Mickey Rourke stars in The Wrestler, directed by Darren Aronofsky, as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a retired professional wrestler who decides to make a comeback once and for all by facing his former rival, The Ayatollah, in a professional match. Meanwhile, he struggles to pay the rent for his trailer home by working at the deli section of a supermarket. He befriends a local stripper, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) who convinces him to visit his daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), whom he hasn't seen in many years. Mickey Rourke has previously acted in Domino, Sin City, Man on Fire as well as 9 1/2 Weeks, Barfly and Diner, but he has the meatiest role of his career in The Wrestler and deserves to at least be nominated as Best Actor for his emotionally raw and powerful performance. It was a real pleasure and privilege to interview him.
Fox Searchlight Pictures releases The Wrestler on December 17th, 2008.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What were your impressions of the script when you first read it?
MR: I didnít really care for the script. I wanted to work with Darren [Aronofsky]. I thought that whoever wrote the script hadnít spent as much time as I have around these kind of people and [that Randy ďThe RamĒ Robinson] wouldnít have spoke the way that he was speaking at the time. So, Darren let me re-write all my part and he put the periods and crossed the Tís. Once we made that change, I was okay with it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What did you learn about wrestling throughout The Wrestler?
MR: Wrestling was very alien to me. Thereís a lot of camaraderie between [wrestlers]. They travel together, fuck together and do steroids together. Itís like a secret society. Where as in other sports youíre just isolated, these guys really like the company of each other. I gained a respect for [wrestling] that I didnít have because I was ignorant to what it was all about. I had hang-ups about it because itís pre-arranged and pre-choreographed almost like a dance instead of a real comeback. Everything that I had been taught to do for the last twenty years was all this lumbering bullsh*t. I didnít feel natural doing it. [Also], I kept getting hurt. I had, like, three MRIs in two months because I wasnít landing right. After I started getting hurt doing it, I started to realize that these [wrestlers] are really suffering. I gained a respect for their sport. In between, we had choreographed it so that any half-assed athlete could do it. Then, one of the pro-wrestlers who was very acrobatic, heíd get bored and start doing these f**king flips and sh*t and Iím going, ďMan, we should put that in the f**king movie.Ē Iíd go in on Sundays without telling Darren and Iíd, like, three of four really hard moves that I shouldnít have been able to pull off, but this [wrestler] was really patient with me and I wanted to look as good as I could. It was like competing with myself and with time. By the time I got done doing it, he said to me that 80% of the guys in the WWE canít do that sh*t.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you get out of character at the end of the work day?
MR: I donít really stay in character all the time. Iím not one of those, you know. But you lose pieces of yourself with each role you do. This one took a big chunk out of me.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What prompted you to write a letter Bruce Springsteen to convince him to write a song for The Wrestler?
MR: Then only reason I wrote Bruce [Springsteen] a letter is because, after about six days, I knew that something magical was happening about the movie. I felt a tremendous sense of privilege and pride to be associated with Darren [Aronofsky] and people in this movie. That gave me the reason and gumption to write Bruce. I told him that we have no money, but we did it in New Jersey and shot it there. We even shot an extra scene there. I was like, ďCome on. We gotta put one more f**king scene in Asbury Park.Ē I was already planning on writing him the letter and I started feeling good about it. He wrote back and, five months later, he said that he wrote a little something. He didnít even see the movie, but read the script. The song sums up the whole character. He did me such an honor and a favor.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you feel about being initially being replaced as an actor in The Wrestler?
MR: When I was replaced, early on, I was, kind of, the only one that was really glad about it because I knew that Darren [Aronofsky] wanted me to really go there [emotionally]. I didnít know if I wanted to work that hard with [him] for free. I was really relieved when I was told that I was replaced. I was back in Miami hanging out, going to the gym and just lifting weights casually. I get a call from my agent that Iím back in and Iím, like, ďOh, fuck! Heís not paying shit, you know!Ē The smarter side of my brain said that I better get my act together and do this movie for free and work with this guy that has fought for me to be in this movie.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel the film industry has changed throughout all these years?
MR: It stays the same. The wheel turns. The younger people work and the older people survive. Then, finally, the older people die off and a new group comes in. Itís still the same grind. I read a lot of biographies from Monty Clift to Errol Flynn itís the same thing where you take people who are tremendously famous and, over time, the power or money doesnít fill the gaps and the emptiness that comes along with the ride.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How have you changed as an actor throughout all these years?
MR: I didnít really behave the first time around. I wasnít accountable, responsible or professional. I didnít understand the politics of the business end of it. After being out of work for thirteen years, I understand what the game is now. (sighs) I wasnít educated enough to understand that there was a business when I got out of the actorís studio. I thought it was all about acting; I didnít know it was all about shaking hands and kissing a**. You could be mediocre as an actor and be a f**king movie star. Iím not complaining about that, but I didnít think those were the rules. But, then again, I made up my own rules and it was my fault that I thought about it that way.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you feel about competing against Sean Penn and other talented actors for Best Actor awards?
MR: I love competition. Bring it!