MICKEY ROURKE THE PLEDGE
Mickey Rourke knows how to make an impression
When he was a struggling nobody in 1970’s New York, Rourke was accepted into the esteemed Actor’s Studio on his first audition. Studio co-founder Elia Kazan called it “the best audition in thirty years.”
In 1981, after bit parts in two movies barely cared about upon release, it was third time’s the charm with BODY HEAT. The steamy flick is part of the erotic thriller wave that rolled through Hollywood during the decade. In a scene that shows how MTV, still in its infancy, was already influencing movies, Rourke is first seen onscreen lip synching to a Bob Seger song cut montage style to William Hurt learrning Bomb Building 101.
He’s in Body Heat for maybe five minutes. Five and a half, tops. Within that scant screen time Rourke cast a beguiling spell on audiences and critics. He had marque looks, spoke softly to draw the audience closer, and damn if the man didn’t have the coolest hair.
A double hat trick of flicks throughout the 80’s cemented Mickey Rourke’s place in Hollywood as the It leading Method man. Even with the usual “dificult-to-work-with” label attributed to actors on the bad boy roster was done at acceptable levels. As the decade was winding down, Rourke was on the precipice of making it to the level and join the ranks of his acting idols like Al Pacino and Christopher Walken.
Then came the self destructive, self sabotage phase. It cost Rourke everything. His looks, his soft voice. Even his cool hair. He turned down roles that would’ve made him a Hollywood household name and given him franchise financial security. Instead, Rourke set about burning bridges all over town. Then he went to the bridge building yards and burned them down. He remains the gold standard on career destruction.
Rourke faced fourteen years in career gulag. By then he’d all but vanished from Hollywood memory, but Mickey began crawling his way back. Some Rourke supporters were ready to lend a hand, offer a supporting part. One of them was long time friend and part-time acting rival Sean Penn.
In the early stages of his career, Sean Penn was making headlines more for his pugilist on the loose night life than he was for acting. The dude even married Madonna. When Hollywood packed Rourke’s bags and kicked his ass to the curb, Penn pretty much took up the bad boy slack left behind.
So it made sense when one of the first to believe in Mickey Rourke was his pal Penn. On paper the role of James Olstad in THE PLEDGE doesn’t seem like much. Just a few brief lines of dialogue and monologue of non-sequiturs. Yet with even less time than what he had in Body Heat, we get an acting tour-de-force from Mickey Rourke. Most actors today haven’t got the chops to achieve or at best need an entire career’s worth off movies to make a clip reel to show the emotional highs and lows they can show an audience.
Mickey does it here in under two minutes. And still with the coolest hair.