We all understand that Mickey Rourke‘s golden movie-star period spanned from ’81 to ’88 — Body Heat, Diner, Rumble Fish, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Year of the Dragon (“mood hair”), 9 1/2 Weeks, Barfly, Angel Heart, A Prayer for the Dying (“yes, fah’uhr”) and the respected, under-seen Homeboy.
The boxing period started sometime in the late ’80s, and then came the cheek implants and other facial tough-ups. Rourke began to look like a different person — that Diner guy hadn’t aged as much as suffered a transformation into something mottled and re-sculpted.
Then come a series of not-good-enough flicks — Johnny Handsome, Wild Orchid, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Michael Cimino‘s Desperate Hours, White Sands, etc. Rourke briefly “came back” with his Oscar-nominated performance in Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler (’08). My favorite Rourke moments of the last decade came from his YouTube putdowns of Donald Trump.
Rourke was exquisite in Body Heat — the right age, a perfect look, authentic street attitude, a gentleness. When I think of classic Rourke I think of the triumvirate of Body Heat, Diner and Angel Heart.
Pauline Kael on early Rourke: ‘He has an edge and a magnetism and a pure, sweet smile that surprises you.”
Bob Dylan on Homeboy: “[Rourke] could break your heart with a look. The movie traveled to the moon every time he came onto the screen. Nobody could hold a candle to him. He was just there, didn’t have to say hello or good-bye.”