Mickey Rourke is not an actor who is known for his circumspect actions or speech. He has been enjoying Hollywood's warm embrace over the past several years, however. So it was somewhat surprising (and wholly refreshing) to hear Rourke speak with an intriguing combination of humility and candor about his recent and past experiences as an actor at this weekends press event for director Tarsem Singh's latest visual extravaganza, Immortals. Rourke provided some insight into his reservations about his potential participation in Sin City 2, as well as his frustrations while working on Iron Man 2.
The dialogue opened with congratulations to Rourke on his upcoming inclusion in the Hollywood walk of fame. The actor gave an immediate sense of how the discussion would evolve when he said that it probably meant more to us than it did to him, as "everyone" is getting a star on the walk nowadays. The actor did indicate that the honor may come to mean more to him at some point in his life, and that his return to the fold of highly-visible working actors is something he is deeply thankful for.
"To be honest with you, after I was out of work thirteen, fourteen years (or whatever the hell it was) I remember I went back to Cannes with Rodriguez for "Sin City" and I was sitting in the car and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m getting a chance again.’ Because all the years go by, and it’s thirteen years, and you’re living in a room. After like seven years go by you think, ‘Yeah, I really f**ked up.’ And then ten years go by and it’s like, 'They’re not gonna let me back in the door again.' Especially I was out here (Los Angeles) and this is the worst place to be when they grind you into the ground, and they can’t wait to do it. And I helped them do it. I really thought I could turn it around in a year or two and they’d let me back in, but it just didn’t happen.
And so I thought it’s too shameful and degrading to feel like this. I was really close to going back to Miami and doin’ I don’t know what, but I wasn’t gonna sit around and be yesterday’s news. That’s just too hard. I remember buying a pack of cigarettes. I was in the line and it was like two in the morning. Some a**hole, some fat guy goes, ‘Hey didn’t you used to be…?’ (laughs) Oh, God, and he mentioned the wrong name! I remember walking two blocks going, ‘Oh f**k!’ I’m very grateful that period is over. And I’m very capable of having that happen again so I’ve gotta watch myself on a daily basis, you know?"
"It depends. It depends on how bad they want me. You feel me?"
The actor elaborated, saying:
"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..."
He gave another, very human reason, for his resistance to revisiting Marv.
"I remember I picked up some chick at a bar in Texas one night and invited her to the set to have lunch at the lunch break," he shared, laughing at the situation. "I couldn't take the s**t off. F**k it, I never saw her again!"
The actor plays the villain of Immortals. In the film, Rourke's ruthless King Hyperion kills, torturers and maims with calculated abandon. Rourke has often played the malefactor in his recent films and his focus has been on bringing a sense of reality and depth to these roles - a desire he feels has been thwarted by movie studios. He was particularly disappointed with the final depiction of his character, Ivan Vanko / Whiplash, in Iron Man 2.
"I fought very hard in the last couple of years playing bad guys. I find them much more interesting than the good guy. You don’t get paid as good. (Laughing) No, really. (No longer laughing) The bad guy doesn’t always have to be one-dimensional, you know? It’s to try to find layers and reasons to justify why he is what he is. Find moments. I know gangsters from the old days that I would sit down with. I’d bring a girlfriend to the table and I’d go, ‘That’s so and so.’ And he’d be the nicest guy. She’d go, ‘Oh I can’t believe people talk about him like that. Did he really kill 12 people?’ And I’d go, ‘Yeah.’ So I try to find the moments where he’s not that clichéd, evil bad guy, and it’s a big fight. I had it on "Iron Man 2." And they won.
Going to work for Marvel and them breaking Favreau’s balls and wanting just a one-dimensional villain. So the performance I tried to bring to him ends up on the f**king floor. That could cause you not to care as much. Not to want to put that effort in when you try to make it an intelligent bad guy or a bad guy who justifies what his reasons are. So I fight for that all the time. This character was hard because he was written as pure evil. It was okay. I can only try to justify the King’s actions so far. I mean, I know when he’s chopping the guy’s balls off, it doesn’t look too good."
Never one to pull punches, Rourke had the following to say about his thriller 13:
"It’s a piece of crap. If you don’t believe me, call up Jason [Statham] and Ray [Winstone]."
One film the actor is exited about is his upcoming biopic of Rugby star Gareth Thomas. Rourke is penning the script and plans to star in the film. Somewhat appropriately (for a film about a Rugby player) the actor did have to suffer an arm injury in order to find the inspiration. He told the following story about the evolution of his involvement in the project:
"I was arm wrestling some rugby players at four in the morning, we had been drinking at a pub in London and I lost (badly enough to tear the tendon in his bicep). But we became good friends. They gave me a magazine about their club (they play with a team called the Huddersfield Bears). I was reading the magazine and there was an article about Gareth Thomas, the rugby player who announced that he’s gay. I came back home and was watching "Pardon the Interruption" and they were talking about Gareth. They were saying how brave he was for coming out and announcing it. I got on a plane and I met Gareth and I told him, ‘I wanna make your life story.’ I think I beat the studio out there by about four days and he gave me the rights. We’re gonna do this movie now. He announced his retirement three days ago and hopefully in March...I’ve been writing the script for the past year. Hopefully we’ll do it in March."
"I mean, I can’t just say everything is great, it’s fantastic and go and see it. I’m just not built that way," the actor explained when asked about his forthright manner of speech when it comes to discussing the films he has been a part of. His outspoken nature is unusual, to say the least. When asked how he has balanced his essential "Mickey-ness" with the demands of an industry that in many ways thrives on posturing, Rourke responded:
"It gets easier. I’ve come to terms with it. It’s getting easier. You realize this business is political and it’s a business. That may have been hard for me to do twenty years ago but I’m kind of accepting it. It’s kind of getting easier because I’ve tried to consistently make the change. It’s little things like,'They need you in five minutes.' Where before it would have been, ‘F**k you,’ you know? ‘I’ll see you two hours later!’ And you can’t do that. I had some really bad psychological reasons why I behave that way. I had to put that in the past and bury it as much as I can."
"I could be right back where I was, so it’s like a guy who gets out of jail. You’ve got to behave. I had to change. There’s a big part of myself that’s never gonna change – certain things. But I did have to change. Realize that I had to be accountable. Before there were no rules with me and I wasn’t accountable. I didn’t care what the consequences are and now I do. There’s a part of me when I work with this doctor, I’m trying to put all these pieces together. He calls that change. Change for me was really hard because I had built myself up to be a certain kind of man my whole life, as men are where I come from. I thought I got to handle things different that’s gonna make me feel like a real pussy. For me it was hard to turn the other cheek. Even though it’s a stronger choice. It was very hard to make the change, but I had to in order to survive. Otherwise they would have won."
Immortals opens in theaters on November 11th.
We will keep you updated on Sin city 2 as details emerge.
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