It looks like Mickey Rourke is going to experience heart problems of a wholly different kind in Iron Man 2. Having made a remarkable comeback to the front lines of acting with his deeply felt portrayal of fading wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson, who suffers a heart attack in The Wrestler, the ever unpredictable Rourke will boast an artificial power cell embedded in his chest when he plays the villain in the May 2010 blockbuster.
Rourke will essay Russian Ivan Vanko, who powers up to be Whiplash when he confronts Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man. It was Downey Jr, whose Tony Stark was also a perception changing performance in 2008, who reportedly first suggested the part to Rourke when the two participated in an Academy Awards roundtable interview earlier this year. Returning director Jon Favreau also agreed as, eventually, did Marvel Studios, who were rumoured to have initially made a lowball offer for Rourke's services (budgetary concerns also cost Iron Man's Terence Howard his part in the sequel – he was replaced by Don Cheadle).
The 55-year-old Rourke, who previously squandered the promise of his early work two decades ago (Diner, Angel Heart), certainly has the physique to play Whiplash, but it remains to be seen if he can bring something distinctive to the role. The Iron Man sequel certainly has an extensive cast to satisfy: as well as Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cheadle in existing roles, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and John Slattery (SBS's Mad Men) will join the cast. The latter will play Tony Stark's visionary father, in what may be the darker second part of a proposed trilogy.
Rourke has various other projects underway, including a role in Sylvester Stallone's eighties action flick throwback The Expendables, but it's Iron Man 2 that will draw the most attention. Hopefully he can avoid the recent fate of other actors who've been acclaimed for a dramatic role and then squandered their artistic capital in a lucrative but banal mainstream role. Halle Berry (Monster's Ball and Catwoman) and Charlize Theron (Monster and Aeon Flux) don't need the company.