Mickey Rourke doesn't hold much back in an interview. We talked over the phone about his part in this weekend's new release Immortals, directed by Tarsem Singh (whom we also interviewed, that runs tomorrow), and before long he was telling all about the behind the scenes trouble on Iron Man 2. We bring up what was reportedly his next project – Seven Psychopaths, directed by In Bruges' Martin McDonagh – and not only does he say he's not doing it but he's extremely candid about why. And The Expendables 2? He's not going to be in that either. Never was, apparently. And somehow in the midst of all of that talk – including updates on some new projects he's writing himself – the Oscar-nominated star of The Wrestler found time to speak about the positive experience he had on the set of Immortals, and dole out some respect for that Greek mythology epic's director.
CraveOnline: Have you seen ‘Immortals’ yet?
Mickey Rourke: I saw 70% of it a few months ago, without the 3D glasses, you know? I think I saw one of the cuts, but maybe not the final cut.
It’s so visual effects heavy. I imagine when you’re on the set, you’re not working with every single element that ended up in the film. How did it turn out, compared to how you thought it would be?
You don’t get bogged… The technical stuff, it doesn’t really affect you that much unless you’re f**king mindless, you know? But what I signed up for is exactly what I saw, and all I can say is the reason I did the movie is, when I read this material, from watching Tarsem’s reels and knowing his background as a very visual, techy guy… He would sort of elevate the material, transcend the material to another level, with integrity. That’s all I was looking for.
It is actually a film with a lot of integrity. They’re marketing it as this big action movie, but it’s actually…
Well, they’ve gotta make their pound of flesh back, right?
Absolutely. But I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by how complex it is from a philosophical standpoint.
I’ve told other people this. I don’t necessarily think I would have done this film if it wasn’t with a director that I instinctively… and from word of worth of mouth heard of Tarsem.
What did you hear from word of mouth?
Well, I saw his Nike commercial reel. I saw every commercial he ever did. He’s the same way as Ridley and Tony Scott. These guys, [David] Fincher and all them came out of commercials. You know they can light the s**t out of something. They’re all hooked up with the latest high tech crap, and basically what they’re going to do is they’re going to take a, let’s say a Greek mythology piece, and really give it a life of its own through their visual effects. And what I was very much pleased with was how uncomplicated it all was working with Tarsem because he was so prepared. It made my job easier, and he would give me minor adjustment and it would sort of take my performance to another level. Just with him, a little word or so he’d give me.
What kind of words would he give you?
I’ll give you an example. If I had to go over and cut somebody’s nuts off, or cut their head off, he’d go over there and talk, “Just pick up the apple and take a bite out of it and smell it before you do that.” Just little adjustments that really good directors know how to… He hired me because of the choices I make, and yet, of course I’m open to him giving me an adjustment which was intelligent. So it’s nice to work in a collaborative way, that way. And I have respect for the man. I think that’s what I can say.
I interviewed him recently. He’s brilliant.
That’s the other thing. He’s like [Darren] Aronofsky and [Robert] Rodriguez. He’s a young guy who’s got a very large brain, that loves what he does. He’s very innovative and he takes risks, and he’s very intelligent.
I got the impression that even though you’re technically the “bad guy” in the movie, that he seemed to really sympathize with your character a lot.
Well, I always try to bring that to a character. It’s like when I did Ivan Vanko in Iron Man, I fought… You know, I explained to Justin Theroux, to the writer, and to [Jon] Favreau that I wanted to bring some other layers and colors, not just make this Russian a complete murderous revenging bad guy. And they allowed me to do that. Unfortunately, the [people] at Marvel just wanted a one-dimensional bad guy, so most of the performance ended up the floor.
That’s too bad.
Well, you know, it is f**king too bad, but it’s their loss. If they want to make mindless comic book movies, then I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t want to have to care so much and work so hard, and then fight them for intelligent reasoning, and just because they’re calling the shots they… You know, I didn’t work for three months on the accent and all the adjustments and go to Russia just so I could end up on the floor. Because that can make somebody say at the end of the day, oh f**k ‘em, I’m just going to mail it in. But I’m not that kind of guy. I’m never going to mail it in.
I could tell you didn’t mail it in on ‘Iron Man…’
No, but I’m saying it’s frustrating when that happens, when you care so much and you try so hard. At the end of the day you’ve got some nerd with a pocketful of money calling the shots. You know, Favreau didn’t call the shots. I wish he would have. And Theroux, we worked together to bring layers to that character, so, you know, I fight for that any time I’m playing like a bad guy. What made Henry Fonda so fantastic in the western that he did when he played a bad guy was what he brought to the character. All the goodness that he had in his face, or the moments that he had when he just wasn’t a one-dimensional bad guy. Because then, when he’s bad, you see that other color. You don’t want to always make him all “black.”
There’s that great bit in ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ when you can tell he doesn’t want to kill that kid but he’s forced into it.
Yeah! Sure. But you know, you’ve got to fight with these [people] all the time.
Your character of Hyperion, he’s filled with a lot of rage. And it feels like justified rage…
Well that’s what I say to everybody! I go, listen man… it’s territorial. This is his block. And you just don’t let s**t happen on your block. And when this guy, Theseus, comes over, it’s like, hey man, this guy’s over-stepping his boundaries. He’s going to have to get an ass kicking. So I look at it like it’s territorial, so it’s personal. And also it’s personal because he’s overstepping his boundaries.
Another thing I like about Hyperion is that he’s ruthless, but he’s really wise. There’s that scene at the beginning…
William, that’s what I always try to fight to get across. If you need to get a one-dimensional bad guy, you know, go get somebody out of some TV show to do the f**king thing, you know what I’m saying? I mean, you don’t need to hire me.
Well, I’m glad they hired you.
You know, back in acting school they always teach you, make bold choices and look for activities that are interesting. It doesn’t always have to be “this is the bad guy, this is the good guy.” There is justification for the measures that he takes.
And they come across very well.
I work very hard for those things to come across, but I’ve got to tell you, William, it’s always a fight. I usually lose the battle, but one of these days I’m going to do a bad guy, I hope, where they let those layers come across. I mean, you could look the great movie that Mel Gibson made, Braveheart. Now, from the other point of view he would have been a prick who was out of line. But from his people’s point of view he was justified. That’s all.
Are you still writing screenplays? Could you write a role like that for yourself?
Didn’t you write a few screenplays?
Yeah, I’ve written. I’m getting ready to do one of them now, the story about the rugby player who came out and announced that he was gay. Gareth Thomas, the Welsh captain. That’s called The Beautiful Game. We’re going to shoot that in April.
I also wrote a film that took me about twenty years to work on, called Wild Horses.
Is it really personal? Twenty years…
Well, yeah, I wrote it, kind of… It was about two brothers who don’t see each other for fifteen years, and then they get back together and it’s sort of a journey they go on. But there’s something going on with one of the brothers, and the journey kind of ends after a few weeks.
You signed on for ‘Seven Psychopaths…’
No, I’m not in that. The producer was a jerk-off. He wanted me to work for slave wages, and it was like… What’s his name… […] Right now, he’s no Darren Aronofsky. If I want to go to work for nothing, then, you know what I’m talking about. When I go to work, I work very, very hard, and I’m not going to give that away for free. But then again there’s the happy medium. If they want to just all go, “Oh, but In Bruges was this and that.” Well, maybe to some people, not to me. So they can play that arty-farty game with somebody else, you know what I’m saying? I’ll pick and choose who I want to go to work with for nothing. And all I can say at the end of the day is, their f**king loss.
Does that mean that you’re going to be in ‘The Expendables 2’ now? The rumors said that when you signed on to that you weren’t going to be able to do ‘The Expendables 2’ anymore.
Well, that’s another thing. Listen, I did the first one because I felt that I owed Sly a favor. He gave me a job in Get Carter when I couldn’t f**king shine my shoes, you know what I’m saying. And that was that. The other thing around that, I had never said I was going to be in it. I think the producers announced it but nobody discussed it with me.