When it comes to his professional comeback, Mickey Rourke knows full well the greatest perk: “I don’t have to sit in my house anymore waiting for the phone to ring.”
After a promising career kickoff in the 1980s, Rourke’s mercurial personality and wild ways ultimately turned him into a Hollywood pariah of the highest order for well over a decade, until the actor eventually learned to tame some of his more self-destructive tendencies and began turning in top-flight film performances culminating with his Oscar-nominated turn in 2008’s “The Wrestler.” Now, as he regularly headlines big-budget studio fare like his next film “Immortals" (opening this Friday), Rourke says he refuses to take his success for granted – and continues to struggle to maintain his momentum.
“I remembert when I went back to Cannes with [director Robert] Rodriguez for “Sin City’ and I was sitting in the car and I thought, ‘Oh my God – I’m getting a chance again,” Rourke tells PopcornBiz. “Because all the years go by and it’s 13 years or that many years later and you’re living in a room. After like seven years go by I’d think, ‘Yeah, I really f**ked up.’ And then ten years go by and it’s like ‘They’re not gonna let me back in the door again.’ Especially I was out here [in Los Angeles] and this is the worst place to be when they grind you into the ground – they can’t wait to do it. And I helped them do it."
“I don’t look at that word closure – I don’t believe there is any,” the actor continues. “Man, I could f**k up tomorrow, easily; in the next ten minutes. I could be right back where I was, so it’s like a guy who gets out of jail. You’ve got to behave. I had to change. There’s a big part of myself that’s never gonna change – certain things. But I did have to change and realize that I had to be accountable. Before there were no rules with me and I wasn’t accountable. I didn’t care what the consequences are, and now I do.”
He admits that his latest film “The Immortals” – director Tarsem Singh’s “300”-style epic featuring Greek heroes and gods – isn’t entirely the kind of film he’d rush out to see himself, but he enjoyed the chance to try to find some dimensionality in his character Hyperion, who oppses the hero Theseus (Henry Cavill) and otherwise might have been a routine, straightforward villain.
“I never look at the guy as that pure evil. I always try to find there’s a reason. Maybe it’s Theseus’ problem, you know?” he laughs. “I fought very hard in the last couple of years playing 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. It’s to try to find layers and reasons to justify why he is what he is. Find moments. I know gangsters from the old days that I would sit down with. I’d bring a girlfriend to the table and I’d go, ‘That’s so and so.’ And he’d be the nicest guy. She’d go, ‘Oh I can’t believe people talk about him like that. Did he really kill 12 people?’ And I’d go, ‘Yeah.’ So I try to find the moments where he’s not that clichéd evil bad guy, and it’s a big fight.”
Rourke remembers feeling let down on his last big budget blockbuster “Iron Man 2” when he found too much opposition to his plan to flesh out his villainous character. “And they won,” he explains. “Going to work for Marvel and them breaking [director Jon] Favreau’s balls and wanting just a one dimensional villain – the performance and all I tried to bring to him ends up on the f**king 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. So I fight for that all the time. This character was hard because he was written as pure evil."
Now, Rourke’s weighing if he’ll return to the role of Marv, the hulking, mentally trouble yet noble deep-down protagonist of several “Sin City” comic books for Rodriguez’s announced sequel. “Depends,” he says, “Depends how bad they want me – ya feel me? Yeah, I did [like the character]. But I’m claustrophobic, so the three hours of make up…Because you have to keep it on for 13,14 hours a day. It’s latex and glue and that stuff that gets my eyes all red. It’s a nightmare. And the chair, you’ve got the teeth in. I remember I picked up some chick at a bar in Texas and I invited her to the set to have lunch at the lunch break. I couldn’t take the s***t off. I never saw her again."
And while he’s glad that Hollywood continues to embrace him, Rourke admits he remains uneasy about some of its rituals – like the recent ceremony in which he added his hand- and footprints to the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. “Maybe a long time ago it would have been [exciting], and for some reason maybe down the line it will be, but right now it’s…I hear they’re putting everyone in there,” he deadpans. “Maybe in a couple of years it’ll mean something to me.”
"Immortals" opens everywhere Friday, November 11th