Don Groves examines the chequered career of an actor who got off the mat in The Wrestler.
14 Apr 2009 - 11:15 AM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 10:30 PM

After earning an Oscar nomination, widespread critical acclaim and a measure of box-office success for his comeback role in The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke should be a hot property again in Hollywood, right?

Not necessarily. The actor who spent 15 years in the wilderness is playing a Russian villain in Marvel Studios' Iron Man 2, which is now shooting in Los Angeles. But he hasn't been inundated with offers from the major studios and he's still earning modest fees: for the Iron Man sequel he was initially offered just $US250,000, although his agent reportedly managed to persuade Marvel to up that to $400,000.

But Rourke's services are in demand among independent filmmakers, and we'll see him in at least six indie films in the next couple of years. I'm not sure why the Hollywood studios are reluctant to embrace him. Perhaps some executives wonder if he's made a clean break from his troubled past; Alan Parker, who directed Rourke in Angel Heart, famously said that working with him was a “nightmare.”

Also, studio number-crunchers won't have been knocked out by The Wrestler which, despite all the favourable publicity and laudatory reviews, made $26 million in the US and $17 million internationally. That's a handsome return for a film that cost just $6 million, but hardly conclusive proof that Rourke can sell tickets when he's not adorned in lycra tights as Randy 'The Ram' Robinson.

Finally, there are a limited number of roles nowadays in studio films for a 56-year-old actor and former boxer with a craggy visage and some unwanted baggage.

Among his upcoming movies, he'll be seen alongside Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham and Eric Roberts in The Expendables, Stallone's actioner about a team of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator.

In Australian director Gregor Jordan's The Informers, he'll portray an amoral former studio security guard who plots to kidnap a child to sell to the leader of a Los Angeles cult. Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Rhys Ifans and Brad Renfro co-star in the movie written by American Psycho's Brett Easton Ellis.

In St. Vincent, the actor teams up again with his Johnny Handsome director Walter Hill in the tale of a hit man who returns to his old New York City neighbourhood to finish off the botched killing of an informant, is forced to masquerade as a priest and finds himself taking the confessions of his target.

Hany Abu-Assad's 11 Minutes will feature Alice Braga as a naive girl who's betrayed by her first lover and becomes a high-priced call girl at a “gentlemen\'s club” in Geneva, with Vincent Cassel as a music executive who gets her hooked on S&M and Rourke as the club owner.

Director Gela Babluani\'s 13 is a remake of his French-language film 13 Tzameti, which centres on a man who steals a mysterious package that promises to pay out a fortune, with a cast including Rourke, Jason Statham, 50 Cent, Ray Winstone, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Michael Shannon and Ben Gazzara.

In Mitch Glazer's Passion Plays, he's a down-on-his-heels trumpet player in 1950s Los Angeles, who finds redemption in the shapely form of an angel played by Megan Fox.

Whatever happens in the career of Mickey Rourke, he vows to never go back to his hell-raising, drug-fuelled days. “It\'s such a nice feeling to feel proud again, not to be living in shame and disgrace and failure,” he said in a recent interview. “I remember walking into a restaurant one time and people looking at me like Jack the Ripper had walked in.”