The colorful Mickey Rourke
LOS ANGELES—An interview with Mickey Rourke is anything but boring. The man who made a spectacular comeback in “The Wrestler,” winning a Golden Globe best actor award and universal acclaim, is colorful and quotable.
In Tarsem Singh’s action adventure, “Immortals,” Mickey plays the brutal King Hyperion. Henry Cavill, the new Superman, portrays Theseus while “Slumdog Millionaire’s” Freida Pinto is Phaedra. Also in the cast are Luke Evans, John Hurt, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas and Stephen Dorff.
A little footnote about Luke: In a recent party at the Hotel Bel-Air, the Welsh actor, who essays Zeus in “Immortals,” surprised us by singing a few lines of “Kailangan Kita.” It turns out that, prior to his film career, he starred in West End productions, including “Miss Saigon,” where he appeared as Chris. He rattled off the names of Filipino actors he had performed with, including Leo Valdez, who played The Engineer. Another one was Jake Macapagal, who was the one who taught him “Kailangan Kita.” Luke, who has been to the Philippines, raved about Boracay.
Back to Mickey, who also has a Filipino connection: When Mickey turned to boxing as a career in the early 1990s, he tapped Freddie Roach to train him. Freddie, of course, is the trainer of Manny Pacquiao.
In excerpts from our interview below, Mickey tackled a wide array of topics, from steroids to, believe it or not, St. Jude and St. Francis.
How do you feel, now that you are back in the game, after “The Wrestler”?
I’m very fortunate to be back, yeah. I ended up with David (Unger), the young agent, and the doctor who helped me fix all the s**t in my head. I had to realize that I have to handle myself like a gentleman. Even if people sometimes rock the boat, I have to stay as calm as I can. It took me my whole life to learn this so I’m glad to get another shot. If I were still doing sports, my career would be over at this age. I’m still alive to do again something that I love. I’ve found ways to love acting again. I appreciate this opportunity.
You look like you could restart your boxing career tomorrow.
Thanks. My Israeli trainer, Daniel, is there in the back. He is training me for the next movie about Gareth Thomas, the rugby player who announced that he was gay. It’s called “The Beautiful Game,” something I’ve written that we’re going to shoot in March with South African director Antony Hoffman. Gareth was captain for the Wales national team; he played for Cardiff. He retired just recently.
We’re going to take the story at the end of his career. I read a couple of magazine articles about him and I thought the story would make a very challenging movie. I went to meet him in London. He’s the first professional male athlete in a team sport to announce to everybody that he’s gay—while he’s still playing. He was married for six years so it was very hard. He had to tell his wife, team, mother and father. He had a lot on his plate when I met him. I promised him that I wouldn’t make the movie unless I could honor what he’s been through.
We’ve been training for a year. I’ll be breaking my ass.
Is boxing part of the training?
The doctors will no longer allow me to get hit in the head. So what we’re doing instead is a lot of cardio, watching the diet, a little bit of steroids.
Is the use of steroids widespread in Hollywood?
I don’t give a f*** about Hollywood. Whoops. I was kidding. David, that slipped out from the old days. You start to lose testosterone in your body at a certain age. I don’t do it for body-building purposes. If I choose, under a doctor’s supervision, to add a little testosterone to my program, then that’s my decision. I don’t recommend it for everybody. But listen, if my doctor says it’s not going to hurt me and that it will help my energy and temperament, and my c*** will get a little harder sometimes …
So what’s your diet every day?
My desires every day? Oh, I thought that’s what you said. I must be subconsciously nervous that my girlfriend’s coming tomorrow. Daniel keeps me on a very strict high-protein diet because it took me several months to gain all that weight for “The Wrestler.” It has taken me like two years to take it all off. I’m going down from 240 pounds to 185.
Daniel takes food out of my hands every day. When I order a cheeseburger, he takes away the bread and the French fries. I’ll say, “F*** you.” He lives with me now because I need to stay focused on the diet. Normally, I’d go out and have three beers a night. If you add it up—three times seven is 21, right? That’s why I’m an actor.
We have to look at the big picture because we have a goal. I’m too old to play rugby, but I can still look like I play rugby. That’s what acting is all about. The movie works only if I had a certain look. So Daniel keeps me in line. He’s very strict. He’s a real motherf*****.
Your roles since “The Wrestler” have been quite physical. Have you thought of playing, let’s say, a banker in a suit?
Unless it’s a gay banker in a suit or something interesting … The bad guy or the strange guy is more interesting than the usual hero. When they make movies in this country, the hero is always … I don’t want to mention names, but you know what I’m talking about. Anyone can do it. I could sleep and play the hero in most movies.
What does strength mean to you?
To be a man. But what I’m realizing right now is that your whole life, what you do to build up to be strong, as time goes by … you get weaker again. When you realize all of this is going away, it’s devastatingly depressing to a man like me. I can’t run as fast as I used to. I can’t hit as hard. Every athlete, every man goes through that, especially if you grow up in a certain way. You love to do certain things. There’s that night when your reflexes don’t work anymore. When you’re young, you don’t think that’s going to happen.
When you see an actor like Henry Cavill, whose career is just starting, what comes to your mind?
I look at Henry and I go, goddamn, I wish I were that young again and that excited about going to work. Now I go to work and I can’t wait to get off work. One day, Henry is going to go, “I remember when…” We’re only young for five minutes and it’s gone.
Do you now get to choose roles to play?
When you begin your career, you can’t choose roles all the time. Time goes on and still you can’t choose. You take the best of what’s there—pick something here, there. Look at all the s*** they’re doing now with all the comic book crap. You don’t get to pick, really. Back in the day when Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston and all those guys were making those great f***ing movies … People don’t want to see movies like those now.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the world?
You should leave that up to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney. I am worried about the spaghetti—if it’s hot or cold.
Let’s go back to 1989 when you played St. Francis in “Francesco.”
It was a wonderful experience shooting “Francesco.” (Writer/director) Liliana Cavani asked me to play St. Francis when I was at a pretty crazy time in my life. I was living on my motorcycle, just getting in trouble in the movie business all the time. I thought, why the hell does she want me to play St. Francis?
Liliana Cavani was so passionate about her vision of St. Francis. She’s a really smart one and a big intellectual. It was not easy for somebody like that, so independent, to raise the money to do that kind of movie. I put her in the top five directors I’ve ever worked with. I would do a movie with her tomorrow. Unfortunately, people are not interested in seeing a film about a guy living in the woods, giving up his life because he wants to be with God.
How did playing St. Francis affect you?
It affected me more later, when my life fell apart. I have one particular saint that I pray to: St. Jude. I had to relearn about St. Francis. He is the saint of animals so when Lucky (Rourke’s pet dog), got sick, I would light candles to St. Francis and pray to him for my dogs. I have a little bit of connection, you know.
What’s your biggest fear?
Getting old and sick. It’s a state of mind for me. It drives me crazy thinking about getting old or sick. It’s terrifying. You don’t start to think about it until you get older. You never want to depend on somebody picking you up.
What are your other fears?
That there’s no heaven. If this is it, it’s s**t. There’s got to be a better place to go after all the bulls**t. I hope there’s a good place, a big disco up there.
E-mail the columnist at [email protected] Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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