Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Brothers to the Max: Brother to Brother Star Anthony Mackie Talks about How He and the Film's Gay Director Pushed It to the Limits

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Brothers to the Max: Brother to Brother Star Anthony Mackie Talks about How He and the Film's Gay Director Pushed It to the Limits

Article excerpt

"Every screening we have of Brother to Brother," says Anthony Mackie excitedly, "the biggest compliment--or the funniest comment--I get is that people meet me and say, 'I can't believe you're not gay.' Now, that's a huge compliment. I've served my purpose to be true to the character. But at the same time it's funny."

Mackie, who happens to be straight, is quite sincere about this--and not in the Seinfeld-ian "Not that there's anything wrong with that" sense. Just 26 years old and rising fast on Hollywood's short list, Mackie is well aware of the importance this first starring role has to his career. Yet in his enthusiasm he's as invested in it as if the were gay.

"Perry, the character that I play, is very confused about being a young African-American gay artist," Mackie explains. "Once he figures out a bit of that through meeting this older gay man, Perry develops an overwhelming clarity. There are a lot of layers to him."

There are a lot of layers in Brother to Brother too. Written and directed by Rodney Evans for well under half a million dollars, the Sundance Film Festival prizewinner swept gay filmfests this summer, including becoming the first film ever to win both the Audience and Grand Jury awards for Outstanding Narrative Feature at Los Angeles's Outfest.

Brother to Brother deals with the friendship between the gay black youth played by Mackie and painter and poet Bruce Nugent, a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, played by Roger Robinson as an older man and by Duane Boutte [see page 56] in flashbacks to the 1930s. "I went to Juilliard with Rodney," Mackie says of the film's writer-director, who is gay. "We've been good friends ever since. When I [first heard about the project] I told Rodney, 'We've had To Wong Foo; we've had the whole West Village aspect, [I want] to deal with a human being who needs to understand his love and his compassion for another person. That's the movie I want to make.' And that's the movie we made."

Despite its minuscule budget, Brother to Brother easily navigates a to-and-fro structure that contrasts black-and-white flashbacks of Nugent's youth--with Harlem Renaissance compatriots Langston Hughes (Daniel Sunjata), Wallace Thurman (Ray Ford), and Zora Neale Hurston (Aunjanue Ellis)--with a full-color present in which Nugent is now the older gay man mentoring the younger one. …

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