Scrap Mettle

Mickey Rourke comes out swinging to talk about his ups, downs, and role as Marv in Sin City

What do you think is the reason for that disparity?

The Europeans, they have a different way of experiencing film. It's more a part of their culture over there. They don't see it as entertainment like we do over here. To them it's more like art.

A lot of people don't realize you have a strong relationship with the Cuban community here in Miami. In your boxing career you even fought under the name "El Marielito." Do you secretly long to be Cuban?

The many faces of Mickey in Angel Heart
The many faces of Mickey in Angel Heart
Harley Davidson
Harley Davidson
The Marlboro Man
The Marlboro Man
Mickey Rourke and his beloved chihuahua hang loose in Miami Beach in 
the summer of 2004.
Mickey Rourke and his beloved chihuahua hang loose in Miami Beach in the summer of 2004.

I was raised in Miami. We used to live over by [Miami Edison Senior High School]. When I was growing up, we lived with my grandmother behind this Laundromat. That was around the same time that all the Cubans started to come over. It was an explosion, you know, and a lot of those people started to move into the neighborhood. You know, everyone knows, I'm into boxing, but even before that I was always into baseball and these guys, they could play, man. So, that's how it started, playin' ball. They're a hard-working, fun-loving people, and you know, I eat my black beans and the rice. I love it.

You must miss that being away from home, huh?

Oh no way. I hired the chef from this Cuban restaurant in L.A. I take him everywhere.

Save me some platanitos.

(Laughs) Sure thing.

You played so many different types of roles, from action in Man on Fire, to impotent ex-con opposite Tupac in Bullet, and somewhere in between a Skinamax pseudo porn star in Wild Orchid. Thank you for that, by the way, from every teenager with late-night cable. But what does a script have to have for you to get interested?

You look at the story, you look at whose making it, but that's all part of the game. In the end it comes down to being able to relate in some way, however small, to the character. I mean, sometimes that's harder than others.

Give an example.

I did this movie in Italy, Francesco (based on the Hermann Hesse novel), and I'm supposed to be St. Francis of Assisi on this beautiful mountain talking one-on-one with God, right? This is Italy you know, they take this stuff really seriously. So I got my hands all in the air and I'm doing this passionate look with my face, but inside I'm like, jeez this is really kind of a stretch for me.

What do you do in those situations? Pray?

You just work through it. You keep doing it over and over till the director feels they've got something. In Assisi, the director, Lillian [Cabaña], she was really nice. I was getting frustrated, but you know we would try it one way and then she would say, "That was good. This time try to do it like this or maybe like that." And eventually we nailed it. It's a process.

Sin City is your second film working with Robert Rodriguez. What is it about his style that draws you to want to work with him?

Well, Robert is his own person. He's unique. He's another one of these guys that has a vision and he's not going to allow anyone to alter his perception of how it should look. A lot of people say, "Oh, when is Robert Rodriguez going to make a serious film?" I tell them, "He doesn't have to." The guy locks himself down here in Texas and he does exactly what he wants to do. He's immensely talented. He does things his own way and a lot of people in this business just can't accept that.

Rodriguez wanted to bring in Frank Miller on Sin City and "those people" didn't take too kindly to that, huh?

Yeah, Frank Miller co-directs on Sin City. The Director's Guild wouldn't let him do it. Robert quit the Guild over that. He doesn't need them if they are going to interfere with his vision. He said, "Fuck it, I'll do it my way." That's what you need in a director. They have to be willing to fight for what's in their head, you know.

Were you aware of Sin City prior to being approached for the film?

Well, I was never into comic books.

Graphic novels, Mickey.

Right, but I read the script and I said to myself there's something here. My character, Marv, he's a serious dude. But it was all done in front of a blue screen, so even I didn't fully realize how cool it was going to look. Until I saw the end result, then I was blown away. It's incredible, man. It looks great.

Looking back on the character you played in Johnny Handsome, who underwent radical plastic surgery that changed his life but also made him unrecognizable, what do you have to say about your own apparent fascination with the knife?

Hold on a second.

A tiny dog yelps in the background. While Rourke admonishes his pet, we can't help but wonder if it's the same chihuahua that he took to the set of Luck of the Draw, and then walked out in the middle of shooting when the producers refused to include the dog in the film. Maybe it's Moco, the chihuahua Rourke's character cradles throughout every scene in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Displaying all the skills of a Miami native with plastic surgery, Rourke tactfully dodges the question, comes back, and starts talking about boxing. Stay tuned. Rourke promised to let New Times follow him around Miami Beach as he paints the town red. We want to make sure he doesn't stick too tightly to his new reformed lifestyle; otherwise we'll have nothing to write about. So we're bringin' the booze and the dope. Some people might call that enabling, but we call it serious journalism.

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