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Mickey Rourke is The Wrestler

Published December 23, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders
The WrestlerThe Wrestler

As a real life tough guy, Mickey Rourke had no problem with the physicality of The Wrestler. That's not to say it was easy. He just took his licks to make the fight scenes look real.

Rourke on The Wrestler


"Darren [Aronofsky], because he decided to shoot the movie in a sort of objective documentary-style way hand-held the whole movie, he said, 'You have to do your own stunts,'" said Rourke. "So, three and a half/four months of working with these wrestling people, I didn’t want to be in there for like two months. For about two months the back was hurt so it was torture. Then after about the third I started feeling better and I was getting it. I wasn’t moving like a prize fighter. I was understanding the way a wrestler moves. It's all exposed instead of closed up."

Rourke even went above and beyond the call of duty to impress the director of his comeback film. "Then I would go in on Sundays, because one of the boys was very athletically inclined in a gymnastic way and he did all these very sophisticated moves, the flips, the scissors and all that, and I said, 'I want to learn that.' So we went in, we did that on Sundays without Darren knowing because I wanted to surprise Darren, because I love and respect him so much I wanted him to be happy with me. Darren was like, 'You learned how to do that?' And even going over the top rope. At the last minute I’d go, 'I want to go over the top rope with no padding too.' But I said, 'You better f*cking catch me,' and he did."


The WrestlerThe Wrestler


The WrestlerThe Wrestler

They say wrestling is fake, meaning it's choreographed and staged. That doesn't mean they don't get beat up. "Darren made a comment the other day, 'You could smell the BenGay as you watched the movie.'' I mean after my third trip and my third MRI to the hospital, it brought up injuries I had playing high school football. I had an ACL that was torn and that started to hurt again, and then a boxing injury that I've always had and has never gone away. I'm going, 'Oh my god, I'm walking like this again.' And then the back went out. It was tough as sh*t. There was a very interesting documentary done and I think he’s name was Owen Hart, and his brother actually died doing this stuff. We did a lot of research. We watched and saw what happens at the end of somebody’s career, what they looked like then and what they look like now, or the guys who are still trying to hang in there. We really wanted to pay homage to the sport in its due course as the movie went along. Sure, we exposed certain things that wouldn't be in a Rocky movie, but we weren’t making a Rocky movie. It was a different kind of movie. And I'm not ragging that movie at all, but not everybody gets a second chance, you know?"

As for the difficult reputation that made him a Hollywood outcast for a while, Rourke credits Aronofsky for creating a project he could respect. "I think Darren is the main reason that this thing had the success. I think the integrity and everything else that came with it is what he brought to the table on his genius and his relentless strive for perfection and hard work. He’s a director that takes chances and he's very innovative. He reminds me of Francis Ford Coppola when he was young and just kind of did things his own way. Every time I inquired about Darren it was the same feedback. I got the same kind of information that I heard about Francis or Michael Cimino or Alan Parker or Adrian Lyne who’s just really some kind of special dude that comes around every thirty years. Then getting an opportunity at a point in my career when I had no career for over a decade, this was an opportunity I wasn't going to mess up."

The Wrestler is out in theaters.

For the trailer, poster, review and film info, go to The Wrestler Movie Page.

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Fred Topel
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