Mickey Rourke is a survivor -- that much is beyond debate. After being out of work for over a decade, he came storming back and won an Oscar. The Wrestler would only prove to be the second coming of Mickey Rourke. Since that 2008 film, he has appeared in six films. His latest is The Immortals and he sits down with Movie Fanatic to talk about his bad-ass best as King Hyperion, a man driven to world domination.
Movie Fanatic: How did you have to get into physical shape for the film and was any of that a challenge?
Mickey Rourke: I had just come out of surgery.
Movie Fanatic: Well, that would be a huge challenge for an action movie!
Mickey Rourke: I had torn my bicep and I just had bicep surgery. I lost my whole tendon. The operation didn’t work. So I was actually worried about just being able to tie my shoes. It’s one of the reasons I wore a gauntlet up here (motions to top of his right arm). I had a big scar. I’m going to have to have a cadaver tendon put in to fix it. I was arm wrestling some rugby players at four in the morning. We had been drinking at a pub in London and I lost [laughs]. But we became good friends and out of that actually I got interested in meeting these guys. They gave me a magazine about their club. I was reading the magazine. 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. I’ve been writing the script for the past year. Hopefully we’ll do it in March.
Movie Fanatic: You said your costume was very heavy. But it doesn’t look it when you’re fighting.
Mickey Rourke: Well, the sword was made out of (expletive) rubber [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: What stuck out for you from The Immortals shoot?
Mickey Rourke: The days would start out bad because the costume lady, Eiko (Ishioka), she spent three years doing the wardrobe and it was heavy. It took me an hour to put my pants on. It was like this layer and another layer, then a layer up here, then a belt over here -- then another layer and a gauntlet over here. It was like, “Now I have to stand?!” And the shoes were like 300 pounds apiece. It was nice once I got dressed. Then it was another two hours in the makeup chair. The main reason I took the movie was to work with Tarsem (Singh, director). I saw his commercial reel and I saw the interesting Nike reel he did where he had the faces on all the athletes with the masks. He brought some drawings of the different characters. I thought, "This guy is very prepared." And I like working with guys who do a very long pre-production because they know exactly what they want. And because he comes out of commercials, he has such a fabulous look the way he lights everything. He can take this material to another level. So I don’t necessarily know if I would have done this movie if it wasn’t Tarsem involved.
Movie Fanatic: Do you like being the tough guy or would you like them to see you as a big softie?
Mickey Rourke: No, I would have rather been one of the guys dressed in gold in The Immortals. Really! [Laughs] I saw those outfits and I went, “(Expletive)! That’s the real me.” I fought very hard in the last couple of years to play bad guys. I find them much more interesting than the good guy. You don’t get paid as good. But, the bad guy just doesn’t always have to be one-dimensional. I try to find layers and reasons to justify why he is what he is. I try to find the moments where he’s not that cliched 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 and all I tried to bring to him ends up on the (expletive) 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. This character was hard because he was written as pure evil. It was OK. 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 [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: What’s your favorite movie of yours to watch again and again?
Mickey Rourke: I look at whenever I had the most fun on a movie. It was The Pope of Greenwich Village. It was the most fun I had working with Stuart Rosenberg -- the director -- and Eric Roberts. We were in New York City. It was just a good time. It was just fun to go to work every day.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve been pretty honest about your feelings about films you’ve made. Your essential “Mickey-ness” is alive and well, even as you’ve changed… I guess what I’m getting at is, how easy is it for you to keep your essential parts of your character in life that you want amidst all of the Hollywood posturing?
Mickey Rourke: 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. I’ve never done a film like this before and I enjoyed it. I’ve seen other movies in this kind of genre. For what he [Tarsem] was trying to do, I think he accomplished what he needed to accomplish to get people into the theaters to see something like this.
Movie Fanatic: Do you wish others in Hollywood would be as honest as you are?
Mickey Rourke: I don’t know. It’s such a business and it’s all about making the dollar. At the end of the day, there’s just so much politics involved. Any time money is involved, there’s a lot of gray. It’s not really black and white, you know? You don’t know who’s blowin’ smoke up your ass.