Philip Andre Rourke Jr. (born September 16, 1952), known professionally as Mickey Rourke, is an American actor, screenwriter, and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in drama, action, and thriller films.
During the 1980s, Rourke starred in the comedy-drama Diner (1982), the drama Rumble Fish (1983), the crime-black comedy film The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), and the erotic drama 9½ Weeks (1986), and received critical praise for his work in the Charles Bukowski biopic Barfly and the horror mystery Angel Heart (both 1987). In 1991 Rourke, who had trained as a boxer in his early years, left acting and became a professional boxer for a time.
After retiring from boxing in 1994, Rourke returned to acting and had supporting roles in several films, including the drama The Rainmaker (1997), the comedy-drama Buffalo ’66 (1998), the thriller-remake of Get Carter (2000), the mystery film The Pledge (2001), the crime dark comedy-drama Spun (2002), the action film Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) and the action thriller Man on Fire (2004), playing the role of a corrupt lawyer.
In 2005 Rourke made his comeback in mainstream Hollywood circles with a lead role in the neo-noir action thriller Sin City, for which he won awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Irish Film and Television Awards, and the Online Film Critics Society. In the 2008 film The Wrestler, Rourke portrayed a past-his-prime wrestler, and received a 2009 Golden Globe award, a BAFTA award, and a nomination for an Academy Award. Since then, Rourke has appeared in several commercially successful films including the 2010 films Iron Man 2 and The Expendables.
Philip Andre Rourke, Jr. was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Annette (née Cameron) and Philip Andre Rourke, Sr. His father was of Irish and German descent, and his mother had Scottish, French, English, and German ancestry. He was raised Roman Catholic and still practices his faith. His father, an amateur body builder, left the family when Mickey was six years old. After his parents divorced, his mother married Eugene Addis, a Miami Beach police officer with five sons, and moved Rourke, his younger brother (Joey), and their sister (Patricia) to south Florida. There, he graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1971.
During his teenage years, Rourke focused his attention mainly on sports. He took up self-defense training at the Boys Club of Miami. It was there that he learned boxing skills and decided on an amateur career.
At age 12, Rourke won his first boxing match as a 112-pound (51 kg) flyweight, fighting some of his early matches under the name Phil Rourke. He continued his boxing training at the famed 5th Street Gym, in Miami Beach, Florida. In 1969 Rourke, then weighing 140 pounds (63.5 kg),, sparred with former World Welterweight Champion Luis Rodríguez. Rodriguez was the number one-rated middleweight boxer in the world and was training for his match with world champion Nino Benvenuti. Rourke claims to have received a concussion from his sparring match with Rodriguez.
At the 1971 Florida Golden Gloves, Rourke suffered another concussion in a boxing match. After being told by doctors to take a year off and rest, Rourke temporarily retired from the ring. From 1964 to 1973, Rourke compiled an amateur boxing record of 27 wins (17 by knockout) and 3 defeats, which included first-round knockout wins over John Carver, and Ronald Robinson, and decision victories over Ronnie Carter, Charles Gathers, Joe Riles, and Javier Villanueva.
Early acting roles
In 1971, as a senior at Miami Beach Senior High School, Rourke had a small acting role in the Jay W. Jensen-directed school play The Serpent. However, Rourke’s interests were geared to boxing, and he never appeared in any other school productions. Soon after he temporarily gave up boxing, a friend at the University of Miami told Rourke about a play he was directing, Deathwatch, and how the man playing the role of Green Eyes had quit. Rourke got the part and immediately became enamored with acting. Borrowing $400 from his sister, he went to New York (to elude Florida police who wanted to arrest him for burglary) and took private lessons with Actors Studio teacher Sandra Seacat.
Seacat motivated Rourke to find his father, from whom he had been separated for more than 20 years. During his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio, after the release of The Wrestler, host James Lipton disclosed that Rourke had been selected to the Actors Studio in his first audition, which Elia Kazan is reported to have said was the “best audition in 30 years”.
Appearing primarily in television films during the late 1970s, Rourke made his feature film debut with a small role in Steven Spielberg’s 1941. He played Ritchie, Dennis Christopher’s bullying and ill fated co-worker in the 1980 slasher film Fade to Black. However, it was in 1981, with his portrayal of an arsonist in Body Heat, that Rourke first received significant attention, despite his modest time on screen. The following year, he drew further critical accolades for his portrayal as the suave compulsive gambler “Boogie” Sheftell in Barry Levinson’s Diner, in which Rourke co-starred, alongside Paul Reiser, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg, Tim Daly and Kevin Bacon; the National Society of Film Critics named him Best Supporting Actor that year. Soon thereafter, Rourke starred in Rumble Fish, Francis Ford Coppola’s follow-up to The Outsiders.
Rourke’s performance in the film The Pope of Greenwich Village alongside Daryl Hannah and Eric Roberts also caught the attention of critics, although the film was not financially successful. In the mid-1980s, Rourke earned himself additional leading roles. His role alongside Kim Basinger in the erotic drama 9½ Weeks helped him gain sex symbol status. He received critical praise for his work in Barfly as the alcoholic writer Henry Chinaski (the literary alter ego of Charles Bukowski) and in Year of the Dragon.
In 1987 Rourke appeared in Angel Heart. The film was nominated for several awards. It was seen as controversial by some owing to a sex scene involving Cosby Show cast member Lisa Bonet, who won an award for her part in the film. Although some of Rourke’s work was viewed as controversial in the US, he was well received by European, and especially French, audiences, who loved the “rumpled, slightly dirty, sordid … rebel persona” that he projected in Year of the Dragon, 9½ Weeks, Angel Heart, and Desperate Hours. Director Adrian Lyne said that had Mickey died after the release of Angel Heart, he would have become a bigger phenomenon than James Dean.
In the late 1980s, Rourke performed with David Bowie on the Never Let Me Down album. Around the same time he also wrote his first screenplay, Homeboy, a boxing tale in which he starred. In 1989 Rourke starred in the docudrama Francesco, portraying St. Francis of Assisi. This was followed by Wild Orchid, another critically panned film, which gained him a nomination for a Razzie award (also for Desperate Hours). In 1991 he starred in the box office bomb Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man as Harley Davidson, a biker whose best friend, Marlboro, was played by Don Johnson. In his last role before departing for the boxing ring, Rourke played an arms dealer chased by Willem Dafoe and Samuel Jackson in White Sands, a film noir that reviewers found stylish but incoherent.
Rourke’s acting career eventually became overshadowed by his personal life and career decisions. Directors such as Alan Parker found it difficult to work with him. Parker stated that “working with Mickey is a nightmare. He is very dangerous on the set because you never know what he is going to do.” In a documentary on the special edition DVD of Tombstone, actor Michael Biehn, who plays the part of Johnny Ringo, mentions that his role was first offered to Rourke. Rourke is said to have turned down several roles in high-profile films, including 48 Hrs., Platoon, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, Rain Man, The Silence of the Lambs, and Pulp Fiction.
Professional boxing career
In 1991 Rourke decided that he “had to go back to boxing” because he felt that he “was self-destructing … [and] had no respect for [himself as] an actor”. Rourke was undefeated in eight fights, with six wins (four by knockout) and two draws. He fought internationally in countries including Spain, Japan, and Germany. During his boxing career, Rourke suffered a number of injuries, including a broken nose, toe, and ribs, a split tongue, and a compressed cheekbone. He also suffered from short term memory loss.
His trainer during most of his boxing career was Hells Angels member, actor, and celebrity bodyguard Chuck Zito. Freddie Roach also trained Rourke for seven fights. Rourke’s entrance song into the ring was often Guns ‘N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (referenced in his film The Wrestler, in which Rourke’s character enters his final match of the film to the song playing over the loudspeakers). Boxing promoters said that Rourke was too old to succeed against top-level fighters. Indeed, Rourke himself admits that entering the ring was a sort of personal test: “[I] just wanted to give it a shot, test myself that way physically, while I still had time.” Rourke’s boxing career resulted in a notable physical change in the 1990s, as his face needed reconstructive surgery to mend his injuries. His face was later called “appallingly disfigured”. In 2009, the actor told The Daily Mail that he had gone to “the wrong guy” for his surgery, and that his plastic surgeon had left his features “a mess”.
Return to boxing in 2014
On Friday, November 28, 2014, Rourke briefly returned to the boxing ring and fought 29-year-old Elliot Seymour in Moscow, Russia. It was Rourke’s first boxing match in over 20 years. Talks of him being involved in four more matches were released by Rourke himself after the match. He won the exhibition fight in the second round by TKO. The fight is not counted in his professional record since it was an exhibition match. The opponent has later came out and stated that he threw the fight and was paid to take a dive in the second round.
1990s: Return to acting
In the early 1990s, Rourke was offered and declined the role of Butch Coolidge, which later became Bruce Willis’s role in Pulp Fiction. After his retirement from boxing, Rourke did accept supporting roles in several 1990s films, including Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66, Steve Buscemi’s Animal Factory, Sean Penn’s The Pledge, and Sylvester Stallone’s remake of Get Carter. Rourke also has written several films under the name Sir Eddie Cook, including Bullet, in which he co-starred with Tupac Shakur.
While Rourke was also selected for a significant role in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, his part ended up on the editing room floor. Rourke also played a small part in the film Thursday, in which he plays a crooked cop. He also had a lead role in 1997’s Double Team, which co-starred martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme and former NBA player Dennis Rodman. It was Rourke’s first over-the-top action film role, in which he played the lead villain. During that same year, he filmed Another 9½ Weeks, a sequel to 9½ Weeks, which received only limited distribution. He ended the 1990s with the direct-to-video films Out in Fifty, Shades and television film Shergar, about the kidnapping of Epsom Derby-winning thoroughbred racehorse Shergar. Rourke has expressed his bitterness over that period of his career, stating that he came to consider himself a “has-been” and lived for a time in “a state of shame”.
In 2001 Rourke appeared as the villain in Enrique Iglesias’s music video for “Hero”, which also featured Jennifer Love Hewitt. In 2002 he took the role of The Cook in Jonas Åkerlund’s Spun, teaming up once again with Eric Roberts. His first collaborations with directors Robert Rodriguez and Tony Scott, in Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Man on Fire, respectively, were in smaller roles. Nonetheless, these directors subsequently decided to cast Rourke in lead roles in their next films. In 2005, Rourke made his comeback in mainstream Hollywood circles with a lead role–Marv–in Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City. Rourke received awards from the Chicago Film Critics Association, the IFTA, and the Online Film Critics Society, as well as Man of the Year from Total Film magazine that year. Rourke followed Sin City with a supporting role in Tony Scott’s Domino alongside Keira Knightley, in which he played a bounty hunter. Rourke played the role of “The Blackbird” in an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Killshot, and appeared as Darrius Sayle in the adaptation of the Alex Rider novel Stormbreaker.
In addition, in 2004, Rourke provided the voice for “Jericho” in the third installment of the Driver video game series. Rourke also recently appeared in a 40-page story by photographer Bryan Adams for Berlin’s Zoo Magazine. In an article about Rourke’s return to steady acting roles, entitled “Mickey Rourke Rising” Christopher Heard stated that actors/musicians Tupac Shakur, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, and Brad Pitt have “animated praise for Rourke and his work”. During a roundtable session of Oscar-nominated actors held by Newsweek, Brad Pitt cited Rourke as one of his early acting heroes along with Sean Penn and Gary Oldman.
Despite having withdrawn from acting at various points, and having made films that he now sees as a creative “sellout” (the action film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man), Rourke has stated that “all that I have been through …[has] made me a better, more interesting actor”. Rourke’s renewed interest in pursuing acting can be seen in his statement that “my best work is still ahead of me”.
Rourke had a role in the film version of The Informers, playing Peter, an amoral former studio security guard who plots to kidnap a small child. In 2008 Rourke played the lead in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, winner of the Golden Lion Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, about washed-up professional wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Regarding first reading the screenplay, he stated that he originally “didn’t care for it”.
“I didn’t really care for the script, but I wanted to work with Darren and I kind of thought that whoever wrote the script hadn’t spent as much time as I had around these kind of people and he wouldn’t have spoken the way the dude was speaking. And, so Darren let me rewrite all my part and he put the periods in and crossed the T’s. So once we made that change I was okay with it.”
He also spoke on personal concern and hesitance of being in a film about wrestling, for he perceived it as being “pre-arranged and pre-choreographed”. However, as he trained for the film, he developed an appreciation and respect for what real-life pro wrestlers do to prepare for the ring:
I kept getting hurt. I think I had three MRIs in two months because I wasn’t landing right. These guys take several years to learn how to land and I think after I started getting hurt doing it, I started to realize these guys are really suffering and I kind of gained a respect for their sport.
He trained under former WWE wrestler Afa the Wild Samoan for the part, and has received a British Academy (BAFTA) award, a Golden Globe award, an Independent Spirit Award, and an Oscar nomination as Best Actor. Rourke was pessimistic about his chances to win the Oscar, as he had burned many bridges in Hollywood as a result of his past behavior. Rourke lost the Oscar to Sean Penn, while Penn did acknowledge Rourke in his acceptance speech.
Rourke has written or co-written six scripts: Homeboy, The Last Ride, Bullet, Killer Moon, Penance and the latest, Pain. Of these, the first three were produced as films between 1988 and 1996.
In early 2009, Rourke developed a small feud with WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, as part of a storyline. The storyline climaxed at WrestleMania XXV, when Rourke knocked out Jericho with a left hook after Jericho won his match against Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat, and Roddy Piper, with Ric Flair in their corner. In 2009 Rourke starred in John Rich’s music video for Shuttin’ Detroit Down alongside Kris Kristofferson. In 2009 he voiced protagonist US Navy SEAL Dick Marcinko in the video game Rogue Warrior.
In 2010 Rourke played the role of the main villain Whiplash in the film Iron Man 2. In an interview with Rip It Up magazine he revealed that he prepared for the role by visiting Russian jail inmates. He also had a minor role as Tool in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables. Though he had little screen time, his performance was met with rave reviews and cited as one of the film’s highlights. He was unavailable, however, to reprise the role in The Expendables 2, though he was reportedly in talks to return for a possible third film. In 2013 it was confirmed that Rourke would not appear in The Expendables 3. The producer of the film, Avi Lerner, had originally said Rourke was welcome back to the franchise if he “didn’t act too crazy”, but his behavior must not have changed as he was nowhere to be seen on the cast and crew production list.
Just before the end of the year, he confirmed on a British TV talk show that he would play Gareth Thomas in an upcoming film about the Welsh rugby star who came out as gay the previous year. As of February 2011, he had begun research on the film, but noted, “We’re not going to make this movie until we’ve done all the proper research. We need to do our homework and I need to train for from nine to eleven months.” In 2011 Rourke was cast in the film Java Heat as an American citizen shadowing terrorist groups in Java, Indonesia. The film was released in 2013.
In early 2014 British author Saurav Dutt (who wrote two biographies on the actor) announced he was writing a novelization of an unproduced Mickey Rourke project entitled Wild Horses closely resembling Rourke’s own unwritten screenplay about two brothers, closely resembling both Rourke and his brother Joey who died from cancer in 2005. The book is scheduled to have a fall 2014 release.
Rourke has dated several celebrities, including Terry Farrell and Sasha Volkova. He has been married twice. In 1981 he married Debra Feuer, whom he met on the set of Hardcase (1981) and who co-starred with him in Homeboy (1988) as his love interest. The marriage ended in 1989, with Rourke subsequently commenting that making the film 9½ Weeks “was not particularly considerate to my wife’s needs.” The two have remained good friends, according to an interview Feuer gave in 2009.
Wild Orchid co-star Carré Otis was briefly a cause célèbre following the release of the film owing to rumors that she and then-lover Rourke filmed an unsimulated sex scene. Otis married Rourke on June 26, 1992. In 1994 Rourke was arrested for spousal abuse. The charges were later dropped. The couple reconciled and also starred together in Exit in Red, but their marriage ended in December 1998. Otis and writer Hugo Schwyzer co-authored Beauty, Disrupted: A Memoir, an autobiography that detailed Otis’ marriage to Rourke that was published in October 2011 by HarperCollins. In November 2007, Rourke was arrested again, this time on DUI charges in Miami Beach.
In numerous TV and print interviews, he attributes his comeback after 14 years to his agent David A. Unger, weekly meetings with a psychiatrist, “Steve”, and a Catholic priest he identified as “Father Pete”. Rourke has been described as a “real good Catholic” by friend Tom Sizemore.
Since 2009, Rourke has a relationship with Russian model Anastassija Makarenko.
In May 1989, Rourke revealed that he had donated most of his £1.5 million earnings from the film Francesco to support Joe Doherty in his campaign for political asylum in the United States. Doherty, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) member, was wanted by UK authorities for his part in an ambush using an M60 machine gun which killed a member of Britain’s elite Special Air Service in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1980. Doherty was later arrested and charged for his part in the attack but escaped with seven other prisoners after holding a prison officer hostage and engaging in a shoot-out with members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Doherty was eventually imprisoned in the UK, but was later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
In June 2006, Rourke publicly gave his support to US President George W. Bush and the Iraq War. In January 2009, Rourke expressed admiration for Bush in an interview with GQ magazine. He also expressed his astonishment that Islamic fundamentalists were allowed to continue their activities in the UK after the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
In August 2014, Rourke came under scrutiny for purchasing and wearing a T-shirt bearing the likeness of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time when most of the Western world was criticizing and sanctioning Russia for its repeated violations of Ukrainian sovereignty. When questioned by the press, Rourke explained: “If I didn’t like him, I wouldn’t buy the T-shirt, believe me. I met him a couple of times and he was a real gentleman. A very cool, regular guy. Looked me right in the eye. Good guy.”
In an appearance on the August 12, 2014, episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Rourke further elucidated that he had purchased the T-shirt because the proceeds were going to benefit an ill Ukrainian boy in need of an operation.
In 2015, Rourke expressed his support for Ben Carson for the Republican presidential nomination. He also denounced Republican frontrunner Donald Trump as a “bully”.
In addition to his faith, Rourke has publicly attributed his comeback to his dogs. He is well known as a pet lover, particularly fond of small-breed dogs. A spay/neuter advocate, Rourke participated in a protest outside of a pet shop in 2007 and has done a public service announcement for PETA.
His first little dog was reportedly a gift from his second wife. Though Rourke’s dogs are generally referred to as “chihuahuas”, some are not purebred. Loki, his most-publicized dog whom he described as “the love of my life”, was a chihuahua-terrier mix. So reliant was Rourke on Loki’s companionship, he spent US$5,400 to have her flown to England while he was on the set of the film Stormbreaker.
Rourke gave his dogs credit during his Golden Globe Best Actor acceptance speech January 11, 2009: “I’d like to thank all my dogs. The ones that are here, the ones that aren’t here anymore because sometimes when a man’s alone, that’s all you got is your dog. And they’ve meant the world to me.” The day of the 2009 Golden Globes show, he told Barbara Walters that “I sort of self-destructed and everything came out about 14 years ago or so … the wife had left, the career was over, the money was not an ounce. The dogs were there when no one else was there.” Asked by Walters if he had considered suicide, he responded:
Yeah, I didn’t want to be here, but I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wanted to push a button and disappear…. I think I hadn’t left the house for four or five months, and I was sitting in the closet, sleeping in the closet for some reason, and I was in a bad place, and I just remember I was thinking, ‘Oh, man, if I do this,’ [and] then I looked at my dog, Beau Jack, and he made a sound, like a little almost human sound. I don’t have kids, the dogs became everything to me. The dog was looking at me going, ‘Who’s going to take care of me?’
Beau Jack sired two of Rourke’s later pets, Loki and her littermate Chocolate. Beau Jack died in 2002, although Rourke reportedly gave him 45 minutes of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Chocolate was the subject of a children’s book, Chocolate at the Four Seasons, about his temporary stay with producer Bonnie Timmerman. Chocolate returned to Rourke and died in 2006. In addition to those dogs and several other past pets, Rourke currently owns a chihuahua named Jaws who appeared with him in his 2009 PETA ad, as well as in the film Once Upon a Time in Mexico. He has had as many as seven dogs at one time, back in 2005. At the time of his Golden Globes tribute to his pets, Rourke owned five chihuahuas: Loki, Jaws, Ruby Baby, La Negra and Bella Loca. About a month later, on February 16, 2009, Loki died in Rourke’s arms at the age of 18.
Christopher Walken stated to the Film Comment on August, 1992 that it was destiny to make Homeboy with Mickey Rourke:
Mickey Rourke and I were in Heaven’s Gate together; he had this tiny part and I was playing whatsisname. We were sitting up there in the mountains talking about…dinosaurs. And I told him about this thing I had read in some science magazine, that there’s a theory that dinosaurs really never disappeared at all. That in fact all they did was get smaller and smaller, their scales turned into feathers and they flew away-and that in fact dinosaurs are still with us, they’re just birds. And Mickey said, ‘That’s interesting,’ and he started telling me about this movie that he was going to do someday about a boxer and it was called Homeboy. You know, I remember also he told me at the time, ‘There’s this guy, the fighters manager, and you’re gonna play this part.’ I said, ‘Okay Mickey, let’s go.’ So almost ten years went by and there we were making it. And I said to him, ‘Why don’t I tell that story about the birds and dinosaurs?’ He said. ‘Right.’ And there is that scene at the beach with all the seagulls, talking about dinosaurs. It’s completely disconnected from anything going on in the movie, but I think it’s one of the things in the movie…It’s real. Here are these two guys who are really kind of victims, talking about the origin and destiny of dinosaurs.
Rourke made his stage debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge. He lent his voice to the video games Driv3r (2004) as Jericho and True Crime: New York City (2005) as Terrence “Terry” Higgins, which was the his fifth and last work with actor Christopher Walken. He also appeared in a Japanese TV commercial for Suntory Reserve (early ’90s) and a commercial for Daihatsu and Lark cigarettes. More recently, in 2009, Rourke voiced the character of Dick Marcinko for the biographical video game Rogue Warrior, which was released on December 1, 2009.
Ironically, Rourke’s portrayal of Marcinko was a source of humorous praise from a few critics (although many others criticized Rourke’s role to the same degree that they did every other aspect of the game). In 2010, he appeared in a Dutch TV Commercial for Bavaria Beer.
Rourke appeared as a gangster in the music video for “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt also made an appearance in the clip. Rourke also provided the mid-song rap on the David Bowie song “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)” on his album Never Let Me Down (1987).
Rourke has been the subject of two extensive biographies on his life and career Stand Alone: The Films of Mickey Rourke and Hollywood Outlaw: The Life of Mickey Rourke both were written by British author Saurav Dutt. In 2014 Dutt announced he was producing and writing a novelization inspired by an undeveloped script for a movie that Rourke wrote entitled Wild Horses which was eventually released in Fall 2015.
- Mickey Rourke at the Internet Movie Database
- Mickey Rourke at Rotten Tomatoes
- Ebert, Roger (1987-02-10). “A day on location with Rourke’s Barfly”. Chicago Sun-Times.
- Pierce, Rabin, and Tobias, Leonard, Nathan, and Scott (2009-02-20). “Primer: Mickey Rourke”. The Onion A.V. Club. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- “Mickey Rourke”. Charlie Rose. New York, NY: WNET. Retrieved 2011-11-26.
- Keri Walsh, “Why Does Mickey Rourke Give Pleasure?”, Critical Inquiry, Vol 37, no. 1, Autumn 2010; accessed December 2, 2014.