Mickey Rourke caps comeback with Venice film win

Sat Sep 6, 2008 5:46pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and Silvia Aloisi

VENICE (Reuters) - Hollywood outsider Mickey Rourke capped his big screen comeback on Saturday when "The Wrestler," in which he plays a lonely, washed out fighter, won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice festival.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the moving tale poignantly echoes Rourke's own troubled life in and out of the boxing ring and film studio, and critics are tipping the star for an Oscar nomination early next year.

"Darren Aronofsky came here a couple of years ago and fell on his ass," Rourke told the packed Sala Grande theatre where the awards were given out. He was referring to the director's critical flop "The Fountain" which premiered in Venice in 2006.

"I am glad he had the balls to come back. I don't think he wanted to come. I said, 'You've got to come'."

German director Wim Wenders, president of the seven-member jury, added: "This is for a film with a truly heartbreaking performance in the very sense of the word, and if I say heartbreaking, you know I am talking about Mickey Rourke."

Wenders suggested Rourke, who looked disheveled with his collar open, tie undone and cigar in hand, could have also won the best actor prize in Venice, but the festival does not allow a Golden Lion winner to pick up best acting awards too.

"The Wrestler," for which Rourke said he was not paid, was one of 21 films in the main competition lineup, and the awards ceremony wound up 11 hectic days of screenings, interviews, press conferences and red carpet glamour.

Rourke was accompanied on Saturday by his ageing dog, which posed for photographers alongside the star.   Continued...

<p>U.S. director Darren Aronofsky (R) holds the Golden Lion prize for best movie "The Wrestler" next to Mickey Rourke during a photocall at the 65th edition of the Venice Film Festival September 6, 2008. Rourke stars in the Aronofsky movie. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>