When I was in L.A. for the Hollywood Homicide premiere, I stayed at the W Hotel in Westwood. It was also the premiere for The Matrix Reloaded, and all these cool people from that movie were coming into the lobby—Will Smith, Jada Pinkett, Laurence Fishburne—who I got to meet and say hello to. Will Smith invited me to the Matrix premiere, and I was like, “No, man, I have my own premiere, big homie!”
More recently I was having lunch at Culina at the Four Seasons, and suddenly—Oh! It’s Morgan Freeman! So I walk over, and he says, “Anthony Mackie, what’s up?” And I’m like, “Oh, shit! He remembers me.” When we were doing Million Dollar Baby in L.A., I showed up on set, and Clint Eastwood says, “So the scene is going to be this, and you go up to Morgan and you do this, and Morgan will knock you out.” And I’m like, “OK, cool.” So I do my push-ups, I put on baby oil so my arms look good, and I get in the ring. I go, “Wow, Morgan, so nice to meet you,” and Morgan goes, “All right, kid, let’s go.” So I throw my first punch, I throw my second punch, and then he hits me and I hit the floor. Morgan Freeman just punched me in the face! And he goes, “Pay your dues, punk!” I realized the value of paying my dues after getting punched in the face by Morgan Freeman. He’s pretty dope—he’s not one of those people who says, “I’m going to mentor you and we can hang out and have tea.” But there’s something about Morgan Freeman knowing who you are and letting you know who you are. He went through three of my movies and told me what he liked about them, what I could’ve done better. You can’t pay for that.
The Oscars for The Hurt Locker were really amazing. We were kind of like the golden boys of the ceremony. I was sitting in the back with [costar] Brian Geraghty, and when they were doing Best Picture, I said, “If we win, we’re running up onstage.” Geraghty said, “We can’t run up onstage,” and I was like, “Dude…we’re running up onstage.” So they called the film’s name, and we jump up, and we’re literally in a full sprint. I get onstage and I look up, and it’s Tom Hanks. And I say, “Tom Hanks! What are you doing up here? Did you work on the movie?” And he was like, “No, I just presented you with the award.” So I hugged Tom Hanks, and all of us grabbed Oscars. It was by far the most surreal experience of my life. But only the producers got an actual statue. We just got a handshake, a certificate, and free champagne. And an invitation to Madonna’s party.