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A different way of fighting
Mickey Rourke wrestles his career back into shape...
16.Sep.52, Schenectady, NY
|B Y R I C H C L I N E
No matter how deserving Sean Penn might have been, most people believed that this should have been Mickey Rourke's year at the Oscars in February. But never mind. He still delivered the performance of the year as a "broken down piece of meat", drawing on his own life experiences and letting himself be pushed to the brink by genius filmmaker Darren Aronofsky.
It's not as if Rourke was ever a has-been - he has worked consistently throughout his career. But after scene-stealing roles in Body Heat (1981), Diner (1982) and Rumble Fish (1983), he graduated to leading man status with The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), Nine and a Half Weeks (1986) and Angel Heart (1987). Then things went a bit strange, as he seemed to throw his career away through bad choices, a messy personal life and battles with filmmakers and studio heads. He kept working, but didn't quite become, as expected, the Brando of his generation. Enter Aronofsky, who promised to reinvent Rourke as a serious actor again if he'd let him...
How much of a debt do you owe to Aronofsky for casting you in this movie?
Well, he knew you were perfect for the role...
I knew why Darren wanted me to do this role when I read it. He wanted me to revisit those dark painful moments and the physical aspects. He said to me, "You have got to do everything I tell you. Listen to everything I say and do not disrespect me ever in front of the crew. Oh, and I cannot pay you." I thought, "Okay, well, he's smart and he's got balls, so bring it on." We would do these takes, emotional stuff, the scenes with Randy's daughter and whatever, and I would let it all out, and then he'd say, "Give it to me again. Bring it more!" And I'd do it and I'd do it better. It would be like the guy in the boxing corner saying, "Just give me one more round." I think a lot of people in the acting business run from that but if you use it the way we used it in the movie and you work off each other as a team, that's when it works. I have had actors where they tried to outdo me - that ain't going to happen; I'm going to roll you up and smoke you like a cheap cigarette because that's what I do best.
Did your years as a boxer help you with the wrestling?
Did you have to train a lot for this?
How did it feel to get under the skin of someone like Randy?
Which of your films make you most proud today?
Bruce Springsteen wrote the movie's title track. You two know each other through Sean Penn, right?
Right. I've known Bruce for over 20 years and he's seen the worst of me. We lost touch for about 13 of those years, the dark years, and then I decided to write him a letter, asking him to write the song for The Wrestler. In the letter I told Bruce all about the mistakes I'd made and that I was fortunate and blessed enough that I was able to meet a few good men who told me why I had become so hardened, both physically and mentally, even to the point that I didn't realise, until I lost everything - my house, my wife, the lot. I told him about the character, and how I had been fortunate enough to change. And change came hard for me. It has taken 13 years. Randy doesn't have accessibility to that information, and that's what I think Bruce understood. I wasn't expecting to hear much but then, in the middle of the night, I get this phone call. Bruce is on tour but says that he's written us a song. For nothing. And he wrote the most beautiful song, which sums up the heart and the core of the character. When I heard it, it blew my mind. I'm so proud of the fact that he did that. He didn't need no money, he wouldn't do it if some studio called him out of the blue, and you just can't buy that. I took the director, Darren Aronofsky, to the Giants Stadium to see Springsteen play a show and we all met afterwards backstage. Darren says to him, 'Why did you write this beautiful song for us?" And Bruce said, "Simple. I want Mickey to be back where he used to be." He understands that I lost my way. And then I saw that he had his acoustic guitar and he played the song for Darren. It's was like, "F**k, that's magical, man."
Were you annoyed that Sean Penn beat you to the Oscar?
THANKS TO JOHN AT OPTIMUM • JUN.09
© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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