Aero Theatre Mickey Rourke Fest: By Michael Gilio


The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica (a wonderful place, I saw Papillon there) is now hosting a Mickey Rourke Fest.

Day One was a double feature: Pope of Greenwich Village and 9 1/2 Weeks.

Naturally, Michael was there. I asked him to “report” on it for my blog. He agreed, hot shot though he is. My own Mickey Rourke piece is done (it ran to 9 pages, sorry, editor) and should go up next week.

In the meantime, here are Michael’s thoughtful comments.

DAY ONE, by Michael

Day One was great. So amazing to see these films, particularly 9 1/2 WEEKS on the big screen. I never had. He’s simply stunning. He never looks like he’s making choices, like he’s “acting”, and yet he’s completely unpredictable, funny and transparent while also being mysterious. And beautiful, in a broken way.

I agree that part of his genius, like Brando, was his self-destruction, but it’s heartbreaking to see how beautiful he was then, how expressive his face was, how he was capable of playing a wealthy stockbroker, while now he can only play criminals, sleazebags and weirdos.

I’m very interested in seeing THE WRESTLER, seeing some old Mickey in the new visage. Thank you for not saying anything about it.

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17 Responses to Aero Theatre Mickey Rourke Fest: By Michael Gilio

  1. MrG says:

    What the heck, this needs at least one comment.
    Thanks for the update – Mickey Rourke breaking out all over the place it seems like.

    I think there are three things that determine the behavior we see from actors on stage or screen. First is their personality, second is their interpetation of a role, and third are the conventions of the stage or screen (which means for Mickey’s case, screen, we are talking about camera angles, duration of shot, and editing.).
    When those three things are “harmonious” we usually feel and say its a good or great performance. Mickey seems to have a knack for helping that process happen. I include looks in personality, so if Mickey maybe can’t play a stock broker now and can only play criminals etc,(pretending stock brokers can’t look criminalish in the cliche sense)are you saying that is a result of his looks now, or other aspects of personality? or “industry standards?”

  2. red says:

    Well, I can’t speak for Michael – but to me it’s like Nick Nolte. The harsh-living he has expereinced (and inflicted on himself) shows in his face) and makes him more prone to play (and shine in) certain kinds of parts. It’s a more natural fit when he plays someone on the fringe, someone who is at rock bottom or at least who understands what it means to have a rock bottom. Nothing worse than an actor trying to PRETEND like he understands what “rock bottom” is when all he has done is live a privileged life of celebrity and fame. And not every part calls for that kind of depth – but if Nick Nolte is playing it, that’s what you’re gonna get.

    Same with Rourke – even in something like 9 1/2 Weeks – where he plays a wealthy guy – he still was an outsider somehow. He had no connections to real life, besides his affair with this woman … There’s something isolated about Rourke. It’s hard to picture him in certain kind of roles. Not just because of industry standards, but because his essence doesn’t fit.

    I don’t believe everyone can play everything. Nor do I believe everyone should try. Save your experiments for acting class. Or, if you’re gonna experiment for the public, you’d better hit a home run! Don’t waste my time otherwise.

    Mickey Rourke’s pain and poverty-struck (literally, in the last 15 years) life is on his face. That does limit him. Limitations aren’t bad. They’re just a part of life. He’s lucky – with roles like Sin City and The Wrestler – that he can utilize his strengths that already exist, as opposed to trying to ‘stretch’.

    He’s more of an essence-actor, anyway, rather than a character-actor. His gift was never his ability to disappear into a part. His gift was that he had such a strong and indelible essence – something we all could look at and go, ‘Yes, that is Mickey Rourke” … and he knew how to let it out in an unpredictable way. Not everyone has that. John Wayne had it. John Wayne was also smart enough (usually) to know that he couldn’t play everything. that nobody wanted to see him as an uptight businessman (the kind of role Jack Lemmon would have played marvelously). Not just that the public dictates it – but that his ESSENCE didn’t FIT with a part like that.

    When Rourke was young, his looks were beautiful enough that he could “pass” for someone who was privileged (even though his own real background was very tough). That facade is now gone. Now we are just left with the essence.

  3. red says:

    I am thinking also of the recent revival of Streetcar Named Desire with John C. Reilly as Stanley.


    There are certain things that must be there in order for the actual PLAY to take place and there is nothing wrong-er than John C. Reilly in that part.

    He was born to play MITCH. That’s just the way it goes. He would be a BRILLIANT Mitch.

    Again, if he wants to stretch and try out Stanley – by all means go for it – but again, you had BETTER hit a home run and be so damn good that everyone goes, “Of course… this doesn’t make sense on sight, but now that I’ve seen it – he IS Stanley”. Otherwise, it’s just bad.

    His essence can’t be denied or manipulated. Brando wasn’t Stanley either – he was a gentle mess of a bohemian kid – but his essence understood Stanley’s on a cellular level. It FIT.

  4. MrG says:

    You’re inventing new terminology, new definition – essence actor. We have to remember where it started if it catches on.

    I agree that not everyone can play every part – and for the reason you mention – that the play (or movie) event cannot actually take place without certain qualities or characteristics present in certain characters. However, the idea that an actor falls prey to their own habitual actions and experiences is kind of a sad and frightening thought. And yes I know it happens all the time, as a lack of discipline and training is just sort of the norm. Instead of expanding their “personality” they shrink it to specific acute traits, which give them an identity, or essence as you suggest. This could be for better or worse when it comes to getting cast or getting work. But I believe in the overall scheme of being able to release their talent genuinely in a role it is a severe hinderence.

  5. red says:

    However, the idea that an actor falls prey to their own habitual actions and experiences is kind of a sad and frightening thought.

    That’s not really what I meant. When i talk about essence, I mean something more intangible – spirit, soul – and I think, in truth, that this is only really relevant when we talk about geniuses. I think Nick Nolte is a genius. I think Marlon Brando is a genius. And I think Mickey Rourke is one. They have acting technique, obviously they do – but their ESSENCE – their Nick Nolte-ness, their Marlon Brando-ness – is usually stronger than any part they play. And so they are lucky if they get roles that utilize their essences. Play to their strengths.

    We are not now in an age of “essence actors”. We are in an age where actors are congratulated for accents, for playing ugly if they are beautiful, for putting on fake noses, for being facile with their own essence. I’m not criticizing that kind of acting – and many of these people are geniuses at mimicry, something I totally admire – but in terms of their own soul, spirit, peronality coming through – that is not what these people are about.

    I mean, the joke is that you have to play a halfwit with an accent and a missing limb in order to win an Oscar and now that has never been more true.

    Charlize Theron is a gorgeous sexy shimmering leggy dame – and she had to ‘get ugly’ to get recognized. What she could have done in the 1930s and 40s when her STRENGTHS (her beauty, her legs, her casual knowledge of her own beauty) would not have been held against her and when she would have been allowed to play herself – to utilize the best parts of her.

    So I’m not really talking about biography, and that someone who is down on their luck can only play someone down on their luck, etc. It’s really about the actor and what their gift is. Not everyone can do what Brando does. Not everyone should try.

    Montgomery Clift was a technician – a highly skilled actor who knew the technique, used it invisibly, and was able, like no other, to make scenes HAPPEN.

    Then there’s someone like Wayne – who couldn’t be more different in terms of his process and persona – but to watch the two of them act together in Red River is one of my all-time favorite things to do … because the techniques are different – one is all technique and flash, the other is all personality and star power – but what happens is they both are in service to the story and it’s awesome to watch.

    I can’t figure out if I’m making myself clear!

    I think “essence actors” come along once a generation – if that gives you any indication of how I think about such rare birds!

    I didn’t even see Laurette Taylor act and I think she was an essence-actor!

  6. red says:

    I guess what I am saying is is that these essence-actors are completely individual – and their parts have their stamp on them – they have to, otherwise they flounder.

    Then there’s someone like Jeff Bridges (my favorite actor) who appears to completely disappear in every part – and yet he also lets this essence shine through – but it’s always through a filter of the part. He is the most mysterious of actors to me. I cannot figure out how he does what he does, and that’s the best part of it!!

  7. red says:

    Oh, and back to Mickey Rourke – and I cover all of this in my GIANT piece about him which will go live in the next couple of days – but here’s a precursory:

    When he lost his cache as a star in the 90s – when that general vibe of acceptance and love was lost to him – he became a caricature of himself, smouldering and whispering and being “intense” – but it was now all GENERAL – and he was imitating himself – and it was all exactly like what you mentioned – he narrowed himself down into a few specific traits (the twisty smile, the far-off look in his eyes, the way he touches his face compulsively), all of those gestures which seemed organic in the 80s – and now he was just doing them because they were his stock in trade, like a magic trick … and it was painful to watch because he had lost the source of inspiration. He had lost his own essence, I guess … And he didn’t know any other way to act.

  8. MrG says:

    Thanks for clarifying Sheila. That explanation stands as another reason I think as to why so many of like to read your posts. I’m looking forward to the larger piece.

  9. red says:

    It came to 10 pages long. I am a lunatic. The poor editor!!

  10. MrG says:

    ps – about different personal techniques, ie, Wayne and Clift, i think it was bobby who said something once to the effect that behind every lawyer is law, behind every doctor is an accumulation of medical knowledge, etc. they each may have different personal techniques but there is something fundemental they all share. the same is true for actors – although we often like to or do disagree about what this common fundemental associative process is or how it works.

  11. red says:

    MrG – I love that idea from Bobby! You know how some types of actors can be snobby about old actors – we probably have discussed this before. I remember being in grad school and one MORON was sniffing about SPENCER FUCKING TRACY and how he had “no technique”. yeah, jackass, that’s because he was a genius, he didn’t need technique! Who cares how you get there – as long as you get there??

    I enjoy these conversations with you, too!

  12. Mickey Rourke

    My giant piece is now live at House Next Door. All my pieces on Mickey Rourke on my site can be found here…

  13. Daiana Gómez says:

    hello again Sheila, i was trying to find your 10 pages about Mickey but the link doesn´t work,can you help me?

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