"The Wrestler" wins big at Spirit Awards

Sun Feb 22, 2009 2:09am EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Wrestler" pummeled its opponents at the Spirit Awards on Saturday, winning three awards, including best feature at the independent film world's equivalent of the Oscars.

The film's star, Mickey Rourke, won the male lead race for his comeback title role as a washed-up fighter. French camerawoman Maryse Alberti won the cinematography prize for her work on the film.

Rourke, a Hollywood bad-boy whose career flat-lined years ago before his resurrection in "The Wrestler," basked in the limelight as he received his award to a partial standing ovation underneath a marquee on Santa Monica beach.

After kissing the film's director, Darren Aronofsky, on the lips, the 56-year-old actor launched into a meandering speech in which he recalled being arrested by the local police a decade ago, urged Hollywood to give his friend Eric Roberts another shot, and fought back tears as he paid tribute to his recently deceased Chihuahua dog Loki.

For his part, Aronofsky told reporters backstage that he hoped to work with Rourke again.

"I've been joking with him I'm going to wait five years 'til he screws it up again, and then come back and reinvent him," Aronofsky said.

Rourke and "Milk" star Sean Penn, an absentee Spirit nominee, are the front-runners to win the Academy Award on Sunday. Each year, a handful of Spirit winners usually go on to take home an Oscar, and Aronofsky diplomatically suggested the ideal solution would be a rare tie.

But "Frozen River" star Melissa Leo, who won the female lead Spirit over fellow Oscar nominee Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), was in no doubt about her prospects.

"I have no chance," Leo said, when asked about her Oscar prospects. "Don't put your money on me."   Continued...

<p>Actor Mickey Rourke arrives at the 24th annual Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California February 21, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>