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Anthony Mackie's original MCU contract was for 10 movies

Marvel Studios knows how to lock in its talent.

Anthony Mackie, who portrays Sam Wilson/Falcon/Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, revealed in a recent profile in Men's Health that his original contract was for a whopping ten pictures — and that wasn't the only interesting tidbit the star dropped about his MCU journey.

Marvel famously requires its major players to sign on for a ridiculous number of films, but Mackie's contract speaks not only to his formidable talent, but to the importance of Wilson in the grand scheme of things. When he first appeared in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it certainly looked like the character was bound to take up residence as a staunch ally of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) for many years and movies to come. But the ten-picture deal implies that before he even set foot before the cameras, Marvel's brass had an inkling that Wilson might become a major player down the road.

Mackie's road to superhero stardom began, of all things, with a rather informal email. The actor's star had been on the rise since his appearance in Kathryn Bigelow's 2009 Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker, but a series of major life events — including the birth of his son and the death of his father — prompted him to take some time off from acting. Once he was ready to jump in the pool again, he immediately had his team shoot an email to Marvel. "My line was 'Yo, I'm the black dude from The Hurt Locker," Mackie told Men's Health. "I would love to work with you guys."

Interestingly, even after he signed that hefty deal, he had no idea who he'd actually be playing. Once his role was finally revealed to him — all of two months before Winter Soldier began shooting — he was over the Moon. "Growing up, I'd always loved Falcon, because he was a comic-book hero who was black who didn't have 'Black' in the title," he said. "He stood on his morals. He stood on who he was."

The flick's co-director Anthony Russo, who of course would go on to serve the same role on Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, knew that his new hire was special right off the bat. "He has charisma, but he also has the ability to convey integrity in a way that very few actors can," Russo explained. "And there's a level of trust between him and the audience."

The flick's producer Nate Moore agreed, seeing in Mackie an actor who could sell his character's confidence even when operating alongside a legendary super soldier. "We wanted to make sure Sam felt like an equal to Steve Rogers both in disposition and in charm. We knew we'd be sunk if we cast a younger actor, or an actor without weight," Moore said. "But when we sat down with Anthony, the Russo brothers and I realized that here was an incredibly talented, credible actor who would be believable as a former serviceman who would be capable of pulling Steve out of his shell in the modern day."

Mackie's next several appearances as Wilson would see him become a full-fledged Avenger, have a hilarious fight with Ant-Man, and develop a slightly antagonistic yet comedically genuine chemistry with Rogers' other best buddy, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). But true to Marvel's form, the star had no clue what lay in store for him after the events of Endgame. Evans, however, did.

Mackie related a story in which he and a few other MCU pals were watching football at Evans' house, when he happened to mention that he hadn't gotten a look at the entire screenplay for Endgame. "Chris gets the look of a six-year-old kid on his face, runs away, and comes back with the script," Mackie said. "I'm reading it, and it dawns on me what's happening."

The actor said that prior to being handed Cap's shield by Evans onscreen, he had never even touched it before. He likened the experience to "winning the Oscar… I was nervous. I was excited. I was stumbling over words." Russo noted that Mackie's mixed feelings over taking on the mantle of Captain America served the onscreen moment well. "His performance comes across as genuine, because it's the way he actually felt: both vulnerable and steadfast," the director said.

As it stands, that big fat deal just may need to be extended. Mackie has appeared as Wilson in six features so far, and it stands to reason that the MCU's new Cap is probably going to be around for some time. The actor knows he has a long and physically strenuous road ahead of him — not that he would do a single thing differently.

"It's funny, because I feel like my friends are way more excited than I am, because I know the amount of work that has to go into it," he said. "They're just excited to say that I have to buy drinks now. But I definitely wouldn't call it a burden. I would more so call it an opportunity."

We are absolutely pumped to see Sam Wilson filling his old friend's shoes, and quite interested to see just how the character settles into his new mantle, a situation which is sure to be addressed in the upcoming Falcon and Winter Soldier Disney+ limited series. Oh, and since we know you're curious, Mackie did happen to address one burning question which any Marvel fan would love to have the answer to: what does Cap's shield actually feel like in hand?

"It's unbalanced," the star said. "And it's heavy."