Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Rourke’

The Wrestler is the first movie that made me wake up sore the next day. Watching Mickey Rourke on screen had some kind of psychosomatic effect on me where I felt the pain of a lifetime of wrestling. Just as pro wrestling sometimes blurs the lines of fake and reality (even staged body slams have to take a toll on one’s body) this movie blurs the lines between Mickey Rourke the actor and Mickey Rourke the person. 

The fact that Rourke has been out of the limelight for many years made his transformation all that more amazing. Was this really the good looking young actor of the 80s films Diner, Body Heat, Rumble Fish, and The Pope of Greewnich Village? I’ve never been to a pro wrestling event, but know enough about the culture to think that Rourke’s performance rang true. 

When I was youngster I used to go to boxing matches and hang out at the Orlando Sports Stadium gym which in many ways was the boxing equivalent of some of the mid-level wrestling shown in The Wrestler. The most bruised and beaten face I ever saw was that of boxer Mike Quarry the day after a fight. Quarry once had a title shot that he lost to Bob Foster and continued to fight ten years after that loss.

He died at age 55 and the cause of death was pugilistic dementia which is also known commonly known as punch-drunk caused by traumatic blows to the head. Mike’s brother Jerry, also a boxer, died two years before him and also suffered from pugilistic dementia. Mike’s swollen and beaten face that I saw when I was 12-years-old stays with me to this day.

The Wrestler is a look at one character’s life and why he puts his body through the abuse he does. It doesn’t preach, but it does show that there is a cause and effect to the choices we make in life.

It was not an easy film to watch. It was also not an easy film to get made.  

“It’s always been hard for me to make my films. I’ve always had to make them with incredible financial limitations because it’s the only way to get them made. After Pi everyone was like, “What do you want to do?” and I showed them the book to Requiem and no one returned my calls. After Requiem it took six years to make The Fountain. Then when we tried to put this movie (The Wrestler) together , because I cast Mickey Rourke, it took two years to finance it. No one believed that Mickey could be sympathetic. It’s always a tough road for some reason. I end up choosing things that are not obvious.”
                                                                Darren Aronifsky
                                                                film.com interview with Laremy Legel

Related posts: Screenwriting & Brass Knuckles
                      Screenwriting Quote of the Day #17 (Robert Siegel)



Scott W. Smith

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Big college football game tonight between Oklahoma and Florida. That eventually got me thinking about the writer S.E. Hinton. She’s from Oklahoma and pals around with hoods like Mickey Rourke, Matt Dillion, and Dennis Hopper. At least she did back in 1983 when Francis Ford Coppola made her book Rumble Fish into a movie. 

The cast also included  Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits and Sofia Coppola. Hinton herself picked up a little money on the side playing a hooker in the movie, as well as writing the screenplay with Coppola.

Her other books The Outsiders, Tex, That Was Then…This is Now not only became movies but virtually were training grounds for a generation of actors including the above actors as well as Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Meg Tilly and Emilio Estevez. (I didn’t realize until I looked on IMDB that Morgan Freeman was also in That was Then…This is Now.)

So Hinton, who started writing The Outsiders when she was 15, has done well considering that it was reported that her first royalty check was only $10 and that the book almost went out of print before going on to sell more than 13 million copies.

Our quote today comes from Hinton and it’s a reminder to all writers to get the words written and to take advantage of every networking opportunity (especially if you live in fly-over country);

At school one day I mentioned to a friend that I wrote, and she mentioned to me that her mother wrote children’s books. She said, “Why don’t you let my mother read your stuff?” I gave her a copy of The Outsiders, and this woman showed it to a friend of hers who had a New York agent. She said, “Send this to my agent. Maybe she can get it published for you.” I didn’t believe that was going to happen, but I mailed it to her. She has been my agent ever since.
S.E. Hinton
                                                                        A Conversation at Penguin.com 

S.E. Hinton lives in Tulsa and has a horse, a dog, and her own website — www.sehinton.com.


Scott W. Smith

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“There’s nothing like it in American show biz. It’s part comedy and part burlesque. It’s raw drama. It’s not Crime and Punishment. And it doesn’t pretend to be Masterpiece Theater.”  Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University on professional wrestling

This past week was a big week in wrestling. You may have missed it so I thought I’d fill you in on the celebrations and the spectacle. I will preface this by saying that I haven’t really followed wrestling of any form since I was about ten and watched professional wrestling on TV.

TV Announcer: “It looks like this match is over…wait, wait…he’s pulling a foreign object out of his pants…it looks like brass knuckles.” Never once did I ask how those brass knuckles, hidden in those tight underwear-like pants, went unnoticed by the ref the entire rest of the match. I was too caught up in the play.

Other than Dusty Rhodes I don’t remember any names, but I do remember the body slams, the jumping off the ropes, the sleeper holds, and the chair over the back move. High drama for a ten year old growing up in Central Florida before video games.

Last Sunday 74,635 people (a record for the Orlando Citrus Bowl) gathered for WrestleMania XXIV. I remember going to a Super Bowl of Rock concert at the Citrus Bowl as a teenager back in the day and I gotta tell you that it was a transcendent  moment looking out at a sea of flickering lighters in the summer night and hearing 60,000 people singing “Against the Wind” along with Bob Seger. I can imagine the atmosphere last Sunday. 

The event last week was called  “The Biggest WrestleMania Under the Sun” and over 40,000 tickets were sold in 30 minutes. Festivities lasted for five days and Snoop Dogg was the Master of Ceremonies. Internationally the main event was also on pay-per-view for $54.99 making it was one of the largest pay-per-view events in history with over a million buys. Do the math on $54.99 times a million.   

Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have tapped into a multi-billion dollar melodrama. Is it Hollywood’s competition or your future work? Someone has to write those wrestling storylines.  

“To me, wrestling is just like watching a movie, or better yet a television series.” Colin Vassallo, editor of Wrestling-Online Newsletter was recently quoted as saying in an Orlando Sentinel article by Dave Darling, “It has good guys, bad guys, the women and the action. And what more would young men want to watch on television?”

Even boxing champion Floyd Mayweather got into the WrestleManna act and I read he even used good ole’ brass knuckles to knock out his opponent. Some tricks never fade away. Shakespeare had to compete with public hangings and as screenwriters and filmmakers you have to compete with professional wrestling and NASCAR. It’s good to know what you’re up against as well as what’s considered popular culture.

Back here in Iowa, Iowa Governor Chet Culver proclaimed last Thursday “University of Iowa Wrestling Day ” in the state of Iowa. It doesn’t get the same press and coverage as March Madness, but two weeks ago in St. Louis the Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team won the school’s 21 NCAA title.

1972 Olympic champion wrestler Dan Gable once coached the University of Iowa to nine straight NCAA championships. And that’s the real deal — no brass knuckles. But still plenty of drama. In fact, writer John Irving (a former wrestler) is developing a movie on Gable’s life. Gable won every single high school and college match except for his last one.

Last Thursday was also the 100 Anniversary of Iowan Frank Gotch defeating George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt for the world heavyweight wrestling championship. I had never heard of Gotch, but apparently this event in its day was a bit like Seabiscuit. According to Jim Neson of the Waterloo Courier it was front page sports news for the papers in New York and L.A. and a trip to the white house for Gotch to meet president Teddy Roosevelt.

And a play for the farmer turned wrestler toured up and down the east coast. (If anyone has a copy of this play I’d love to read it.) So wrestling and drama have gone hand in hand for a long time. 

Director Darren Aronfsky (Pi, The Fountain) recently wrapped production on Robert Siegel’s script The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke as a long haired pro wrestler past his prime looking for a comeback. Marisa Tomei plays his stripper girlfriend and it’s said to feature a lot 80’s music. For some reason I’m sensing a lot of on screen perspiration. Why didn’t they just title it 9 1/2 Rounds?

Aren’t the Spider-Man movies just a glorified wrestling match with costume changes, over the top fights, and a girl thrown in the mix? This wrestling stuff is primal and probably has been side by side with storytelling since the beginning of time. 

If there’s one thing every screenwriter can learn from professional wrestling it’s this: when you character is running against the wind and all seems lost, that’s the time for them to pull out their brass knuckles. It works every time.

Come to think of it, almost thirty years later, Seger lyrics still resinate:

Well those drifter days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind
I’m older now but still still runnin’
Against the wind 

If you choose a life in the arts you will face many days when you’re runnin’ against the wind. You need lots of tenacity and determination…and it doesn’t hurt to have a pair of brass knuckles.

Scott W. Smith







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