INTERVIEW: Mickey Rourke Talks Iron Man 2Tuesday , 14 Sep 2010
The 2010 American superhero film Iron Man 2 is coming out on DVD. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. Gwyneth Paltrow and Mickey Rourke. This is our interview with Mickey Rourke.
As I understand it, you did a lot of research to play the villainous Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, in Iron Man 2 including going to Russia and meeting some Russian jail inmates.
Yeah, that’s kind of true. I was actually in Russia on other business so used that to my advantage. When they told me my character was Russian I made some calls that allowed me to go and visit one of the prisons in Russia. Then 10 days later there was a guy who actually got out of prison after 13 years. He came to my hotel and we talked. He had all of these tattoos. He took his clothes off and pulled his pants down and showed me all of these things. You know, what the different meanings of his tattoos were, what zones he was in, his rank, what affiliations he had. There were certain tattoos he had were very simple, and you wouldn't think they were such powerful tattoos.
What was the guy in jail for?
I think he was in for kidnapping or something like that.
Your character obviously has a Russian accent. Was it hard to do?
Yeah. The Russian flow is hard if English is your first language. I had a Russian teacher for three months, five days a week, three hours a day. To learn two lines would take me three weeks (laughs). I have a Russian girlfriend who would make fun of my Russian accent.
The suit Whiplash wears is visually amazing. It looked like it was incredibly heavy.
Yeah. It was about 40 pounds. I remember when Jon Favreau put it on me for the first time. He and the other guys were so proud of it, but I was like “Ughhh, I have to wear this 12 hours a day!”
How did you cope wearing such a heavy suit?
I have a really great stunt guy who has been with me for a long time, Gary Warren, and what we did, because it was so cumbersome, he got me two 20 pound vests and a treadmill on an incline and for 45 minutes a day we'd walk quickly on the treadmill. After 20 minutes he'd take one of the vests off so it would be just 20 pounds. Then he'd give me the bull whips and we'd simulate the Whiplash suit. We did it for three months so when I put the suit on it was not so hard to wear. Now I have to get the muscle I put on off because I'm doing another movie and I have to be skinnier (laughs).
What was your daily workout regime?
I did cardio twice a day because I tend to get wider, depending what vitamins I’m taking (laughs). I do a 40 minute run and some bicycle work. I don’t do weights anymore. I do cable weights.
What about your diet?
A high protein, low carb diet. Very few steroids (laughs).
As you were growing up were you into superheroes and comics?
No. Not at all. I was more into sports. I wasn’t a comic book guy.
What do you think about the huge Iron Man fanbase out there?
It is amazing. My first introduction to the comic book and graphic novel fans was when I did Sin City. I remember walking into a comic book store down on Melrose Ave and all these guys in there already knew I was doing Marv. They said, “You’re doing Marv!” and I was like “What?”. It was supposed to be a secret. It hadn’t been announced yet. I thought, “These guys are weird, man”. They must have called 50 people by the time I left the store because there were all these guys with glasses on outside the store. They were saying “You’re going to play Marv!” and I was like, “I don’t even know who Marv is”.
So with Sin City and Iron Man you are now fully aware of the comic book world.
Yeah. It’s pretty wacky.
A few years ago you were on the outer in Hollywood. For about 14 years or so it was hard for you to find work. Now you are back on top with a recent Oscar nomination and great roles. When you look back at the tough times, what do you think?
No, I don’t think back about it (laughs). I had 14 years to think about whether I was ever going to be able to go back to work. I remember telling people that after 10 years it was pretty much over. Then, I'll never forget arriving at the Cannes Film Festival with Sin City and thinking to myself, “Wow, I'm in a movie that's worth more than $1 million". I knew I had a second chance and I made sure I didn't fuck it up again. I could fuck it up easy. I could fuck it up by the end of today.
Was it difficult to turn your life around?
It was about learning to become accountable and that there were repercussions. Before I didn’t care. I never thought about the repercussions, but the repercussions were pretty severe especially if it is violent stuff.
What caused your downward spiral?
I never had an alcohol or drug issue, it was an authority thing. People say “Oh he's a heroin addict. He's an alcoholic”. It was never that. It was more about what people said to me or wanted me to do. It was about authority and it got out of hand. I also surrounded myself with some really bad characters and I don’t do that anymore, or as much.
Was it intimidating for you to come back into Hollywood and work on huge films like Iron Man 2?
No. When you are out of work for a long time and the years go by you go, “Wow, I have a chance again”. It happened about four years ago or whatever.
What was the turning point?
I remember several years ago I was sitting down on Sunset Blvd and I could barely pay for the bowl of spaghetti I was eating and then the next thing Sylvester Stallone was standing over me. He said “Hey, how ya doin? I need someone in my movie who looks like they could kick my ass”. I said “No problem”. He put me in the movie and I didn't get paid much, but I thought “Wow, I can actually pay my rent for two months in a row”. I was living in a room half this size.
You are also in Sylvester Stallone's new film, The Expendables. Was that again to thank him for helping you out when you were down?
Yeah. I did just two days on the film, pretty much for what he did for me when I had no money and he took a chance on me.
What’s the most important thing you have learned about yourself after all of these years?
For me, that I caused all of my own problems. It wasn’t anyone else. It was me.
You and your Iron Man 2 co-star Robert Downey Jr have been through tough times and have now come out of it in a huge way.
Yeah, but Robert had a drug problem. Mine was different. He fell off the ship and fortunately he had enough intelligence. He's really bright. His biggest thing is how smart he is. The reason why Iron Man is so successful is because Favreau took a chance on Robert who has so much ability, intelligence and sense of humour instead of using some young flavour of the month actor who just looked good. Robert has made the most of it.
When you were on the Iron Man 2 set with Robert, did you talk about your dark days?
It was funny. I'd be on my treadmill and I'd look across and he'd be sitting there with his vitamins. I said, “Who the hell would have thought that not only would both of us show up on time, but doing what we are doing?” I'm real happy for Robert’s success. He fell really far, and he came back so strong. That’s what you are supposed to do.
Why did you agree to be in Iron Man 2?
I told Jon I didn't really need a job. There were half a dozen other movies I could have done. I told him I didn't want to play a one-dimensional Russian bad guy. I wanted someone with layers so we knew why he acted the way he does. I didn’t want to be some stereotypical Russian bad guy you'd see in a Steven Segal movie. I wanted the audience to see where his mechanics are at and to see his soul and to humanise him.
For more information on the film, check out Iron Man 2 on IMDB.
Iron Man 2 will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 6th October.
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