Nationality: American. Born: Philip Andre Rourke Jr., in Schenectady, New York, 16 September 1956; at age seven, moved to Miami. Education: Studied acting with Sandra Seacat in New York. Family: 1) Married the actress Debra Feuer, 1980 (divorced); 2) Married the actress and model Carre Otis, 1992 (divorced, 1994). Career: Late 1970s—stage debut in A View from the Bridge ; 1979—moved to Los Angeles, film debut in 1941 ; 1991—took up professional boxing.
1941 (Spielberg) (as Reese)
City in Fear ("Allan Smithee," i.e. Jud Taylor—for TV); Act of Love (Jud Taylor—for TV) (as Joseph Cybulkowski); Heaven's Gate (Cimino) (as Nick Ray); Fade to Black (Zimmerman) (as Richie); Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case (Levin—for TV)
Body Heat (Kasdan) (as Teddy Lewis)
Diner (Levinson) (as Boogie)
Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Motorcycle Boy)
The Pope of Greenwich Village (Rosenberg) (as Charlie); Eureka (Roeg—produced in 1982) (as Aurelio D'Amato)
Year of the Dragon (Cimino) (as Stanley White)
9½ Weeks (Lyne) (as John)
Angel Heart (Alan Parker) (as Harry Angel); Barfly (Schroeder) (as Henry Chinaski); A Prayer for the Dying (Hodges) (as Martin Fallon)
Johnny Handsome (Walter Hill) (as John Sedley); Homeboy (Seresin) (as Johnny Walker, + story); Francesco (Cavani) (title role)
Wild Orchid (Zalman King) (as James Wheeler); Desperate Hours (Cimino) (as Michael Bosworth)
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (Wincer) (as Harley Davidson)
White Sands (Donaldson) (as Gorman Lennox)
The Last Outlaw (Geoff Murphy—for TV) (as Graff)
The Last Ride ( F. T. W. ) (as Frank T. Wells)
Fall Time (Paul Warner) (as Florence)
Exit in Red (Bogayevicz) (as Ed Altman); Bullet (Temple) (as Butch "Bullet" Stein)
Point Blank (Matt Earl Beesley) (as Rudy Ray); Double Team (Tsui) (as Stavros); Love in Paris ( Another 9 ½ Weeks ) (as John); The Rainmaker (Coppola) (as Bruiser Stone)
Thursday (Woods) (as Det. Kasarov); Buffalo '66 (Gallo) (as Bookie); Thicker Than Blood (Pearce—for TV) (as Father Frank Larkin)
Shergar (Lewiston); Shades (Van Looy) (as Paul Sullivan); Out in Fifty (Christopher and Leet)
The Animal Factory (Buscemi) (as Jan the Actress)
Interview in Interview (New York), no. 3, 1985.
Hutchinson, C., "Year of the Rourke," in Films and Filming (London), January 1986.
"Acting Out," interview with Margy Rochlin, in American Film (New York), November 1987.
"Mickey Mouth," interview with Gisela Martine Getty, in Interview (New York), January 1988.
Interview in Films and Filming (London), March 1990.
Mills, Bart, Mickey Rourke: An Illustrated Biography , London, 1988.
Allen, Jennifer, "Bad Boy: Actor Mickey Rourke Is a Hard Case with a Heart," in New York , 14 November 1983.
McGillivray, David, "Mickey Rourke," in Films and Filming (London), July 1985.
Ostria, V., "S'il continue à pleuvoir," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), November 1985.
McDonough, Tom, "Down and (Far) Out," in American Film , November 1987.
Smith, Gavin, "Actors Face the Truth," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1989.
Crawley, T., "The Man behind the Mask," in Film Monthly (Berkhamsted, England), September 1990.
Stanley, Alessandra, "Can 50 Million Frenchmen Be Wrong? The Nouvellest Vague: Mickey Rourke," in New York Times Magazine , 21 October 1990.
Current Biography 1991 , New York, 1991.
Stars (Mariembourg, Belgium), Winter 1993.
Kennedy, Dana, "Knock-Knock Knockin' on Hollywood's Door," in Entertainment Weekly (New York), 9 December 1994.
Baumgold, Julie, "Tough Guys Don't Wear Underwear," in Esquire (New York), February 1995.
Raab, Scott, "Mickey Rourke Doesn't Smell," in GQ (New York), July 1995.
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Mickey Rourke's career is one of unfulfilled potential. He might have developed into his generation's John Garfield, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, James Dean: a foremost on-screen interpreter of the sexually attractive but disillusioned and world-weary rebel hero/loner, and a modern-era practitioner of the Method. Unfortunately, he has been restricted by poor judgment in choosing his screen roles and, even more haplessly, an inability to coexist with his fellow actors and film makers. Indeed, stories of Rourke playing out the role of off-camera spoiled brat/bad boy are legion—and, after a while, they grow tiresome.
He began his career in promising fashion, with a starring role in the made-for-television movie Rape and Marriage: The Rideout Case , playing a husband who is accused by his wife of rape, and he impressed as the quiet, intense explosives expert in Body Heat . He had a nice showcase as a member of the ensemble cast of Diner (playing the womanizing Boogie), and emerged unscathed from Francis Coppola's disappointing Rumble Fish (in the role of the Motorcycle Boy).
Diner and Rumble Fish feature casts laden with up-and-coming talent. In Diner , Rourke appears with Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, and Paul Reiser; in Rumble Fish , his fellow actors include Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Christopher Penn, and Laurence Fishburne. Some of these actors have gone on to enjoy thriving celluloid careers. In particular, Bacon, Barkin, Dillon, Lane, Cage, Penn, and Fishburne have done arresting work on screen; in the mid-1990s, several—especially Bacon, Cage, and Fishburne—are entering their prime as major movie stars. But, while Rourke is not without several commendable credits on his filmography, as he nears his 40th birthday the sense about him is that his future movies will more than likely be of the direct-to-video variety.
Easily Rourke's best screen role came in Barfly , based on the autobiographical musings of cult writer Charles Bukowski. Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, a self-destructive fall-down drunk, and his bravura performance predates that of Cage's award-winning work almost a decade later in Leaving Las Vegas . Barfly , however, was to be the exception to, rather than the rule of, Rourke's career. His casting in Johnny Handsome , Desperate Hours , and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is obscured by the fact that he turned down the leads in Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun . After taking sixth billing in Nicolas Roeg's Eureka , he may have declared, "I'd rather do a small part on a Roeg film than a big one in a Hollywood meatball movie." But his attempts at "serious" filmmaking have been seriously misguided. A prime example: Year of the Dragon , a sloppily directed (by Michael Cimino) genre exercise in which he plays a Vietnam veteran/New York City cop. The scenario may have serious pretensions—Rourke's character is named White; his main life-skill is killing; and he has brought the war home to the extent that he is involved in Chinatown hostilities. But in Year of the Dragon , the bottom line is that Rourke plays yet another boring, stereotypically violent Vietnam vet.
Rourke has, at the same time, chosen to work abroad, but with little impact. In the British-made A Prayer for the Dying , he sports a laughable accent playing an IRA hit man. In the Italian-German Francesco he plays Francis of Assisi, but the result is practically unwatchable. If his early performances were calm and cerebral, in Francesco Rourke embodies the worst stereotype of Method acting as he mumbles his way through the film.
Rourke also has specialized in erotically-charged roles. The best of these came in the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Angel Heart , playing a private eye; his erotic love scene (with Lisa Bonet) had to be cut to avoid an X-rating. In 9½ Weeks , he is cast as a bondage-hooked banker, and the result is a mess of a movie that earned headlines for Rourke's lack of rapport with his co-star, Kim Basinger. The actor may have married his Wild Orchid co-star, Carre Otis; the film won notoriety for an infamous, supposedly unsimulated sex scene between the two. But Wild Orchid is a typical concoction of its director, Zalman King: dramatically inept soft-core pornography. At least Rourke did not appear in the sequel, Wild Orchid 2: Two Shades of Blue .
In 1991, Rourke became a professional boxer. As a youngster growing up on the mean streets of New York and Miami, his aspiration was to become a boxer. Nevertheless, his decision to turn pro at an age—35—when most career fighters are way beyond their primes was ill-advised. It was as if playing a pugilist on screen (as he had in Homeboy ) was insufficient proof of his machismo. He had to one-up John Garfield, Robert Ryan, Kirk Douglas, and Sylvester Stallone—actors who appeared in classic boxing movies—by becoming the real McCoy.
Every actor is entitled to an occasional turkey, but Rourke's career, once past its early, promising stages, is the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast. "I've watched actors I've admired over the years sell out. That's the worst crime of all," he has said. While a noble thought, Rourke's proclivity for misguided decision making (not to mention his oversized ego) is the dominating factor of his career.