Mickey Rourke………..Is He Back, or Doomed to Fail Again?


People always fret about the “ones that got away”, or that the deserved “second chances” in life. But what do you do if you are a budding movie star who could have anything you wanted, date any woman alive, and still be yourself off screen. Well, if you were Mickey Rourke, you just sort of  distinguished your flame and fall into the abyss of the “what if’s” in life. But with his current film getting rave reviews for his performance, and Hollywood applauding and lauding his work as a down on his luck wrestler reduced to doing local shows and signings, is it a sign of a re-emergence of the great actor, or a bidding farewell before the bottom drops out again on him?


But almost two decades of wandering around the earth trying to find his purpose, Rourke finally gets to comes back with a vengeance playing a washed-up wrestler who can not find the courage ,or the will to give up his dream. I got to tell you, as a former football player who did not quit on his own terms, this film brought back a lot of the good and bad  emotions that athletes of every sport endure. They yearn to hear the cheers and the jeers equally and strive to play for the fans. The  constant mantra of a professional athlete is to leave it all on the field, ring, or where ever it is you perform. Less than 100 percent is not playing to potential, or to not honor the sport.

But in Rourke’s Oscar-nominated  balls-to-the-wall, hair-on-fire rendition of a washed up wrestler wanting to hear the fans cheer once last time in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” he might have pulled off the performance of his life. The realization of athletics is the human element sometimes gets taken from you by the expectations the public has about you as their hero or their player. You want to treat them to a show, with outstanding results every time you hit the field, and sometimes that takes a toll on your body that you brain doesn’t accept. The end sequence in the movie is striking in the abandonment of his own health concerns, but  how the noise of the crowd can overtake you emotionally and you take that last step towards your doom.

Rourke’s performance is brilliant in this flick. His problem has never been for a lack of talent. After his breakout role in the film ” Body Heat ” Rourke began a roller coaster ride of twisted soul role in the 1980’s. There was his great performance in  “Diner”, “Rumblefish”, and who could forget his  awesome acting rendition of a classic New Yorker in ” The Pope of Greenwich Village.”  He had that “bad boy” magic that endeared him to both men and women for different reasons. I know earlier in my life I loved watching him play in these roles and thought of how cool it would be to be able to be like him without the backlash or heartaches.

He mixed  his acting with an his own free spirited ways  that had him  fast comparisons  to film greats like Marlon Brando and James Dean. He would take on the role and throw out his magnetism and edge, then give you that curly lipped smile that made you want to like him after all the evil he had done.  Rourke’s problem was in his early years and was considered one of struggles and problems both at home, and in his personal life. Rourke did finally find an outlet for that strife earlier in his life by taking up his first real love, boxing.  But after a few nasty bouts and an extreme knockout, he was shelved from the ring by doctors before he took more damage to his brain due to concussions. He was a spirited fighter who did not go down often, and when he did, he would try and jump right back up as to overshadow the hurt and damage done to him by his opponent.


As his paying job, acting started to take off, Rourke started to display this violent nature and was labeled a malcontent by some people in Hollywood. He would get into fights in bars, restaurants, anywhere that people try to oppose or control him.  He argued with studio hotshots and was out late in the Los Angeles or New York bar scene, and tried to frustrate anyone around him most days. He then became the guy who would turn down roles that would become classic films for no reason. He was originally offered Nick Nolte’s part in “48 Hours”, Tom Cruise’s leading man role in ” Rain Man,” Kevin Costner’s role as Eliot Ness in  “The Untouchables,” the role as Gavin McLeod in “The Highlander”, and Bruce Willis’ boxing role in ” Pulp Fiction.” Instead he began to explore his dark demons and portray evil inspired characters in films like ” 9 1/2 Weeks”, “Angelheart”, and ” Wild Orchid.”

Rourke, was only in the Hollywood spotlight for a short time going from being an up-and-coming classic silver-screen rebel to a evil intended deviant. His  film and acting performances  seemed without emotion, and he seemed to fall back within himself and show himself more as an empty shell than as a serious actor. Could it have been those roles that pushed him deeper into that dark place where self respect and confidence in himself was non-existent to him and others. And that was before he starred in “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.” Not long after that film fell flat on its butt, Rourke tried to return to his first love, boxing and took to the ring as soon as possible. And as it turned out, Rourke wasn’t a bad boxer. He ended his career undefeated: six wins — half from KOs — and two draws. But his short time in the ring exacted a huge physical toll on him. He suffered  brain damage from all of those punches to the head and the effects of  the hits to his nose and face destroyed his boyish looks that endeared him to women in the 1980’s. Five time he went under the knife to repair damage inflicted on his nose and its cartilage. The  came the blow that truly knocked him for a loop, his long suffering marriage to “Wild Orchid” co-star Carrie Otis fell apart.



Rourke had fallen so low on the Hollywood pecking order that he was now appearing in such disaster flicks like the Dennis Rodman vehicle “Double Team,” while  still living way beyond his means. When it all eventually came crashing down, Rourke hit bottom. And he blamed only himself for losing his wife, his home and alienating his friends. But  he still fell into an hole.

Rourke brought all that suffering and anguish to his role as a spandex-clad has-been Randy the Ram in “The Wrestler.” His performance is so emotionally raw that Rourke  still claims to have not watched the entire film. It’s simply too painful for him to see on screen at this time. The parallels between his character and his life too obvious. Rourke finally started to climb back out of his hole both financially and career-wise in the late ’90s. He did act again, in bit parts in films like “The Rainmaker,” “Buffalo ’66,” and Sean Penn’s “The Pledge.” But his film career started showing  renewed signs of life with his role as Marv, a brutishly strong, socio-pathic good guy in Robert Rodriquez’s “Sin City.” The only problem was that he was under piles of latex makeup; no one recognized him. But if you really listened to the voice and the mannerisms, you knew it was him without looking at the DVD jacket for the actor’s name. It was that powerful.



After all the fanfare with his rejuvenated role in “The Wrestler,” his film career is starting to head skyward again. He has been signed for a role in Sly Stallone’s “The Expendables” and he’s in discussions with Marvel over playing the villain in “Iron Man 2.” Thanks to endless hours of psychotherapy, and Loki, his constant companion dog, Rourke seems to be coming to terms with his personal  past demons. He has no plans to backslide like his character Randy. Of course, Rourke is still prone to  bad boy behavior and tabloid-worthy antics. He was spotted tongue-wrestling his on-screen daughter Evan Rachel Woods during a Screen Actors Guild award after-party  He was also reportedly set to jump into the ring at Wrestlemania and square off against Chris Jericho, before his  personal management team talked some sense into him and he pulled out of the event.




So will his role as a wrestler who wanted the glory one last time get Rourke  his Oscar redemption, or will he go down for the count  against the performances of Sean Penn or Brad Pitt? And will this  recent comeback be the one that finally sticks?  Or will the demons come out and play again with Rourke and take him again away from us and the silver screen.


I knew about all the trouble that Mickey Rourke but I didn’t know about all his physical problems from his time in the ring. I bet seeing the movie will stir up a lot of emotions in players of all sports who had someone else decide when their career was over. I haven’t seen the “Wrestler” yet (Did see Sin City and I did not recognize him!) but it sounds like I should.



It was rough for me in the last 4 minutes to watch it because I did not leave my sport on my own terms. I was taken off the field on a stretcher and was told if I ever played again, I would be a basketcase due to the neck fractures and spinal disc fragments near my nerves.

But, I had an operation 5 years later that help eliminate that and played in a local soccer league until I was 40, so I got to at least finish that on my terms. I could not watch a professional football game for 5 years, until i finnaly came to grips with the fact that accidents happen and I had to move on and either be held back or even destroyed by this event.

It is really hard to admit it is over. I still get it all the time trying to teach young kids how to cover a receiver without knocking him down or touching him to draw a foul. But at 48, I no longer play in the sand after my last encounter during Christmas week this year. Finally have to admit, I am my dad’s age when he quit boxing for fun, but kept running for health. The movie is bitter sweet to people who did not get to say goodbye on their terms, but is a true test of the heart and soul of a champion.

Rays Renegade


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