In the upcoming blockbuster Immortals, Mickey Rourke plays King Hyperion, an evil ruler bent on revenge. He’s determined to release the mythic Titans upon a helpless humanity and the only thing standing in his way is an army led by Theseus, a human who has lost faith in the gods.
Rourke recently sat down with us to discuss this role, his intense work ethic and a project dear to his heart. Due to the length of the interview, we couldn’t post the entire thing in written form, but feel free to check out the audio at the end of the page; it’s worth a listen!
Question: What was your experience working with Tarsem Singh, such a visually driven director?
Mickey Rourke: It’s probably the reason I took the movie. I had seen his commercial reel, especially the Nike reel. The one where they’re in all the masks. He said to me “I’m sort of doing that with these characters.” I’ve said this in interviews yesterday. I dont think I would’ve done the material if it wasn’t with a guy like Tarsem. You know, someone who’s a visualist, a shooter, who knows how to light and make it transcend the page. I was glad to have the opportunity to work with another smart guy like [Darren] Aronofsky who is brainy or Rodriguez who could say “Give it a little adjustment.” and take the performance to make a better choice than what I made, which is fine with me.
Question: Speaking of Greek mythology, had you done any research prior to the role?
MR: I think the only research I did was looking at photographs. It’s interesting, because I’m working on a rugby project and Tarsem showed me a picture of a French rugby player with the beard and the long hair. He said that’s the look he wants. I said “Ok, we’ll roll with that.”
Question: Could you talk a little more in general about what does this movie mean to today’s society?
MR: That’s way over my head, son. I don’t care (laughs). I know what you mean. I think it’s pure entertainment. I don’t think you can go that deep with it.
Question: You say you enjoyed working with Robert Rodriguez. Do you have plans on working with him again?
MR: Yeah, if he pays me enough (laughs). I like Robert a lot. I’m not crazy about his friend, but I like Robert a lot. Yes, I’d like to work with him again. He’s another guy that’s very easy on the set, because he’s very prepared. The smart guys do this extensive pre-production. It means a lot to them and they’re very intelligent. So, it’s very easy to go and work with these guys when they know what they want. I kind of know what I want to do. It’s why the guys like Rodriguez, Tarsem and Aronofsky are a lot more fun to work with than some of these guys that were around 20 years ago.
Question: What about the movie you were supposed to do with Johnny Holiday?
MR: I talk with him all the time, at least once a week. He’s doing a play now. The script wasn’t very good. Johnny and I are going to work together probably in the next year or two. They’re developing a pirate movie for us, but a serious one. You know, the French and the English, because they hate each other.
Question: Is there a dream role you’d like to do?
MR: I’m working on it now. I just finished writing it. It’s a rugby movie about a rugby player that came out of the closet while he was still playing, Gareth Thomas. We just got a director from South Africa. It was important to get a director who understands that game either from the UK or Scotland or Ireland. If everything falls together, we’ll be shooting late March, if I don’t break anything.
Question: Do you have a different approach to your career the second time around?
MR: I try not to make the mistakes I did a long time ago, because in part, that’s what got me out of work for many, many years. My career started in the eighties and was over in the nineties. I had thirteen, fourteen years to think about all the mistakes I’d made. I realized it’s a political business. I can’t tell everybody,”Fuck you.” I’m OK knowing it’s a business and it’s not this pure art form that I wanted it to be when I was at the Actor’s Studio. I thought everybody was going to be like Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel and DeNiro. That kind of actor. I didn’t know there would be so much grey, so much mediocrity in the way.
Question: Why are you willing to put up with it today though?
MR: Well, you have a glass of wine, but my glass of wine is only half full. I don’t have the time to start over again. It’s like they say “The first half is a lot more fun and the second half is not as painful.”
Question: Are you pickier with your projects now?
MR: No. I’ve turned into a real whore (laughs).
Question: What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained on set in any film?
Mr: I was really hurt on The Wrestler with my lower back. We’re doing the choreography and I don’t know shit about wrestling. Darren says “You’re moving like a boxer.” I go “No shit, Darren.” I tell the stunt coordinator “Get him the fuck away from me.” We had the ring in Darren’s loft. The wrestlers would show up there and we’d choreograph everything. Every time Aronofsky would show up, he’d do this (waves his hands) and say “You’re only giving me thirty percent.” And I’d throw the thing. I’d say “You motherfucker.” He didn’t know I’d hurt my back. My knee was blown out too.
I went home. I limped home. I called my agent. I said “Fuck him. That little prick.” Darren comes over. He says “I’m sorry, but you looked like you weren’t giving it your all. I didn’t know you were that hurt.” I was hurt for pretty much the entire movie. Once we got Darren out of the room, we got work done. But that’s what’s so great about Darren. How many directors would let you put a ring in their office? He wanted to make sure I was doing my wrestling practice everyday. So, all I’m thinking is I’m getting paid scale to do this fucking thing. After four days, I knew the movie would be what it was and it was worth it. It also took a lot out of me physically, as well as emotionally. It was just brutal. The rugby movie is going to be the same or worse.
Question: But you’ll get paid better right?
MR: I don’t care about the pay. That was for the glory. This was for me. This will be the best movie I’ve ever made in my whole life.
Question: Is the goal of your career to get an Oscar or something else?
MR: I do have the Oscar, but Shaun is holding it at his house. I mean, that’s the way I look at it really. His mother said it too. I just got to keep moving and be better than I was the last time. There are jobs you take for the money and jobs for the glory. This one’s for…I’m not going to tell you (laughs). This one’s for fun. You don’t get, all the time, the perfect piece of ass, you know? Sometimes, you gotta fuck a fat girl.
Question: You mentioned the political part of acting and telling people to go fuck themselves…
MR: I don’t do that anymore (laughs).
Question: Have you used your experience to mentor younger actors?
MR: I don’t really do that. Richard Harris and I used to talk and drink and drink and drink. He would say things. I would listen to some of it, but not the most important things, because Richard has already gone through this shit. I’m not the smartest cat in the world when it comes to giving advice. The only actor I gave advice to was a young actor. He was in Bully. He ended up OD’ing, Brad Renfro.
I knew he had just got off the junk. I told him to come to my house and I’ll take you to the gym. Unfortunately, he died a couple weeks later. I liked him because I was like “Look at this crazy, fucking dude.” He was fearless with me. Most guys, if they gotta work, shit themselves. You very rarely see that and I was very sad that he died. I gave Matt Damon advice years ago, but he didn’t need it (laughs).
Question: What’s the name of your upcoming rugby film?
Mickey: It’s called A Beautiful Game.
Question: Why is this movie so close to your heart?
Mickey: This guy has been through so much, keeping his secret for all these years. For 25 years, he had to pretend he was straight.
That concludes our interview with Mickey but we’d like to thank him very much for his time. Be sure to check out Immortals, in theatres this Friday!
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