As the Academy Awards creep up on us, Charlie Rose is gearing many of his broadcasts toward providing commentary and insight into what the Oscar nominated films mean to the critical community as well as the nominees. One such nominee is Mickey Rourke, up for the Best Actor award this year for his performance in The Wrestler. Some would call him the favorite, but others say that Sean Penn is likely to pick up his second Oscar for Milk. One thing is certain though: after watching Rourke bare his soul on the Rose broadcast, it is almost impossible to imagine rooting for anyone more.
As has been well publicized, Rourke fell out of the acting game in the late eighties to pursue an earlier passion for boxing. After that career hit a wall, he tried to find his way back into the acting profession, but found many doors slammed shut in his face. It was only through therapy and reflection that he was able to turn himself into a new man and slowly inch his way back into the filmmaking world.
His performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a near perfect union of actor and character; Robinson is an impoverished, once-great wrestler now left only to entertain small crowds at tiny promotions, scraping by on a meager wrestling salary and money from stocking shelves in a local grocery store. A physical wreck and an emotional loner, he inhabits a tiny trailer in a broken New Jersey community, encouraging kids to come play video games from the eighties that feature him as a character.
So much of Rourke’s frustration and failure has fed into his portrayal of Randy, and the self-awareness that he now displays is something Randy can only glimpse in fleeting moments throughout The Wrestler. In his interview with Rose, Rourke displays so much emotional honesty and dignity that his behavior on the telecast is almost as moving as his performance in the film. I was overwhelmed by the amount of bravery it must have taken to not only confront his demons during a time of personal darkness, but to be so forthright about those demons during a period of seeming resurrection.
It’s a marvellous broadcast. Rose probes into Rourke’s past, tracking the slow disentigration of his professional and personal life, his climb back into acting thanks to the help of some famous friends, his first meeting with Darren Aronofsky, the director of The Wrestler, and the grueling process of discovery that the two men underwent in creating the character of Randy and making the film. It is a truly moving interview, and makes it difficult to imagine an acting Oscar that could be more appropriately or deservingly awarded. Check it out: