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Whatever Happened To Mickey Rourke?

Few actors have had as many ups and downs in their careers as Mickey Rourke — which is bizarrely fitting for a performer who fell into the film industry by mistake. He started boxing as a teenager and he was fully committed to his sport, but after taking part in a production of the play Deathwatch, he fell in love with acting and moved to New York City to attend the renowned Actors Studio. He appeared in critically acclaimed films like Diner, Rumble Fish, and Barfly, but also struggled with his burgeoning fame in the Hollywood environment of the '80s. He got involved in tumultuous relationships, spent his money recklessly, and earned a reputation for being difficult on the set.

Rourke eventually returned to boxing, but he sustained heavy injuries during his second act with the sport. He later made a triumphant return to acting when he starred in Darren Aronofsky's acclaimed drama The Wrestler, even earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. But his momentum has faded since he scored that unlikely comeback, and these days, his career seems to be in another slump. What really happened to Mickey Rourke, and why has he had trouble maintaining success in Hollywood?

Bad reputation

By many if not most accounts, Mickey Rourke is not easy to work with. With so many actors constantly vying for work, what reason do directors have to keep taking a chance on someone who can't keep their attitude in check on set? Sure, the more talented an actor is, the more a filmmaking might be willing to put up with, but there are lines that shouldn't be crossed no matter who you are.

Rourke has been referred to as a "loose cannon" on set. "Working with Mickey is a nightmare," director Alan Parker, who worked with Rourke on the film Angel Heart, told People. "He is very dangerous on set because you never know what he is going to do." On set, it was Rourke's way or the highway, and with his temper, being on his bad side was nerve-wracking. Clearly, plenty of top directors eventually decided that they didn't want to put up with it. Yes, he's highly skilled at what he does, but he's not the only one. His intensity may translate well onscreen, but behind the scenes, it's reportedly often been a liability.

Personal struggles

When Mickey Rourke started falling out of favor in Hollywood, it had an adverse effect on his mental health. Excessive drinking became an issue, and it only seemed to exacerbate his depression. When his ex-wife Carré Otis left him, Rourke later said it felt like the final straw. Nothing seemed to be going right for him. Everything he'd built seemed to be crashing down around him.

Rourke has described this as a very dark time in his life. "I was not in a really good place in my head and heart," he told Barbara Walters. "I just wanted to push a button and disappear." Rourke said that at one point, he went nearly five months without leaving his house, and he was sleeping in his closet. It clearly wasn't easy for him to get through this period of his life, and Rourke has credited his dogs with helping him get out of bed each day and giving him something to look forward to. "The wife had left, the career was over, the money was not an ounce," he recalled. "The dogs were there when no one else was there."

Rags to riches and back again

Many people assume that if they only made as much money as their favorite celebrity, they would be set for life. It's an easy enough assumption to make, but unfortunately, plenty of people who start raking in big bucks after finding success in Hollywood quickly find ways to spend the money faster than it comes in. That's exactly what happened to Rourke — and even as his career started to go downhill, he was still spending thousands of dollars on any luxury item that caught his eye.

Rourke once admitted to buying six Cadillacs with cash, which he promptly gave away to his friends. He's said his biggest spending mistake happened in 1986, when he spent $97,000 on the Shah of Iran's bulletproof car, which was specifically designed to withstand the extreme heat of the desert. He only owned the vehicle for two months before selling it, and only recalled driving it a grand total of five times. If you do the math, that's nearly $20,000 per drive. That's one way to blow your budget.

A Marvel-ous feud

At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has long since become an unstoppable box office juggernaut, turning comic book movies from so-called kids' stuff into the type of spotlight cinema that attracts highly respected veteran actors. From brief appearances by marquee talent like Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and Tilda Swinton to major roles for award-winning stars such as Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kurt Russell, and Brie Larson, the MCU has landed some major names over the years — and Mickey Rourke was one of the first.

In 2010's Iron Man 2, Rourke played Ivan Vanko, the primary villain. Even given its timing in the early stages of the MCU, plenty of actors would have been excited to work on this sequel — after all, who doesn't love Iron Man? — but for years after the movie's release, Rourke told anyone who would listen about his bad experiences working with Marvel.

Explaining that he wanted to add more layers to Vanko and didn't want to play a one-dimensional villain, Rourke has claimed that Marvel cut most of those character details from the final version of the film. Calling it "disappointing," Rourke later described himself as "not a Marvel fan." Of course, he has the right to his opinion — but as we all know, publicly badmouthing a former employer generally isn't a smart idea. That's one way to ensure certain directors will hesitate to work with you in the future.

He's burned some bridges

Many actors have learned to play nice in public and quietly move on after one of their films flops — perhaps they'll crack a joke about it a few years later, but for the most part, they don't want to dwell on it, or insult the efforts of anyone else involved. Rourke, on the other hand, is known for running his mouth. Aside from his negative comments about Marvel, he's also openly criticized several other films that he's appeared in.

In 2011, for example, Rourke commented on his films Passion Play with Megan Fox and Bill Murray and 13 with 50 Cent, admitting he was less than pleased with the end result of either and following that assessment up by shrugging, "In your career and all the movies you make, you're going to make a few terrible ones." On one hand, you've got to appreciate the brutal honesty. On the other, it's easy to see why he's had such a tough time landing decent roles — making a movie requires devoted work from dozens of people, and it's bad form when someone on the team breaks ranks to publicly dismiss those efforts as "terrible." He's clearly talented, but for a director concerned with maintaining good chemistry on the set — not to mention worried about the possibility of being insulted after the movie comes out — an actor like Rourke might look like an unnecessary liability.

Puppy love

Mickey Rourke enjoys acting and his first passion was boxing, but there's nothing he loves as much as his dogs. He's credited his canines with lifting him out of a long depressive episode, and he even went as far as to thank them in his acceptance speech when he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for The Wrestler. He's especially fond of smaller breeds like Pomeranians and chihuahuas, and he basically treats them like they're his kids. It might seem a little funny that a guy who can appear as intimidating as Rourke loves little dogs so much, but he's definitely a doting owner.

One of the better-known members of Rourke's brood is a fluffy Pomeranian named "Number One," a pup who's often been spotted out on lunch dates with him. During one meal, Rourke took Number One to an Italian restaurant and even got a highchair for him so he could join Rourke at the table. Rourke posted a photo of the meal on Instagram, captioning the image "Carbonara Day" and adding a row of heart emojis. It just goes to show you that even the most infamous of Hollywood's bad boys can't resist the unconditional affection of a canine companion.

Nothing to prove

True to brutally honest form, Mickey Rourke has freely admitted that at this point, he's basically taking on the occasional acting role for the money. In fact, he's open about wishing he could quit, but he simply can't afford to. What would he be doing if money wasn't such a concern? After reading about how much he loves his dogs, it should come as no surprise to learn that a retired Rourke would spend all day on his other passion: working with animals.

"If I could get a job walking dogs and get paid the same amount I do from making movies, I'd never make another movie again," Rourke told Alec Baldwin on an episode of Baldwin's podcast Here's the Thing. It seems like he's sort of over his acting career by now, but because he dug himself into such a deep financial hole during his most free-spending days, he has no choice but to keep getting back in front of the camera. Hanging onto a gig you've grown out of strictly for the money is something many of us can unfortunately understand, but don't feel too bad for Rourke — even low-budget movies tend to come with paydays most people would kill for. Eventually, he might just be able to walk away from Hollywood... and spend his days walking dogs.

His passion project never materialized

Actors have dreams just like everyone else, and for many stars, they take the form of a passion project they'd get made if only they could cobble together enough clout to convince a studio to sign on. Rourke is no exception — as he's told the press in recent years, he spent time developing a script for a film tentatively titled The Beautiful Game with plans to star as Gareth Thomas, a Welsh rugby player who came out as gay toward the end of his career. Rourke was very enthusiastic about the project, but unfortunately, that enthusiasm wasn't enough to get the movie made.

After Rourke started training for the role, he and Thomas realized that he simply wasn't the best choice to play the part. He didn't physically resemble Thomas, and he was having trouble with the intense training. But after Rourke's involvement with the project ended, it simply never panned out. Perhaps Rourke's script for The Beautiful Game will see the light of day at some point, but it remains unknown whether this athlete's story will ever come to life on the big screen — or whether Rourke still has the desire to give his all to another film in the future.

Living that VOD life

Mickey Rourke has stayed fairly busy with acting in recent years, but there's a good chance that you haven't seen any of his films. Why? Well, most of them have never had a theatrical release — no, not even a limited run — instead going straight to DVD. Several of Rourke's more recent releases, including Skin Traffik, War Pigs, and Blunt Force Trauma, skipped theaters on their way to obscurity. Typecasting is always a problem in Hollywood, even for veteran actors, and taking work in direct-to-video releases creates an impression that can be hard to break with casting directors.

It hasn't all been home video lately. Tiger, released in 2018, had a limited theatrical release; the same is true for Nightmare Cinema, slated to bow in the summer of 2019. Neither movie received much attention in the mainstream press, which is basically par for the course with many of Rourke's latest projects. It's been quite a while since he was in a real blockbuster film. Perhaps in the future, he'll start pursuing bigger roles again, but with all of his comments about only acting for financial reasons, he may not have the motivation to do so anymore.

Critical condition

Mickey Rourke's first film appearance of 2019 saw him playing a character named Jim in the ensemble romance Berlin, I Love You. With a huge, star-studded cast, including Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley, one might assume that this is the type of project that would appeal to critics, but Berlin, I Love You fell flat. The film tells ten different stories that take place against the backdrop of the titular city, but none of that romance or European allure helped the narratives hit home.

Of course, starring in a romance isn't a typical career move for Rourke, but these days, it seems like he signs off on whatever scripts happen to come his way. On the other hand, maybe he isn't getting that many scripts lately — aside from Berlin, I Love You, Rourke's 2019 looks pretty light, with only one other feature, Night Walk, scheduled for release. He has some additional projects in the pipeline, but Mickey Rourke's career might have reached the point where it doesn't matter how willing he might be to take roles for money.


Mickey Rourke has basically no filter, and his tendency to say just about anything that comes to mind without thinking has gotten him into trouble on several occasions. In 2017, he made a comment about disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, who engaged in predatory behavior toward numerous actresses and, after decades of alleged bad behavior, became a major target of the #MeToo movement.

Rourke said that he "feels sorry for Harvey" and suggested that people only wanted to bring him down because he was so successful in Hollywood. He admitted that what Weinstein did was wrong, but he didn't seem to understand the weight of the allegations or why people weren't exactly eager to forgive him. Interestingly enough, Rourke condemned Bill Cosby's actions in the same brief interview. Although the two men were accused of very similar crimes, Rourke couldn't seem to accept that Weinstein's behavior was just as bad. Perhaps this is because Rourke has mentioned being friendly with Weinstein in the past, and he didn't want to believe that someone he respects could be capable of such actions.

He got political

The Mickey Rourke renaissance, unfortunately for the actor himself, proved short-lived. After "Sin City," "The Wrestler," "Iron Man 2," and "The Expendables," Rourke's grand second act was just about over; "Immortals," released in November 2011, marks the last time the actor starred in anything that put up blockbuster numbers. He's barely made any widely theatrically released movies in the past decade, only 2014's flop "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Rourke has starred in nearly 20 films that went directly to home entertainment, including such forgettable titles as "The Courier," "Java Heat," "The Good Son," "Dead in Tombstone," "Blunt Force Trauma," "Tiger," "Adverse," "Take Back," "The Commando," and "Skin Traffik."

Typecasting is always a concern in Hollywood, even for veteran actors, and accepting so much work in direct-to-video releases can make a return to the big screen difficult. Perhaps in the future, Rourke will start landing bigger roles again — but the mercurial actor has been known to make comments about only acting for financial reasons (something his history of financial problems may in fact necessitate), so he may be a VOD actor for some time to come.

He was on The Masked Singer

In 2019, Rourke's career showed a glimpse of renewed promise when he was cast as a character named Jim in the ensemble romance "Berlin, I Love You." With a huge, star-studded cast, including Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley, the film tells ten different stories that take place against the backdrop of the titular German city, but none of that romance or European allure helped the narratives resonate. One might assume that this is the type of project that would appeal to critics, but "Berlin, I Love You" bombed with critics, earning a woeful 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Starring in a romance isn't a typical career move for Rourke, but these days, it seems like he signs off on whatever scripts happen to come his way. On the other hand, maybe he isn't getting that many high quality scripts. Rourke's mid-2020s slate includes movies in genres that aren't traditionally beloved by critics. For example, he's reportedly set to star in the faith-based "Not Another Church Movie", the exploration film "Replica," and the horror movie "Cursed," opposite similarly fallen star Lindsay Lohan. Rourke also leads the cast of "The Palace," an upcoming ensemble drama from exiled, repeatedly accused sexual offender filmmaker Roman Polanski.

The future is unwritten

At this point, Mickey Rourke has more or less done it all. He enjoyed early acclaim and the perks of stardom during the first phase of his career, he worked his way through personal darkness and professional setbacks to score a surprising comeback, and now he's focused on shoring up his finances even if he isn't quite as enamored with acting as a profession anymore. Always bluntly honest in interviews, Rourke sounds like he has nothing left to prove as far as Hollywood is concerned — and after everything he's accomplished and been through, who can blame him?

Of course, it's always possible that there's another blockbuster role in Rourke's future; in the film industry, stranger things have always happened. But there's also nothing wrong with changing directions in life — something this particular film veteran has done more than once, and something he seems poised to do again. Whether or not we see Mickey Rourke in a hit movie or standing at an awards dais again, he seems satisfied with his career accomplishments, and that's nothing if not admirable.