The buzz, now building to a roar, started last September, when a rush print of Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" won the Golden Lion for best picture at the Venice Film Festival. Then, last Sunday, the movie's star, Mickey Rourke — who might well have taken the best-actor award in Venice, if the festival's rules hadn't precluded it — won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film. Next up: the Oscars — and "The Wrestler" is looking good.
Could there be an unlikelier movie than this one? Made with French money — and very little of it — and shot in definitively unglamorous New Jersey in the grimmest depths of winter, "The Wrestler" is a raw, bloody character study of a faded pro grappler at the end of his ring career. And Rourke was a star so faded himself that when he took on the role of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, potential financial backers were scared away in droves. But it's the autobiographical resonance the 52-year-old actor brings to the picture that makes it so spellbinding — and so heart-rending.
Rourke and Aronofsky stopped by the MTV newsroom recently — the director in one of the trim-cut suits he currently favors, the actor arrayed in leather and cigarettes. Their relationship seems grounded in affection and respect and non-stop volleys of splendidly obscene wisecracks. They sat, they talked, and we poked into subjects ranging from the development of the movie's script and the surprising improvisation of its now-famous deli scene to Bruce Springsteen's contribution of a free song to the film's soundtrack (quite a story) and Mickey-fan Axl Rose's lowball fee for the use of "Sweet Child O' Mine." There were also passing shout-outs to Brutus Beefcake and Greg the Hammer, of course, and ... well, see for yourself.
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