Rourke talked into ëIron Man 2í
LOS ANGELES ó Not so long ago, Mickey Rourkeís career belonged on a scrap heap. Now heís starring in an Iron Man movie. Remind you of anyone?
So who better to spar with the similarly resurrected Robert Downey Jr. than Rourke, the 57-year-old hell-raiser whose resurgence was solidified by an Academy Award nomination for 2008ís The Wrestler?
Turns out, they even crossed paths ìback in the day,î Rourke reveals. ìI knew Robert a little bit … and he really is a changed man ó in every way. From the choices that he makes to what heís putting in his body.î
Downey, not surprisingly, was key in convincing Rourke to accept the role of Ivan Vanko, Tony Starkís Russian cybernetic nemesis in Iron Man 2, which opens everywhere Friday.
The two actors happened to be on the same awards circuit in early 2009 ó Downey was Oscar-nominated for Tropic Thunder ó as sequel casting was underway.
ì(Robert) was lobbying him, every time they sat together, to try to get him to join the movie,î director Jon Favreau says.
Or as Downey, turning to Rourke during a news conference, remembers, ìI really worked you like a rib, didnít I? It was embarrassing. I was literally begging you in public.î
Fortunately for the filmmakers, Rourke had enjoyed the 2008 original ó particularly Downeyís performance as an arms manufacturer-turned-weaponized superhero.
ìI think it was a smart move for whoever was pulling for Robert (to play Stark) because usually they would have gone for a role like this with a younger, cleaner image kind of guy. It would have been like watching cardboard. Robert brought something to it and transcended the material. It wasnít like watching,î Rourke pauses, considering his words, ìwhatever. Spider-Man.î
And there are perks to big-budget movies, after all. ìI had come off working on a film where there was no budget. I didnít even have a chair to sit in. I remember, the first day (on Iron Man 2), I asked for a cappuccino and they said, ëWhat kind would you like?í î
Not so glamorous? Two months of training so he could not only wield two bullwhips simultaneously but maneuver in a 40-pound suit.
The resulting character ó known as Whiplash ó looks like Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises crossed with the Terminator. But Rourke, a well-known animal lover, also got his wish to humanize Vanko by giving him a cockatoo.
ìI wanted him to have a pet. Everybody likes to make the Russian guy a really terrible bad guy. And I thought maybe he has his own point of view. I thought it was important to show heís not a one-dimensional bad guy.î
That Rourke not only has creative clout, but is in demand at all, is remarkable, he realizes.
After a decade of being almost unemployable, heís now fielding offers and shooting movies back-to-back-to-back.
ìI had 14 years off, so I enjoy (working). Iím really fortunate that I got a second chance after the big mess I made.î
Already heís wrapped the drama Passion Play with Megan Fox and heís currently shooting the myth-based adventure The Immortals in Montreal. Later this year, he intends to reunite for a movie with Tony Scott (Domino).
But can he avoiding repeating the behavior that derailed his career two decades ago, after such memorable films as 91/2 Weeks, Angel Heart and The Pope of Greenwich Village? He sounds optimistic.
ìThe mistake I made before is I would wait so long to find a movie I was excited about and then I would get broke and have to take a movie to pay my bills. And if you take a movie to pay your bills, then youíre doing something you donít want to be in. And thatís where the trouble would start,î he says, alluding to his bad-tempered reputation. ìSo itís important for me to not have to go to work to pay for my lifestyle.î
Rourke talked into ëIron Man 2í