In the 1960s young boys around the USA watched Bruno Sanmartino face off against George the Animal Steele in the square circle of wrestling. Our parents told us that these combats were faked, but we loved them as much as our teachers hated the Three Stooges. Real was Viet-Nam, Watts, and LBJ. Wrestling was an escape from that world and its fraud was half of its appeal.

“Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.”
The names changed over the years and the crowds filled stadiums, but few enthusiasts realized the sacrifices the athletes made to revel in the glory of victory.

This ignorance was shredded by Mickey Rourke’s performance in THE WRESTLER.

No one in Hollywood can play down-and-out like the actor who hit the big time with 9 1/2 WEEKS. His flirtation as a headliner lasted about a year as his excesses anti-endeared the Florida native to directors and producers. When in Paris he was hanging around with young junkies. I couldn’t tell who was a bad influence on whom.

Despite the descent Mickey Rourke proved capable of creating off-beat personae such as BARFLY BARBET SCHROEDER’S 1987 film loosely based on the heavy drinking of the legendary poet Charles Bukowski.

Lines such as “Drinks for all my friends.” or his quip about a passed-out Faye Dunaway “Don’t worry about her. She’s just drunk.” won him new fans, which he trashed in a series of bombs. he appeared in SIN CITY under heavy make-up to keep from scaring the viewing public with the results of a blotched face-job which transformed him into an aged Axel rose from Gun n Roses of 2030.

But all this damage made him an obvious casting choice for THE WRESTLER a tale about a one-time champion struggling to remain a wrestler through steroids and other drugs. His life is a wasteland and his arenas small-time gyms. Mickey Rourke perfectly portrays this anti-hero seeking redemption and deservedly earned an Academy Award for his performance.

For some reason I never saw the end.

I doubt it was happy.

Obviously I would love for him to play me in at least one of my stories.

“Drinks for all my friends.”

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