“When you lose everything, and I mean everything, you sit there in this empty room in the dark, and the only person who can get you out is you.” — Mickey Rourke

It’s his birthday today.

It’s hard to express what he meant to actors coming up at a certain time. It’s hard to express it without sounding hyperbolic. But he was an enormously meaningful figure. His work was so exciting we all just wondered what he would do next. I was obsessed with him, his gestures, the subtlety of his emotions, his soft voice, the ways he found to dig into scenes (the sugar in Diner!), his devotion to the things we all cared about: truth, story, living believably in imaginary circumstances. There were other figures who came up at around the same time, people who also brought with them excitement. River Phoenix comes to mind. But River was a child. Rourke was a man.

When word of The Wrestler started percolating, I felt an almost unbearable mix of longing, anxiety, and excitement. Listen, you don’t get into acting by being an apathetic person. And the people who mean something to you, mean something to you in the deepest most personal sense. He was one of those guys.

I wrote about Mickey Rourke at House Next Door, right before The Wrestler came out. This is the first piece I wrote that got real attention. Real journalists linked to it, shared it. Real film critics reached out to compliment me. IMDB put a link to it on its homepage, and it stayed there for weeks, until The Wrestler hype died down. The piece took on a life of its own. I still get emails about it. That kind of attention has happened to me since (hello, Elvis), but Mickey Rourke was the first. Which seems appropriate, since my love of him goes back to the moment he emerged, and we watched him unfold in real time. All of those feelings are in the essay – which is why I think it hit people so hard.

Gone Away, Come Back: Mickey Rourke

A couple years ago, I wrote a piece literally years in the making, about movie scenes where men look at themselves in the mirror. If you’ve been around here since the beginning, you will remember me posting in, say, 2005, 2006, “I should write about this one day!” Well, I finally did, for Oscilloscope Laboratories. Mickey Rourke’s “mirror moment” in Johnny Handsome is included – it’s not only a great example of the device, but it’s one of Rourke’s finest moments.

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6 Responses to “When you lose everything, and I mean everything, you sit there in this empty room in the dark, and the only person who can get you out is you.” — Mickey Rourke

  1. Melissa Sutherland says:

    As I said above, was anyone ever this beautiful, before or again?

  2. mutecypher says:

    I was watching some football and there were numerous ads for The Masked Singer. On one of them I thought I saw Mickey Rourke pop out. Couldn’t believe it. So I looked it up and he did in fact appear, but found the costume so hot that he unmasked himself. A first on the show, apparently.

    Go Mickey!

  3. Bruce Wayne says:

    I go back to that article on Mickey from quite some years back. I myself was going through a lot of withdrawals from a yearning for the past and Mickey had been a big part of that past growing up specially in 9.5 Weeks. Not only is that time gone but that city along with it too. Even today I find it hard to slip the disc in and watch it because I know I will be reeling for days afterwards. I recently went back to your article and was looking at this update. Mick’s sorta disappeared but he’s up to something with Polanski (Not a fan). Its still painful. I’ll have to deal with the miasma of melancholic after effects from hereon till it subsides. Your writing is a gift and I feel I am qualified to say it. Keep on keepin on Sheila…

  4. TraceyK says:

    His very brief appearance in Body Heat really made me sit up and take notice. It was obvious he was something very special

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