Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mickey Rourke, actor, fighter, icon

By James Colt Harrison

Mickey Rourke is back on the screen in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, making his return to acting after appearances in 2010’s Iron Man 2 and The Expendables. He recently cropped up in a little seen film made in Indonesia called Java Heat. There’s no telling what that picture is about.

His big year was 2008 when he starred in the very interesting film The Wrestler. For his acting he won the British Academy Award ®, the BAFTA. He picked up a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award. To top it all off, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar®.

No doubt he’s a good actor, but he is totally unconventional in his approach to film making. Best of all he’s a fantastically inventive actor and proved it in The Wrestler.

Born September 16, 1952 in Schenectady, New York, Rourke was a handsome kid and gravitated toward the sports world when he attended Miami Beach Senior High. He took a liking to boxing and at age 12 won his first boxing match. Rourke has loved the world of boxing his entire life and even made it his sole profession for a time when he left acting in the 1990s.

He appeared in only one school play in Miami Beach, but he was later persuaded by a friend to try out for a role in Deathwatch. He got the part and also the acting bug. His sister helped finance him to get to New York, where he enrolled in The Actor’s Studio, previous home of Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.

The next step for the young actor was for him to join the movies. Steven Spielberg cast him in a small part in the World War II drama 1941. In between parts on television shows he did a good bit in Body Heat as an arsonist. A hit picture at that time was the small budget Diner with up and coming stars Paul Reiser, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daley, Steve Guttenberg, and Daniel Stern. After getting a nod as Best Supporting Actor from the National Society of Film Critics, Rourke went on to Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish. Now on a roll in motion pictures, Rourke sizzled on the screen with Kim Basinger in 9 ½ weeks and became a sex symbol in the mid-1980s.

By 1987 he was appearing in controversial films such as Angel Heart with young Lisa Bonet. Europeans especially loved the rawness of the film and the explicit sex scenes. The film won several awards.

Rourke’s personal life and acting career took a dark turn in the early 1990s. He turned down many good films such as Pulp Fiction and Top Gun. His romantic life was a shambles. He decided that he had to return to the boxing ring in 1991 to prove himself. He did pretty well, winning many fights around the world. Unfortunately, his pretty-boy face took a beating and he ended up getting a botched facial surgery job. In a way, it was sad that his looks were gone but it gave him an entirely new persona which allows him to play gruff, down-trodden characters with more authenticity.

The late 90s saw him bitter and disillusioned. He felt he was all washed up. He made a couple of films that were flops, such as  Double Team(1997) with Jean-Claude Van Damme. After Rourke played several small parts in small films, director Robert Rodriguez remembered Rourke and wanted him for his next picture. The film turned out to be the highly stylized and startling film Sin City in 2005. It was a huge hit and Rourke swept up the awards from the Chicago Film Critics, the IFTA, and the Online Film Critics Society, therefore putting him back on top again.

Mickey Rourke is now riding the crest of a successful career wave once again. As he summed up his career, “my best work is still ahead of me.”

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