Mickey Rourke

 “I had everything going and I fucked it all up. Disaster. Total disaster.” 

  1. Michael Keaton, Night Shift, 1981.     John Belushi passed (too Animal House?)and then ODed during the shoot ofactor-turned-director Ron Howard’s first major Hollywood (ie non-Roger Corman) movie.  Ron tested 40 of almost 200 actors for Bill Blazejowski, running a hooker call-out service from the city morgue! Eight of them (Rourke, Kurt Russell included) read scenes with Howard’s Happy Daysco-star, Henry Winkler, already given the choice of “Blaze” or his boss, Chuck Lumley. He chose wimpish Lumley, way less cool than his Fonzie on TV.  Or as he precised: “I thought I’d play Richie Cunningham for once.”

  2. Eddie Murphy, 48 Hrs, 1982.  ”You’re gonna be sorry you ever met me” /”’I’m already sorry.” Producer Larry Gordon was prepping the scenario at another studio – for Burt Reynolds and Richard Pryor. Then, producer Don Simpson brought it to Paramount. As a vehicle for, at first, Nick Nolte and Gregory Hines.  Next? Mickey  Rourke was to be the cop stuck with paroled criminal, Howard E. Rollins Jr or Denzel Washington?  While  in the San Francisco PD mix were Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood (he wanted to be the hood), Kris Kistofferson, Michael Lerner, Sylvester Stallone.

  3. Patrick Swayze, The Outsiders, 1982.
    Rob Lowe recalled someone looking like  a homeless person entering the mass auditions for Coppola at his Zoetrope Studios. “He has long, filthy hair, a three-day beard and ripped, stained Mad Max leather pants. He  was also  on  roller skates. Francis makes a bee-line  for him and they huddle in a corner.”  The auditioning teen actors worshiped him   –  “Like the love child of Laurence Olivier and Jesus Christ” – and  explained  that Rourke was the next James Dean! HoweverRourke refused to be the oldest, indeed any of the  three Curtis greaser brothers. However, the following year he was Matt Dillon’s brother after   all in Coppola’s (and Dillon’s)  second consecutive  film of an SE Hinton novel, Rumble Fish

  4. Eric Roberts, The Pope of Greenwich Village, 1984.    Over five years and three directors, the casting changed from Godsons AlPacino-James Caan and Pacino-Rourke (Coppola’s idea) to wind up as the eminently forgettable Rourke- Roberts.
  5. Nick Mancuso, Heartbreakers, 1984.    “I saw everyone,” writer-director Bobby Roth told me in Deauville, France.“It would have been easier if I’d been making a picture about homosexuals, but their sex was undefined.”
  6. Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop, 1984.     Script was written for Rourke (as the cop from East LA, not the East Coast). He didn’t go much on it’s message. (It’s message?!) Stallone was about to do it whenParamount said it should be a comedy. “So get Eddie Murphy!” he growled. They did.
  7. Don Johnson, Miami Vice, TV, 1984-1990.   The legendary pitch, from NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff, was simple.  “MTV cops!”  Anthony Kerkovich and Michael Mann did the splashy rest – as, originally, Gold Coast.  TV stars Richard Dean Anderson and Larry Wilcox were seen for vice cop Sonny Crockett. Plus Rourke, Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte, although TV was still frowned upon – not to say, downright sneered at – by film folk. Rourke co-starred with Johnson in the apalling Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, 1990.  And he hated every minute of it.

  8. Christophe(r) Lambert,  Highlander, 1985.    
    Australian director Russell Mulcahy  first fancied Mickey for Connor Macleod.  This offer tended to explain Rourke’s complaints about Hollywood. “I loved acting most because it was all about the work then. Not the business or the politics. You were either a good actor or you sucked.”  (Rourke, alas, was both).Once Sean Connery refused the lead (for the splashier role of the 2,000-year-old Ramirez), finding the immortal Connor was not easy.  Kurt Russell actually won the role but his lover, Goldie Hawn, insisted he stay home; he dealt with Big Trouble in Little China, instead.  So you can imagine the anguish of the six producers when, after also being turned down by Kevin Costner, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Hulk Hogan, William Hurt, David Keith, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Marc Singer (the too busy top choice), Sting (also asked for a song), Patrick Swayze and Peter Weller… that they discovered Mulcahy’s  choice was the new – and French  –  Tarzan.

  9. Tom Berenger, Platoon, 1985.    
  10. Tom Cruise, Top Gun, 1986.     Difficult to @+&^$#* quote Rourke on this @+&^$#* movie!      
  11. Sean Penn, Colours, 1987. So impressed by his Rumble Fish co-star in 1982, Dennis Hopper told him he’d star in  in the  next two movies  he directed. But Mickey, who rarely did anything right in his stormy career, was unavailable  when Dennis unfurled his Colours  – and Penn became d and Officer Danny McGavin.   Two years later, Don Johnson inherited the Rourke role in Hopper’s total rewrite of The Hot Spot, but didn’t do any ounlicity because he was making  the cruddy Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man… with Rourke!
  12. Kevin Costner, The Untouchables,1987.     Even at his peak, he never remembered his agent’s name. Phoning CAA, he’d ask the receptionist for “the little bald guy with the white Porsche.
  13. Robert De Niro, Midnight Run,1987.   There were 23 possibilites for the lean, mean  skip-tracer (tracing felons who skipped bail) – on the run from the  FBI and the Mob after capturing Vegas embezzler Charles Grodin. Who knew De Niro could be more subtle at comedy than… Rourke, Jeff Bridges, Charles Bronson, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Don Johnson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal (!), Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, Kurt Russell, John Travolta, Jon Voight and even the musclebound Arnie and Sly – Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Director Martin Brest, that’s who.
  14. Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society, 1988.    “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”Disney offered Dustin Hoffman this one to direct – “and star in, if you like.” He did like. Except Rain Manfinally got moving. And Disney couldn’t wait. Next? Rourke, Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson, Bill Murray, Liam Neeson and Robin’s pal, Christopher Reeve, backed away from teacher John Keating. Williams dithered for ages and finally agreed. His co-star, Ethan Hawke, called the film: One Flew Over the Robin’s Nest… with Wlliams as Jack Nicholson, Norman Lloyd as Nurse Ratched and Robert Sean Leonard as Brad Dourif.
  15. Tom Cruise, Rain Man, 1988.     Dustin Hoffman called, asking him to play his brother. “I forgot to call him back.” Too busy at the time, swaggering about with villains, bruisers, and other roughneckers.
  16. Michael Keaton, Batman, 1988.
  17. Dennis Quaid, Great Balls of Fire, 1989.  Adam Field started with the right idea in 1983: Rourke and his Diner-director Barry Levinson. Jerry  Lee Lewis’ increasingly negative lifestyle shuffled the project around until it landed with Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis, who kept complaining     it wasn’t funny enough. “Dino,” recalled Field, “thought he’d bought rights to The Jerry Lewis Story.” Often looked that       way with Quaid… Rourke was well out of it. As he realised when comparing various scripts to his meeting with Jerry Lee       in Mississippi. “The motherfucker’s nuts,  ya know!” Mickey told me in Deauville. “He’s  a strange dude. There’s somethin’ real dark there, somethin’ out of control. This is what’s gotta be on the pages.  I  wanted to do the real Jerry Lee –    not  this bubblegum portrayal.”

  18. Don Johnson, The Hot Spot, 1989.   
    Robert Mitchum was the matrix for drifter Harry Madox – and first choice in 1962. Nearly 30 years later, it was to be Mickey Rourke and Debra Winger. Or Quaid, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tom Selleck, Sam Shepard, Patrick Swayze opposite Anne Archer, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Theresa Russell, Uma Thurman and ultimately, Virginia Madsen. Just6 not  necessarily for this movie…  Replacing UK director Mike Figgis, Dennis Hopper totally changed the entire gig!  In a AV Club interview, Johnson explained how three days before shooting began Dennis “called a meeting. ‘OK, we’re not making that script. We’re making this one.’And he passed a script around the table that had been written for Robert Mitchum in the ’60s… based on a book called Hell Hath No Fury… Wow! The Figgis script was really slick and cool, and it was a heist movie. But this was real noir. The guy was an amoral drifter, and it was all about how women were going to take him down… And that was the movie that we ended up making. Hopper’s Last Tango In Texas was hailed by Chicago critic Roger Ebert as a superior work in an old tradition.” He wuz right!

  19. Scott Glenn,The Silence of the Lambs, 1990.
  20. Tim Robbins, Jacob’s Ladder, 1990.    The queue to be ’Nam war casuality, Jacob Singer was long… Robbins, Richard Gere, Tom Hanks, Dustin  Hoffman, Al Pacino… even Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson, so far down the pike that year thay they wound up sharing the dreadful Harley Davidson and the  Marlboro Man.
  21. Tcheky Karyo, Nikita, France, 1990.     For one of those infamous fleeting moments, Hollywood got interested in Luc Besson’s French script – and, naturally, insisted on an American as…well, why not Uncle Bob?  Rourke and Christopher Walken were obvious suggestions. Besson liked them both but he had promised Karyo.

  22. Joe Mantegna, The Godfather: Part III, 1991.
  23. Jeff Goldblum, Deep Cover, 1992.       When due to be made as Lots of Opportunities with Laurence Fishburne squared away on board.   Bruce Springsteen’s song for Mickey’s 2008 triumph, The Wrestler, included the line: If you’ve ever seen a one-legged dog, then you’ve seen me. “And that,” said Mickey, “is true.“
  24. Ed Harris, Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992.     Fought harder than in the ring to land part of Hollywood’s few decent acting ensembles – and a possible career-saver after r “I lost the house, the wife, the credibility, the entourage. I lost my soul. I was alone.”
  25. Michael Biehn, Tombstone, 1992.     The Mick was no way  interested in playing Johnny Ringo.  Or not when the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday were the better roles. 
  26. Keanu Reeves, Speed, 1993.  There were  30 stars queuing for Die Hard On A Bus. From A Listers Jeff Bridges, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Patrick Swayze, even Mr Die Hard, himself, Bruce Willis… to the B group: Kevin Bacon, three Baldwin brothers (Alec, Stephen and William), Michael Biehn, Bruce Campbell, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, Christophe(r) Lambert, Viggo Mortensen, Dennis Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Tom Selleck… and two also-rans  Bruce  Campbell and Chuck Norris.  All crushed by a whippersnapper!
  27. Bruce Willis, Pulp Fiction, 1994.    
  28. Michael Madsen, Luck of the Draw, 1999.     Actor-turned-director Luca Bercovici sacked Mickey after less than a day, whenhe didn’t know his lines – nor his co-star Dennis Hopper!  “The only thing I could afford was a shrink, so that’s where my money went.  Three times a week for the first two years. The year after that, twice a week and now I’m down to once a week. I’ve only missed two appointments in six years.” Madsen is a fan: “Mickey is the real deal. Mickey is Mickey. And you can’t fuck with that.”
  29. Dennis Hopper,  Luck of the Draw,  2000.       In 1997, Hopper was fired for the first time from a movie – The Truman Show. Now it was Rourke fired for wanting his pet Chihuahua  in a scene with him.  This film can be included in Hopper’s quote: “I’ve made a lot of movies that are only shown in East European countries and Fiji.”  
  30. Scott Glenn, Training Day, 2000.      Director Antoine Fuqua said: I want Rourke to play Roger. The suits shuddered and said: Can’t have him! 
  31. Mark Ruffalo, In The Cut, 2003.     Australian director Jane Campion  wanted the real deal; her originalstar (and producer) Nicole Kidman, did not.“I can’t blame her,” said Rourke.  (Nicole didn’t star; Meg Ryan subbed).  “You know the song, ‘I Fought The Law And The Law Won’? “ said  Rourke in 2008. “Well , I fought the system and it kicked the living shit out of me.  I said to my psychiatrist one day: Sean Penn, Al Pacino, none of these guys has been through this. And he said:  None of those guys would know how to fall as far as you have; only you could fall this far.  But I didn’t think it was going to take 15 years.  But I wasn’t a little bad.  I was real bad.  And you pay the price for what you do in this life.”
  32. Vincent Pastore, Revolver, 2005.      Harvey Keitel also passed.   Rourke preferred (trusted) another UK director – Tony Scott had offered Domino. Wise choice. Revolver was the worst Guy Ritchie film since he and Madonna were Swept Away, 2002. (She swept him away in late 2008).

  33. Kurt Russell,  Grindhouse (Death Proof  segment), 2006.  
    No go? OK. And Quentin Tarantino immediately went to Russell about Stuntman Mike, a man terrorizing young girls in, his portion of the double-feature Grind House – Ropbert Rodriguez helmed the other tale, Planet Terror.   Rourke was back, big time – Oscar-nominated for The Wrestler, 2008.  “I’ve been to hell, I’m not going back there. It’s such a nice feeling to feel proud again, not to be living in shame and disgrace and failure. I remember walking into a restaurant one time and people looking at me… like Jack the Ripper had walked in.”

  34. Ron Perlman, Conan the Barbarian, 2010.     After The Wrestler, everyone wanted Mickey again. He gave up being Conan’s Dad, Corin, in favour of King Hyperion in Immortals – “without doubt, ” said crtic icon Roger Ebert, “the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” (Perlman voiced Conan in two video animation films).
  35. Woody Harrelson, Seven Psychopaths, 2011.      Colin Farrell was eager to work  again with London auteur director Martin McDonagh after In Bruges, 2007. Rourke  seemed happy enough about being Charlie but  then, Rourke being Rourke had disputes with one of the suits and suits being suits, they canned him. Mickey’s  loss.  “A delightfully goofy, self-aware movie,” said  Chicago critic Roger Ebert, “that knows it is a movie.”
  36. Benedict Cumberbatch, Star Trek: Into Darkness 2012.     The 12th and most successful Trek – and Leonard Nimoy’s final curtain as Spock. Producer-director JJ Abrams saw his villain, Kahn Noonien Singh, as a mix of The Dark Knight’s Joker, Hannibal Lecter and The Shining’s Jack Torrance. And seemed to search for him, at UNO: American Rourke, Mexican Demián Bichir, Puerto Rican Benicio Del Toro, Spanish Jordi Mollà, Venezuelian Edgar Ramirez. Before Steven Spielberg suggested… Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch of Hammesmith, London! And he tested in a friend’s kitchen on an iPhone.
  37. Sean Patrick Flanery, Broken Horses, 2014. Change of siblings – again. The violinist and a mentally challenged hitman had also once been Nicolas Cage and Mickey Rourke… in the first Hollywood feature from a Bollywoodian.  Vidhu Vinod Chopra had LA fans. For James Cameron, this was an artistic triumph while Alfonso Cuaron was overwhelmed. So were critics. Just not in the same direction. “A cheap, unpleasant movie,” said Jeff Rollinsof cutpfrintfilm.com, “with a hair-brained plot, abysmal dialog, hollow characters and truly bizarre performances. It’s best to put this horse down.”












 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  36