‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: Anthony Mackie Really Flew Onto the Nose of an Airplane

Marvel has taken the streaming world by storm. By releasing riveting limited series such as WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the entertainment franchise has managed to keep fans engaged throughout much of 2021 thus far. 

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, is set after the events of Avengers: Endgame and focuses on the government’s efforts to replace Chris Evans’ Captain America.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is full of dangerous stunts that required practice and supervision. In fact, one of the show’s most popular stunts required Mackie to fly onto the front of an airplane in real life. 

Anthony Mackie really flew onto the front of an airplane in ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’

Anthony Mackie headshot
Anthony Mackie attends the European premiere of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ at Vue Westfield. | Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

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Eric Leven, the visual effects supervisor of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, explained how the team pulled off the stunt during a recent interview on Marvel’s YouTube page. He confirmed that Mackie did, indeed, have to land on the front of an airplane.

“Not with a plane in the air, but with a plane on the ground,” Leven said. “That was something that we — we previs that.”

Previs, or previsualization, is an animation tool the effects team uses to visualize action sequences before actors and stunt people have to do them in real life. Once Leven figured out how he wanted the stunt to look, he was able to get Mackie to pull off the trick. 

“So we saw the sort of video game version of it, where we had Falcon kind of coming in and just sort of landing on the plane’s cockpit,” Leven said. “And we talked with the stunt coordinator and the riggers and figured out, ‘I think we can do that for real.’ We’re going to be on an Air Force base. We have a real plane. And they would wire Anthony up on a traveling harness that would actually fly him into the shot.”

The visual effects team used real wingsuit flyers for the action sequence

In the same action sequence, wingsuit flyers can be seen weaving through canyons. Leven also confirmed in the same interview that the wingsuit flyers were real too. 

“Not only are we working with actual folks in wingsuits, but Captain Vassant is strapped to one of the wingsuit pilots,” Leven revealed. 

According to Leven, it’s very common to strap actors together and then make them jump out of an airplane. 

“In the story, yeah he’s gonna strap him, and he’s gonna jump out,” Leven said. “And I was talking with the stunt coordinator, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, we can do that. … We do it all the time. You just strap a guy to another guy, and he’ll just hold on real tight and they’ll jump out of the airplane.'”

‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ visual effects crew wanted to make everything look real

More than anything, it was important for the visual effects crew to make everything look as real as possible. So a lot of time and attention went into crafting each stunt. 

“What I really wanted to do with those action sequences was, as much as possible, make things feel like they’re grounded in reality,” Leven said. “So obviously, we don’t have Anthony Mackie flying around in a real jetpack with real wings. But we want to make it feel like if he was, how would we film that?”