It wasn’t that long ago when Mickey Rourke was stuck in B-movie hell, living out a pale imitation of a once promising career destroyed by years of drugs, women, professional boxing bouts and plastic surgery. So why does the Oscar nominated actor seem determined to ruin his career again?
Rourke’s comeback to the big league was one filled with real life drama and terrific performances, with his turn as emotionally scarred pro-wrestler Randy “The Ram”Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler securing an Oscar nomination and his rightful place as an in demand actor.
During the press rounds for The Wrestler, Rourke was apologetic for not living up to the expectations placed upon him. Often he would share a popular antidote about Aronofsky’s struggle to cast him in the film, stating: “There were no formalities. He said 'You've been difficult.' I nodded my head. He said, 'You've thrown your career away.' I nodded my head. Whatever he said, I agreed. He tried to make me feel two inches tall. He raised his voice and he pointed his finger at me and said, 'You can never disrespect me. You can never mess around with girls at night. You can't go to Miami over the holidays because I know you'll be out partying every night. And by the way, I can't pay you because we have no money.'”
Before Aronofsky, there were directors who knew Rourke’s talent and cast him in their movies, keeping his career alive and food on the table.
Good friend Sylvester Stallone gave Rourke a sizable role in his Get Carter remake. Another friend Sean Penn had Rourke show off that vast emotional range in a minor, heartbreaking performance in The Pledge. Tony Scott cast Rourke in Man on Fire and Domino. Then there is Robert Rodriguez, who after casting Rourke in Once Upon a Time in Mexico gave the powerful actor his biggest role in years as the homicidal hulk Marc in Sin City.
These were filmmakers who looked part the BS which clouded Rourke’s life and saw an actor who still had something to offer. Rourke in turn did his part delivering one solid performance after another until fate brought him and Arronofsky together for The Wrestler.
Yet since those times of humility and hunger drove him to clean up his act, it looks like the Mickey Rourke of old has returned. Burning bridges is something of a specialty for Rourke, and of late he has been pouring gasoline and lighting fires with boastful arrogance.
First came the verbal thrashing of his film Passion Play, which was directed by childhood friend Mitch Glazer, saying the movie was “Terrible. Another terrible movie. But, you know, in your career and all the movies you make, you’re going to make dozens of terrible ones.”
Next came a dig at Marvel Studios, who cast Rourke as villain Whiplash in Iron Man 2: “When I did Ivan Vanko in Iron Man, I fought… You know, I explained to Justin Theroux, to the writer, and to [Jon] Favreau that I wanted to bring some other layers and colours, not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy. And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor.”
Next on his hit list was In Bruges director Martin McDonagh, who wanted to cast Rourke in his new film Seven Psycopaths joining the likes of Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. Yet such prestigious company and filmmaking talent was underneath Rourke, who turned down the role stating: “The director was a jerkoff. He wanted a whole lot for nothing…He can go play with himself.”
Now Rourke is considering not reprising his character of Marv in the Sin City 2, sequel to the very same movie which thrusted him back into the limelight and in the vision of future collaborators. “I did (like the character). But I’m claustrophobic, so the the hours of makeup…You have to keep it on for about 13 or 14 hours a day. It’s latex and glue and that stuff that gets my eyes all red…”
Rourke’s post Wrestler career hasn’t been rosy. While blockbuster movies Iron Man 2 and Immortals have kept him in the limelight, almost every other movie has gone straight to DVD.
While he should be proud with his return to the A-list, Rourke’s “fuck the world” attitude will do him no favours. It was pride and arrogance which saw his bright star dim before, and it will happen again if he keeps up his old ways.
Perhaps Rourke should look at that other comeback kid Robert Downey Jr. for guidance. Here is another actor who clawed his way back from the depths of destruction and landed on the top of the Hollywood food chain.
Yet unlike Rourke, Downey still projects an appreciation and enthusiasm which is felt in every role and every media appearance. Unlike Rourke, Downey appreciates those who gave him a second chance, openly acknowledging the likes of producer Joel Silver, actor Mel Gibson, and Marvel Studios who took a risk in casting him as Iron Man. And unlike Rourke, Downey chooses his projects better and doesn’t moan when his films are critically panned.
Mickey Rourke is one of a kind, there is no doubt. But he’s not untouchable. His once prosperous career took a nose dive once before, and if he doesn’t want to repeat his misfortune it’s best he curb the attitude and appreciate the position he is in.