October 1, 2008 / 9:22 PM / 10 years ago

Mickey Rourke's choice: change or blow brains out

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Troubled Hollywood outsider Mickey Rourke said he had a tough choice to make to get his life back on track — change or “blow your ... brains out.”

U.S. actor Mickey Rourke smokes a cigarette during a red carpet event at the Venice Film Festival September 5, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

After 15 years in the acting wilderness, Rourke has sealed his comeback and has Hollywood talking Oscar with a critically acclaimed performance as a lonely, washed out professional athlete in director Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler,” which won the 2008 Venice film festival top prize.

Rourke, 52, starred in 1980s hits “9-1/2 Weeks” and “Angel Heart,” but developed a reputation for being difficult and volatile on set and had numerous brushes with the law.

“If I knew 15 years ago that it would take me 15 years to get back in the saddle and work again because of the way I handled things, I really would have handled things differently,” he told a news conference following a screening of “The Wrestler” at the New York Film Festival.

“I didn’t want to change until I lost everything and then I realized ‘man, you better change or you better just blow your ... brains out. Either you change and you move on with life or you’re just a piece of (excrement)’,” he said.

The trials of his character Randy “The Ram” Robinson parallels Rourke’s troubled private life and checkered professional past, and the actor said the physically and emotionally challenging performance is the best he has done.

“I’m doing things differently this time around, understanding what it is to be professional, be responsible, to be consistent — those were things that weren’t in my vocabulary back then,” he said.

“I can honestly say (“The Wrestler”) is the best movie I ever made and the hardest movie I’ve ever made, and I was so God damn thankful the day we were done with it,” he said. “I’m no spring chicken and this would be hard for a 20 year-old to do.”

Rourke, who appeared at the news conference a little disheveled, wearing sunglasses and holding a cigar, trained two hours-a-day with professional wrestlers for the part, a task complicated by the fact that he is a trained boxer.

“I had a newfound respect for this as a sport as far as it being entertainment, because these guys really lay their asses on the line and get hurt,” he said. “I got hurt more in the three months doing wrestling that I did in 16 years boxing.”

“The Wrestler,” which also stars Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, is scheduled to be released in the United States on December 19.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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