Just a Minute With: Mickey Rourke on film comeback

Thu Dec 18, 2008 9:59am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. actor Mickey Rourke knows all about the dark side of Hollywood -- a bad-boy reputation meant years of rejection for a man who, in the 1980s, was a star with a great future after turns in "Diner," "Rumble Fish" and "Angel Heart."

After 15 years as a struggling actor, during which he returned to his boyhood love of boxing, the 52-year-old made a tentative comeback to the movie mainstream in the comic book adaptation "Sin City" in 2005.

But it is his performance in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" that really has impressed the critics, who, along with Rourke himself, say it is his best performance to date. On Thursday, he was nominated for best actor in a film drama by the Screen Actors Guild, to go along with his Golden Globe Award nomination.

His portrayal of a down-and-out wrestler struggling to stay in the limelight while fighting his own personal demons has strong echoes with Rourke's own tumultuous life.

Rourke spoke to Reuters earlier this year at the Venice film festival, where "The Wrestler" won the coveted Golden Lion award for best picture.

Q: What made you want to act in "The Wrestler?"

A: "I would say the day that I met Darren Aronofsky, he was really forthright and honest with me. He says, 'Look, you've fucked up your whole career for 15 years, you're a great actor but everybody's afraid of you. I've got a movie and I want to do it with you.' And he goes like this: 'I want you to hear me: you have to listen to everything I say, you have to do everything I tell you, you can't go out all night long, you can't disrespect me and I can't pay you.' I thought, he must be really fucking good to have the balls to say that to me.

"I had heard through the grapevine that he has a very large brain, that he doesn't compromise, that he's his own man and I thought, well, that's my kind of guy. And I met him, and he was in my face and I read the material. It was a little scary to me, because after meeting him I realized he's going to want me as an actor to ... tap into very painful dark places that I don't know if I really want to re-visit, not getting paid. Because of the way I work, I go to those places, go into places where I have to tap into some painful shit about my father, my wife, my brother ... I'll be a basket case when I'm done with the movie, which is actually exactly what happened.   Continued...

<p>Mickey Rourke smokes a cigarette during a red carpet event at the Venice Film Festival September 5, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse</p>