It Takes All Kinds

a Few Stories and Profiles by Erik Hedegaard
mainly from inside the pages of Rolling Stone
(with additional commentary and folderol provided by the author aka Charlie, sometimes)

Mickey Rourke

Posted on | October 13, 2008 | 1 Comment

MICKEY ROURKE WAS IN AUSTIN, ON SOUTH Congress, sitting outside a coffee joint named Jo’s, cool shades on, "watching the pretty girls go by. He had lots of heavy stuff on his mind, but just now he was taking a breather. "They’ve sure got some talent in this town," he said, knowledgeably. "Hot? Forget about it. Let me tell you something, brother. You have no clue. No clue." He was a big, muscular guy, really quite thick, with a creased, heavily stubbled face and a bleak nose that looked like it had been mashed some. Once, it was a more beautiful face, possessed of light in the eyes, a raffish grin, animal toughness and a certain feminine vulnerability. But that was twenty years ago, in the 1980s, during the time when he was a famous actor who chewed up the scenery in movies like Diner, 9 ½ Weeks, Rumble Fish, The Pope of Greenwich Village and Barfly, and before he dropped out of the business in a fit of self-loathing, moved to Miami Beach and spent the next five years in a boxing ring, eight wins, six knockouts, two draws. Once, he had everything: a gold-plated Rolls-Royce, a whole bunch of Harley-Davidsons, a flashy Benedict Canyon manse, an entourage of yes-boss sycophants, international fame, a beautiful, pouty-lipped model-actress wife, the awe of peers and James Dean-size potential. Today, he had nothing of the sort, pretty much, except for the wan desire to make a comeback; later in the year, he’d appear in a new Tony Scott movie, Domino, starring Keira Rnightley, but first came Sin City, based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller, with him in one of the main roles, opposite Bruce Willis and Clive Owen. He was forty-eight years old. In three days, he’d be returning to Hollywood, where he now lived, but he wasn’t looking forward to it. He’d much prefer to stay right where he was.

"One day, I am going to move here," he said after a while. "I mean, if I was in L.A., I wouldn’t have this smile on my face. See that blond girl with the blue sweater? In L.A., she’d have a skirt up to her ass trying to fucking get a job from some asshole. Here, it’s normal. Here, not everybody has this ambitious ugly agenda."

He shrugged, blew some steam off his coffee and began to talk about the implosion of his once-brilliant career.

"I always knew that I’m the one who fucked it up, not them, them who I hated who I didn’t even know who they were," he said. "My anger fucked it up, my pain, my confusion, my ignorance. When I started seeing this shrink I see, I thought that in six months, a year at most, I’d be back working nonstop again. Then two, three, four, five, six years go by, and I’m still licking the fucking side-walk. That’s where I still am. This is no romantic journey. A few months ago, right after my brother Joe died, my friend Bruce is driving me to the airport. I’d forgotten my driver’s license. I said, ‘How am I going to get on the airplane?’ Bruce says, ‘Tell them who you are.’ I say, "What do you mean? Tell them who I used to be, motherfucker?’ Bruce is laughing. He goes, ‘You know what? I’m the CEO.’ I say, ‘The CEO of what?’ He goes, ‘The CEO of nothing.’ Oh, fucking Bruce, man.

"I’ve lost everything," he went on. "Everything. Every fucking thing. Say it: everything. When I was down to $200, even my entourage wouldn’t talk to me anymore. I actually called up this one guy to ask if he knew where I could get a construction job. He’s like, ‘Hey, Mickey, come on. I don’t have time for your shit,’ and hung up the phone. It may never be easy for me again. I guess I really did fuck up big-time."

MAINLY, HE WAS WAITING AROUND for Sin City to open, to see if maybe it does for him what Pulp Fiction did for John Travolta. In the movie, he plays a character named Marv who goes on a vengeance bender after his one true love is killed in his bed. For the role, Rourke’s used-to-be-beautiful face was beefed up and distorted by prosthetics, making him all but unrecognizable and perhaps necessitating the posters that shout MICKEY ROURKE is MARV. It’s the first time in memory that he’s received star billing in a movie that anyone might hotly anticipate seeing, and good things may come of it. Meanwhile, though, in Austin, he spent most of his hours killing time with his beloved terrier-Chihuahua mix, Loki.

"Loki’s the boss," he said one afternoon fondly. "I’m superattached to Loki, just the way I was to her father, Beau Jack. I lost Beau Jack three years ago. I gave him mouth-to-mouth for forty-five minutes before they peeled me off. Depressed? He died at my home, and I didn’t go back there for two weeks. Even now, it’s hard to talk about." Today, Loki is Rourke’s constant companion in life and travels everywhere with him. On the way here, he carried her onto the plane in a small case and shoved it as far under his first-class seat as he could, but it was not good enough for the flight attendant, who kicked the bag and said, "Can’t you put that somewhere else?" He said, "Fuck you, you fucking bitch. There’s a dog in there." She said, "What’d you say?" He said, "Fuck you, you fucking bitch. Don’t fucking kick it again." And the old Rourke would have gone on, but he’s trying hard not to be the old Rourke, so he shut up.

As it happened, in Austin, this Rourke had a grotesque case of conjunctivitis in his right eye, so in public he always wore his sunglasses. Maybe the old Rourke wouldn’t have cared who he grossed out. Maybe the old Rourke would have delighted in showing off his swollen, goopy eye. But the new Rourke knew better than to risk offending people, though not so much the people here, really, as the studio folks back in L.A., where even an A-list director like Domino’s Tony Scott (Top Gun) had to battle to get him hired. In that instance, the problem revolved around some "cunt" who had it in for him, but he said he wouldn’t identify her, him being reformed and all. Laughing, he said, "Who that was, I have no idea. If you’d met me ten years ago, I would have told you, but I ain’t going back in that black hole. I regret a lot of the shit that once came out of my mouth. It was stupid shit, fucking sh’t, a lot of crap, a lot of bullshit that didn’t change anything, even when it was true. So now I’m a man who has nothing to say, and what you’re going to get out of me is a whole lot of nothing."

True to his word, he leaned back and said nothing for a few moments. But he could not stay quiet for long. He soon was saying that he doesn’t eat a lot of dairy ("I don’t eat a lot of dairy"); that he’s a big George Bush fan ("If I could have voted for him twice, I would have"); that he is so reduced in circumstances that he has no ATM card and accountants have to ration out a weekly allowance. He said that his one luxury these days is his live-in cook back in L.A. and that he usually gets up early in order to go to bed early ("It’s best if I’m not sitting around wondering what I’m going to do tonight"). He said that he’ll wear any color but red; that he doesn’t wear underwear often; that his most appealing feature to a girl is "probably Loki." He said, "When you did the damage I did for fifteen, twenty years, of course there’s going to be resistance from the studios." He said, "The kind of roles I’m doing right now, I’m taking the best of what I can get." He also said, with vehemence, "I don’t take meetings and I won’t take meetings, unless it’s somebody with a résumé like [Robert] Rodriguez’s or Tony Scott’s. I still have my pride. If Joe Blow wants to put me in a movie, he better have a lot of fucking money to pay me, and don’t say you want to meet me. Know what I’m saying? Hire me and pay me. That’s the way it is."

The last time he went to confession, he finally said, was many years ago, back in New York, where he often spilled his guts to a priest named Father Peter. "Father Peter helped me out during a very difficult period. He said, ‘No, you’re not going to do that to that man. You’re going to go over there and get on your knees and promise the Blessed Mother that you’re not going to do that. Get over there.’ Then we went down to the cellar, had some red wine, smoked some cigarettes and talked some more. Father Peter’s the bomb, man."

After that, he pulled some eyedrops out of his pocket, removed his sunglasses, tilted his head back, hovered the vial over that one bad eye, his hand trembling slightly, a symptom of the nerve damage he did to himself during his boxing years, and said, "I can’t get it in my fucking eye." Then he said, "Well, that went pretty good," though clearly it had not.

HE WAS JUST A TWENTY’FIVE-YEAR-old kid working as a bouncer in a transvestite club on Hollywood Boulevard when he got his first noticeable part in a first-class Hollywood production, but that twitchy, caged performance, in 1981’s Body Heat, as an arsonist, set him loose on the world. He followed it up the next year with another standout piece of work, in Barry Levinson’s Diner. For a while, he was as hot and obnoxious as they come, an arrogant, mean-mouthed toughguy Method actor who’d studied at the Actors Studio, in New York, and didn’t take guff from anyone, not studios, not directors, not producers, and he made enemies galore. Meanwhile, he started hanging out not with other actors but with bikers and bona fide gangsters like John Gotti, guys like the guys he grew up with in the ghetto of Liberty City, near Miami Beach. And he was spending money, more money than he had, to the point where, in 1991, after a decade of mostly good movies, he succumbed to the lure of a $2.6 million payday offer, his biggest ever, and made an awful hunk of hooey called Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.

"That was the final straw," he said. "The writing sucked. The director sucked. And I sold out. I owed a lot of money, but, boy, that did it. That broke the camel’s back."

Shortly thereafter, almost as penance and a way to seek redemption, he left Hollywood for Miami Beach, where he’d boxed as a kid, and began his five-year career in the ring. He was thirty-four. He acquitted himself pretty well as a supermiddleweight and a light-heavyweight but still wound up with a broken cheekbone, two broken ribs, four broken knuckles, a broken toe, a nose broken five times and a split tongue. In 1995, doctors told him he was becoming punch-drunk ("I was at the point where I could remember stuff from twenty-five years ago but not twenty-five seconds ago"), so he wised up and left the sport. He’d made $1.3 million as a boxer, but he was also an easy touch for his so-called friends, paying their bail bonds, paying their rent, paying their auto mechanics, and soon it too was all gone.

Soon, those friends deserted him, leaving him all alone in the world except for his dogs (he’s got seven of them, all Chihuahua-like) and his shrink, whom Rourke calls "my best friend." Indeed, when Rourke was penniless, the doctor saw him on the cuff, to the tune of $30,000 or $40,000, which Rourke has since paid back. He used to visit him three times a week; he’s now down to one visit weekly, plus a phone call. "I thought I’d go for three or four months," he said. "I had no idea six years would go by and I still have shit to work on." He paused for a moment. "Articles have said I had a drinking and drug problem, but that’s all bullshit. It was all my madness. That’s all."

Dreams? He really has only one, and it concerns his brother Joe, who developed cancer at the age of nineteen and died last October. "He died in my arms," Rourke said. "I’ve seen a lot in my life, but you’re never ready to have your brother die in your arms. Joe and I did everything together. People say, ‘What are your dreams? What do you want?’ I want Joe to walk through the fucking door. That’s what I want, all right?" He sighed heavily and lifted his sunglasses to wipe away some wetness. "Anyway, I don’t have any grandiose movie dreams like I may have once had. My stuff is simple now. Keep my mouth shut and go to work, when I have work. I’m starting all over again. Ain’t that a motherfucker?"

ACTUALLY, HE’S BEEN STARTING ALL over for at least a decade, in movies that never seem to go anywhere or do anything for him, with never-heard-of titles like Out in Fifty, Shades and Shergar. Even when he shines in a movie, as he did during his brief moments in The Rainmaker and Sean Penn’s The Pledge, few in Hollywood seem to want to offer him anything substantial, like a real leading role in a genuine bigbudget major-studio film. He was up for a juicy part in Training Day but ultimately got passed over, because of his old bad reputation. This frustrates him beyond words. "All I need is one fucking shot," he said quietly, "because I know the kind of talent I got. But I’ve also worked very hard to understand what it means to a man like me to know that it’s more about politics than it is about art. It’s a business, and it’s all political, and when you don’t give a shit about that, you pay the price. I didn’t know that before. I might resent it now, but you’re not going to know it. Every lesson I’ve learned, I’ve learned the hard way. I’ve had to make a lot of changes that I didn’t necessarily want to make. But that’s why you can’t change in a year or two. It’s deep shit. You bet your ass."

HE WAS SITTING OUTSIDE AGAIN, AT Jo’s, over another hot cup of coffee, Loki perched alertly on his lap. Today, she looked more fetching than ever, in a $260 cashmere sweater, with a $275 turquoise collar around her neck. Rourke himself looked as he usually does, like somebody you wouldn’t want to mess with, with his skullcap, his calf-length black leather coat, his thick, grizzled face, his sunglasses, his gravelly voice, his stony belligerence when asked questions he doesn’t want to hear.

Does he have a girlfriend at the moment?

"I’m not talking about that."

Is he a pretty good pickup artist?

"I don’t go there."

Does he have a best girl friend?

"As in just friend, period? Yeah. And she’s the best thing I ever met."

And right at that moment, Rourke’s cell phone began to ring. Blinking, he looked at it and said, "Uh, that’s her right now." Answering it, he said, "Hey, how you doing today? Did you get my letter? Are you serious? Man, it was sent special delivery. Wow. Anyway, it’s so cool here. You would absolutely fucking love it. What? I can’t hear you. Say that again. Hello? Hello? Oh, shit." He hung up the phone.

Does he fall in love easily?

"I don’t fall in love. I have been in love before. I was married to someone who I really love a lot. In fact, that was her who just called."

Much silence followed. So, Carré Otis had just called him. The two met in 1989, while making Wild Orchid, a soft-core piece of junk meant to trade on Rourke’s notoriety following his sadomaso antics in 9 ½ Weeks. Their passion for each other was instant and destructive. "We were very fiery people," Otis once said. "We both had a lot of anger…. We connected in a wounded way." So they loved, they fought, they fell apart, they got back together, they married, they fell apart again, with Otis filing spousal-abuse charges against Rourke, which she later dropped. It was one hell of a romance, probably one of the worst in Hollywood history.

So things are OK with Otis?

"No, they aren’t."

Does he still have the CARRE FOREVER tattoo on his shoulder?

"You bet your ass I do."

Is it still forever?

"Absolutely. I’m old-school, Jack. I live with hope. But I’m not talking about it."

Does he have a pet name for her?

"No. We don’t have a name for her, period, do we, pal?"

Does she have a pet name for him?

"None of that stuff," he snapped, turning away to have a gander at some freakazoid guy wearing a tutu, a blouse with phony boobs under it and the horns of a devil on his head.

Was his dad ever a Mafia hitman known as Two-Gun Philly, as was once reported?

"Absolutely not," Rourke said. "I only met him once. He was a bodybuilder, and I don’t know what he did. Boy, that’s fuckin’ wild. I never heard that one before. Ever."

Just then, the devil in a tutu arrived in front of Rourke. The devil said, "Ever? Never ever? Never, never, never, ever?"

Rourke looked at him. "Go do what you gotta do, brother," he said.

"I hear ya," the devil said.

"All right," Rourke said.

"I hear ya," the devil said again.

"Go take a little walk, pal," Rourke said, with rising menace. "I’m busy."

The devil finally started to go. But before he left, he had one more thing to say.

"Ever notice how I scare real men? Ewww, I love it!" And then he vanished.

Rourke began cooing at Loki, clucking and fawning.

Various reports suggest that he’s had a lot of cosmetic work done to his face, cheek implants, eye jobs and the like. Has he had any plastic surgery other than that called for by his boxing mishaps?

"Fuck, no," he said. "I don’t like needles."

Would he talk about his childhood?

"I never talk about that," he said. "I talk about that on Saturdays with my doctor."

What about his stepfather?

"I don’t talk about that at all," he said. "I never give that any energy at all."

Then he got up and ambled back to his hotel, where he stopped by the front desk and confessed to burning up a pillow in his room the previous night, a mishap with a candle. "I kind of put it in a drawer so nobody would see it," he said sheepishly. "I just wanted to let you know it was an accident and get it put on my credit card."

The clerk said, "Accidents happen. And thanks for letting us know!"

Rourke left, an oddly victorious smile on his face.

HE REALLY DIDN’T MIND GROWING up in the humid slums of Liberty City. He was a white-trash kid who happily hung out with the other kids from the street. His mother was OK, too, albeit a rotten cook ("She couldn’t fry an egg if her life depended on it"). But then there was his stepfather. He moved the family to nearby Miami Beach when Mickey was eleven. It was a better neighborhood, and the better-off kids made fun of the way Mickey dressed and spoke. But what was happening at home was far worse. Reports have noted that Mickey’s stepfather used to beat Mickey and his brother. Rourke himself has basically remained mum about the abuse, even though in Austin, during the dusk of another day, he did speak of one incident a little, not in specifics exactly but by inference and implication.

"Something happened to me a long time ago where I was forced to call somebody something I didn’t want to call that person and they did something to me that was terrifying, so after that nobody is going to talk down to me or fuck with me again," he said. "It was so scary that you’d rather disappear. And that’s what I wanted: to push a button and disappear. As you get older, you get hardened, but as a kid you can’t defend yourself. And then you think something’s wrong with you because you can’t defend yourself. So the years go by and you get harder and stronger." He paused for a moment, thinking. "You want to know what it was?" he said finally. "My mother married an asshole, OK, who wasn’t my father. A cop. But there comes a time when you just have to get over it, or it’ll ruin your life, and then you won’t have a life."

THIS SEEMED TO EXPLAIN A LOT about Rourke — his anger, his attitude, his movie-career flameout, his boxing, everything. But it did not explain his efforts to try to change himself by going to see a shrink for six years straight, imperfect and confused and ineffectual as those efforts may sometimes be. Those must have come from some other Rourke, maybe the real Rourke, the pure Rourke who has not been heard from in a very long time.

Back in his hotel room, he flopped down on the bed. Loki hopped up next to him, and Rourke demonstrated how he sleeps with her. Laying on his back, he snuggled the dog into the crook of his left arm. face up. He looked happy like that, peaceful even. They both did. "How’s my girl doing?" he said to the dog. "How’s Daddy’s little girl? You OK? You look tired. I don’t know what I’m going to do without this one. She’s eleven. Give Daddy a kiss."

The next day, he woke up knowing he had to fly back to L.A. that afternoon.

"I don’t want to leave," he said. "That’s all I can think about right now. I don’t want to go."

He gathered Loki into his arms one more time.

"I can’t wait to move here," he said. "I cannot fucking wait."

Rolling Stone News



One Response to “Mickey Rourke”

  1. Jillian Haeseler
    February 16th, 2017 @ 2:17 am

    Mickey Rourke blew it. He could have been the next Marlon Brandon. He had the acting talent and the sex appeal. This came out in his great comeback, The Wrestler. Of course, he looked the part. He still has the acting talent but his looks are gone.

    So sorry, he is now limited to certain roles. But I am still a fan of his. His politics stink however.


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