Mickey Rourke Explains Retirement to Brett Ratner in Never-Before-Seen Doc

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Well, this is interesting: In preparation for the first volume of Brett Ratner's Shooter Series -- a new DVD collection gathering music videos, short films, commercials and other early-career odds and ends of directors including himself, the Hughes Brothers, F. Gary Gray and others -- the filmmaker unearthed some '90s era footage of Mickey Rourke explaining his transition from Hollywood to the boxing ring. The resulting short doc, Meet Mickey Rourke, was edited and produced by none other than nonfiction pioneer Albert Maysles; it hits shelves a week from today along with some of Ratner's other work from his pre-Hollywood days.

Movieline caught up with Ratner last week to get the scoop behind his decades-old acquaintance with Rourke and how he came to film the future Oscar-nominee's de facto farewell to Hollywood. That story -- and an excerpt from the film -- follow the jump.

"It's crazy," Ratner said in an interview. "When I started doing this? Digging up and compiling all this stuff? I have a whole closet full of film. I mean, you have to understand, when everyone was getting high and partying on the weekends at NYU film school, I was keeping the camera equipment instead of returning it on Friday afternoon like I was supposed to. I wanted to shoot. I knew I wasn't the best filmmaker there, but I wanted to get better. I probably became the most successful coming out of there, but only because on my weekends, I was filming. I was like, 'I only have four years here; I'm going to work every day of these four years.'

"So anyway, Mickey somehow grew up in my garage [in Miami] when he was a kid; he was friends with my Mom and my uncle. And then he became an actor; he was the only person my family even knew in the business. I had the privilege of knowing him when I was really little, but then he disappeared to New York and L.A. When I went up to NYU, I sort of reconnected with him. He was like part of my family, and I said, 'Man, I can't wait to work with you one day.' And he said, 'Nah, I'm quitting acting.' He was totally disenchanted. I said, 'What do you mean you're quitting acting?' He said, 'I'm gonna become a boxer.' So I said, 'Well, I'm going to follow you, then.' So I spent months following him trying to become a boxer. But I didn't have anything to do with the footage; it was just hundreds of hours of him boxing and training and talking about why he wanted to be a boxer.

"So then Mickey recently called me and asked if I'd have a party at my house for The Wrestler. I said, 'Absolutely.' And so he brings [Wrestler director] Darren Aronofsky, and in the middle of the party, I said, 'Guys, come into my room.' And I put in a VHS tape of all this footage. Mickey was just in utter shock: 'Oh my God, I don't even remember this.' Darren was like, 'You should have directed The Wrestler! This is like the real Wrestler.' You understand why Mickey was so brilliant in that role.

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"They said, 'You should do something with this,' but I didn't have the time to sift through all this footage. So I called up Albert Maysles and asked, 'Can you take a look at this footage and see if there's a film there?' He saw the footage, called me up and goes, 'I want to make this film for you. I want to edit it and produce it for you.' And that's how it came about. I love that he put the old-school Maysles Films logo on there. He titled it Meet Mickey Rourke, which was so brilliant because my favorite film of the Maysles brothers is their 20-minute documentary called Meet Marlon Brando. So I'm just lucky. And nobody's ever seen it.

"Darren asked me if he could put it on his DVD for The Wrestler, but it just wasn't ready. I was still working on it, trying to get it right. But the reason I think it's so good, I mean, you have to understand: Mickey's known me since I was a little boy. He never even did interviews back then; Mickey was like 'Fuck you' to everybody. So when he was saying stuff like, 'I hate myself, I hate acting, you can't tell people to go fuck themselves for 15 years and expect to keep working...' He was at a point in his life where this experience was a kind of therapy for him, and he was totally open with me. That scene where he's sitting in the restaurant talking to me? Look at his face."

Indeed, it's genuinely riveting stuff -- almost too short at four minutes, but all the more worth the glance. (And don't even get me started about the Michael Jackson interview he dug up for his Web site.) I'll have more with Ratner next Monday, including recollections of his experimental days (!), shooting Madonna's Like a Virgin sessions as a teenager, and what makes him a more serious filmmaker than you might think.

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Comments

  • Nita says:

    Regardless, he is one brilliant actor. He was awesome in the wrestling movie and so was his co-star, Marisa Tomei, whom may I add, looked awesome and was in stellar shape as well. Mikey is so entertaining... he has his following without a doubt and is very captivating.

  • jj25x2 says:

    Looking forward to viewing the rest of this film. Mickey is a fascinating individual and supremely talented actor. Too bad his lifestyle will deny us many more years with him.

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