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Look out for more coverage of
The Wrestler in our magazines

SUBJECT: The Wrestler

Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke The Wrestler marks the comeback of the decade for Mickey Rourke, whose personal problems have plagued his career. One of his generation’s most promising young actors in the 1980s, with such classics as Diner and Angel Heart, was brought back into the spotlight by Robert Rodriguez in Sin City in 2005. Now Darren Aronofsky has given him the role of a lifetime as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robison, a has-been, down-and-out wrestler who realizes he’s only ever been happy in the ring. Just nominated for a Golden Globe, the Oscar buzz for his performance is deafening.
We spoke with Mr Rourke last week:

Q: Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson is a great role.:
A: Yeah. I knew why Darren wanted me to do this part. I mean, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. But he really fought for me to do this role when he had a lot of resistance, and he kept fighting for me to do it. Finally, I lost the part, and I guess even when I lost it, he kept fighting for me to do it. And it worked out.

Q: What was Darren like to work with?
A: I think the thing I was afraid of most is when I met him, he's very much an authority kind of figure. He likes to think of himself as this liberal, open-minded kind of person, but he's really the captain and he runs the ship, and that's just the way it is. And when he points his finger at you, he doesn't understand that somebody may break it. And he didn't meet me 15 years ago, thank God. [laughs] If somebody said to me, "Do you think you could have given the same performance 15 years ago?" my answer would be, “No, I would have told him to f- off, or kicked him in the ass.”

Q: You've overcome a lot of personal obstacles in your life. How does it feel to be back on top of your game? You've been mentioned for several awards.:
A: Yeah, when the [accolades] started to happen for us in Venice, we didn't even have a distributor. Then we went to Toronto, and people were really receptive. And some reviews came out that were really [positive]. Sin City opened the door a little bit, and then this thing kicked the door down. And I'm really lucky to have a second chance, because I really misbehaved for 15 years and I regret it. I just didn't have the tools to change at the time, and work with somebody, get information on why I misbehaved and destroyed everything I worked so hard to do. I worked really hard to be the best actor I could be when I was at the Actor’s Studio. I think the early success brought old wounds up, and I questioned my life and what happened in my life. And instead of feeling good about it, I was really angry about it.

Q: Were there moments playing Randy where it felt uncomfortable?
A: Many. I thought, "I'm going to have to revisit some really dark, painful places." I wasn't so much worried about the physical stuff as I was that. But there was the other side of my brain that went, "This is a chance to work with somebody really good."

Q: Is acting kind of the ring for you?
A: Sure. I love competition. I used to love playing football in high school. I played with the same guys for 10 years. We played as a team, and it was competitive. I don't want to lose a game by one touchdown or one point. I don't want to lose when I'm playing sports, and I don't want to lose when I'm acting. People go, "Oh, it isn't competitive." It is competitive. I’ve worked with actors that can competitively raise you to another level. And you can get some son-of-a-bitch in there that wants to do something different, and then I'll just roll him up and smoke him like a cheap cigarette. So either you can work together and bring each other up to another level, or you can do that other thing, and then I'll make toast out of your ass.

Q: Have you spoken to some of the wrestlers who have seen the movie?
A: That was one of the big hoorahs we got. We did a Q & A at BAFTA, and Darren with his big mouth goes, "I hear Rowdy Roddy Piper's in the audience." And we hear a few seconds later, "Yeah, I'm here." And Darren goes, "This is your world, and we hope we made a movie that depicts you in a way that you’re proud of. Did you like it or did you hate it?” There was a long pause, and Rowdy Piper went on to give us the highest compliments that anybody could give. These are the guys we wanted to pay homage to. Rowdy was very emotional about it, and he said some things about being at the other end of your career. You know, he's not in Madison Square Garden right now, and it's a really hard thing to hear.

Q: Have you reached a place of peace with yourself now?
A: I'm pretty much there, kind of, sort of, as much as probably I'll ever be. If that's the question, that's the answer, as much as I'll ever be. There's always going to be a war going on inside of me. That's just, I think, my make-up. It just gives me the fire to burn to keep moving forward. But a lot comes with the territory. I've just got to keep a lid on it.Mickey Rourke

Written by Judy Sloane
December 2008. Back to top

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Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover
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