world’s simple, he’s a very simple human being. [There’s] no exaggeration or extreme around him. The simplicity of the world has now taken over the simplicity of the nature of [John] as an individual.

John Doe and Quiet find themselves becoming unlikely partners in 'Twisted Metal.'
John Doe and Quiet find themselves becoming unlikely partners in ‘Twisted Metal.’

From the pilot, the show leans into ludicrousness. Was there an internal logic for everything or was it mostly just like, “Fuck it, this is what it is?”
No, no, no, no, no, there was extreme internal logic. That was a lot of the conversations, as producers, we talked about. MJ led a lot of that, just keeping that bible and keeping it true to each character, and what those characters meant.

Tell me about some other characters, like Quiet [Stephanie Beatriz].
She plays a very significant role in the world that we’re in, but also her name plays a very significant role in the character. [There’s] a reason why she’s called Quiet. Like you see in the trailer I say, “She don’t speak much,” and she goes, “Fuck you,” and I’m like, “All right, I guess she does.” It was just really well-crafted and smartly done, but the world is intricate in a way that every name and every character have their place. It becomes a whole three-dimensional world from basically a one-dimensional video game.

How much of the production was practically done? There’s a sequence where you literally drive through a mall…
I can honestly say, I’m one of the only actors alive that got to drive a car through a mall. It was fun, man. [A lot] of the aspects of this show were done practically. We had a mall scene, so we went and found a closed-down mall, and we hauled ass through a mall. It was great because it was [in] New Orleans that we shot. We had a lot of spaces and a lot of places that look like they were post-apocalyptic that we were able to use and identify as our locations. And then we just had the spoil of having so many different places to shoot. But a lot of the things [were] shot practically and just whatever we needed [was] CGI’d. We didn’t have a real machine gun, but all the stuff around the machine guns is real.

Mackie did a lot of his own stunt driving in 'Twisted Metal.'
Mackie did a lot of his own stunt-driving in ‘Twisted Metal.’

Do you have previous experience with stunt-driving?
I did a little bit of stunt-driving with the guys who were there working on cars and stuff, but for the most part, it’s just putting on a helmet and seeing how far you can go before you wreck.

Wait, did you wreck?
No. Fortunately enough, we had a really good team. And we had a great group of guys who build some really strong cars, cars that were able to take a beating. Because of that, we were all pretty safe. You have so many people who aren’t used to driving like that, being able to swing cars in the parking spots and drift through corners and things like that. I went to my driving instructor, and I was like, “This is stuff I want to learn… I want to spend more time on track than on the set.” So, a lot of that stuff I got to practice and learn and bought a little shitty car and put it on a track and just ran into walls until I had a good idea of what I was doing.

In the world of Twisted Metal, what kind of car would you want to drive?
I would say you need something big, and you need something that could take a beating. I think a Hummer would be kind of the obvious choice. I think something that had some weight behind it that you could really put some gear on would give you a good chance of staying alive. I would say like a ‘76 Eldorado Cadillac, something like that. Like a 1970s Lincoln… a 1975 Lincoln Continental four-door?

Thomas Haden Church brings gravitas to the lunacy as the no-nonsense Agent Stone in 'Twisted Metal.'
Thomas Haden Church brings gravitas to the lunacy as the no-nonsense Agent Stone in ‘Twisted Metal.’

With shows like this, and things like The Last of Us and The Super Mario Bros. Movie, there is this sense of a video game renaissance in Hollywood. Why do you think that’s happening?
I think, because our generation – I don’t know how old you are – my generation grew up on video games. That was our thing. That was our outlet. Now we’re old [Laughs]. Those video games have a sentimental value to us. So, seeing those come back to life, seeing those being adapted and given the opportunity to have a second chance is really cool. It’s fun. We get to re-engage and reconnect with those characters, but also re-engage and connect with another generation through those characters. I can’t wait for my boys to see Twisted Metal so I can show them the game that I grew up playing, with all this Minecraft shit and all that. I want them to see the type of game that I grew up playing. You know, I didn’t play “build-a-blox” growing up.

Twisted Metal was kind of a surprising choice for an adaptation. There hasn’t been a new game in the series since 2012. If this led to a revival, would you want to star in the game, too?
Of course I would. I mean, the great thing about the show and how it sets up the game is you now have a story, you now have an identification marker of all the characters, so it’s cool because you can play the game now and you know exactly how those characters fit into the game. Whereas before it wasn’t so much character-driven, you can really delve into the characters now and play in that world and have specific missions that you have to run as a milkman. It’s kind of like an evolution of the game in a way that I feel gives it a perfect second life.

Speaking of Nineties callbacks, Neve Campbell plays a very crucial, but mysterious role in 'Twisted Metal.'
Speaking of Nineties callbacks, Neve Campbell plays a very crucial, but mysterious role in ‘Twisted Metal.’

The show has tons of needle drops from the Nineties. Were they all added in later or were there ones that made the rounds on set?
They were added in later. We all had our favorites, and everybody put it in their list and everybody remembered those good times of those songs. They were all agreed upon and added in later. But I will say now if we were to put together a four-disc – I don’t even know if they make CDs anymore – if we were to put together a four-CD soundtrack of all the songs that we put together to vote on? That would be a kick-ass soundtrack.

Talking to the kids again, what are the essential songs they need to hear from the Nineties?
I would have to say one of my favorite songs growing up – and I actually still have the CD – De La Soul did a song called “Ego Trippin.’” Classic, classic. Can’t beat it. Eric B. & Rakim [have] a song called “Microphone Fiend,” and just the lyrical artistic expression in this song is something that you just can’t compete with. The way he described his addiction to music and how that performs in his life and how he is literally hip-hop is amazing. And the “Macarena” for safe measure.

You gotta have a fallback.
You gotta have a fallback! That was my one song that didn’t make the show, was “Macarena.” I’m like, “Everybody did the Macarena. Come on!” You gotta have Vanilla Ice. You gotta have Salt-N-Pepa. And you gotta have “Macarena.”

The original Twisted Metal games hinged on drivers competing in a deathmatch for a chance at having their ultimate wish granted. Let’s say you won. What are you wishing for?
What would my wish be if I won Twisted Metal? That’s a great question. On a surface level, my wish would be that I could find my dream car because I feel like Twisted Metal is all about cars and what you’re driving. You’re outfitting those cars to keep you alive. So, I’ve always wanted a 1967 Lincoln Continental convertible. And you know, Entourage came out and messed up my whole dream, but I’ve always wanted that car. That would be my wish, if I can find a mint condition ‘68 Fastback Shelby Mustang or a Lincoln Continental from… I would say ’67. [That] would be my wish.

Or you know, the big thing, if I would have the opportunity: To move to the Caribbean and never be seen again.

Best of Rolling Stone

Click here to read the full article.