What happened to Mickey Rourke?


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It wasn’t that long ago that Mickey Rourke was the toast of award season. Everywhere you went in the winter of 2009 the ‘Wrestler’ star was there, offering his comeback story to all who cared to listen, basking in his Oscar nomination, talking about the dark days when his dogs were the only friends he had. O Loki, sweet Loki.

The actor also had an impressive role to show off, and he and his representatives made the most of it, landing a gamut of new parts. Rourke seemed on his way to a versatile second shot at his career, the kind that harked back to the time when he bowled us over with movies such as ‘Barfly’ and ‘Angel Heart.’ We’d soon be living in a new age of Mickey.


But two years later the Rourke comeback has hit some serious speed bumps. His big commercial play, as the villain Whiplash in ‘Iron Man 2,’ was tepidly received. He was barely noticed amid all the other ‘80s comebacks in ‘The Expendables’ last summer. And his quirky indie project ‘Passion Play’ (Rourke plays a washed-up trumpet player opposite Megan Fox’s angel) is going into very limited release this summer making it unlikely to land atop too many box-office charts.

When Rourke didn’t get the lead role in ‘Taken 2’ last week, it highlighted an obvious question: What happened to Mickey?

It’s not always easy to turn award-season goodwill into a fruitful new career. The paychecks can be too attractive, and quality movies are generally hard to come by even for an Oscar nominee. When you want to continue the indie theme it can be hard to know when the scripts you’re looking at will turn into ‘The Wrestler’ and when they’ll turn into, well, ‘Passion Play.’

Still, consider Richard Jenkins, another actor who was toiling in obscurity before he was nominated for an Oscar the same year as Rourke. Jenkins savvily turned his acclaim for ‘The Visitor’ into great supporting parts in broad fare including ‘Dear John’ and ‘Hall Pass’ while taking on more ambitious character pieces in movies such as ‘Let Me In.’

The 58-year-old Rourke still has a few new movies on the docket. But at this point few of them are likely to blow away Oscar voters or even a large number of fans. (He plays King Hyperion in an upcoming ‘Clash of the Titans’-style movie called ‘Immortals’ and is set to star in distributor-less indies such as ‘The Blind Bastards Club’ about a ‘group of blind people who live on the edge.’) There’s probably still another comeback left in Rourke. The only problem is you have to wait years before you can have one.

-- Steven Zeitchik