Immortals - Mickey Rourke
King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) seeks brutal vengeance against the gods © 2011 War of the Gods

Mickey Rourke is as colorful as any character he’s portrayed on film. With a plethora of successful movies behind him, including Diner, Body Heat, Angel Heart, Nine ½ Weeks, Iron Man 2 and The Wrestler, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, he is currently starring in director Tarsem Singh’s Immortals.

In it he plays the brutal and bloodthirsty King Hyperion who, along with his murderous army, is searching Greece for the legendary Titans, in order to reawaken them and unleash their awesome power to attain his goal, to annihilate all of humankind and the Gods of Olympus.

What interested you about this project?

Immortals - Battle scene, Mickey Rourke
Mythical large scale battles scenes are recreated such as here with the army headed by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) © 2011 War of the Gods

I wanted to do the movie because it was Tarsem. He was in pre-production for so long and he was very prepared in what he wanted, so every choice he made he had a good reason for, and I think his visual concept for the film was what transcended the material that was written and took it to another level.

I don’t necessarily think I would have done this movie if Tarsem wasn’t attached to it.

How would you best describe Tarsem’s vision for the movie?

I don’t know if I could describe it. When I met Tarsem he had already drawn a dozen different ideas for the look and the dress of my character. They were beautiful drawings; I actually kept some of them. He even had a picture of a French rugby playing with long hair and a beard.

He laid it all on the table for me, all I had to do is breathe, show up and hit my marks. He made it very easy for me.

Did you ever have an interest in mythology?

I do like mythology. I love the period of the dress and the language and all the bullsh-t they believed in. I find it very interesting. My grandmother used to read me Robin Hood stories or Hercules to put me to sleep. So I grew up listening to fairy tales.

How do you find your way into a character who’s so vile? Even the villain in Iron Man had a background where you could see why he was like that.

Immortals - Mickey Rourke
King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) © 2011 War of the Gods

There has got to be moments where there are layers.’ I would say, ‘Give me an opportunity to have him not be so nasty all the time.’

What was King Hyperion’s weakness?

I didn’t think about all that sh-t. I didn’t go that deep, there was no need to. I just went as far as what they needed on the page. You’ve asked an interesting question. Maybe I should have asked myself as an actor, but I wasn’t that involved. I made more of a choice of what does he want? It was more a territorial thing.

When you’re doing a character do you normally ask all those questions?

Yeah, I have a whole thing I learned from when I was a student in the theatre two hundred years ago, where’s the character going? Where’s he coming from? What does he want? How is he going to get there? What makes him interesting, what pisses him off? You have to create a back story so he has a life that I can tap into and make personal.

Do you enjoy going to 3D movies, there are so many of them now?

Immortals - Mickey Rourke
King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) © 2011 War of the Gods

I’ve never been to one. I saw this one, but I didn’t feel like wearing the glasses, so I watched it blurry. I’ll have to watch it again!

Next week you’re having your hands and feet implanted at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Almost everyone who mentions Hollywood as a career goes there and tries their feet.

I’ve done it. I used to live on Hollywood Boulevard. I lived in a room above a pizza place on Las Palmas, and I worked as a bouncer at a transvestite nightclub across the street. I used to walk over [to Grauman’s] at night, because I had nothing to do and no money, and I’d [put my feet into the stars’ footprints].

When they told me about this thing, I went, ‘I don’t know how I feel about that.’

Now someone is going to come and put their hands in your handprints and their feet in your footprints.

I have to look at it that way. But the way I’m looking at it now is, I used to go there and go, ‘All these f-ckers are dead!’

Is being an actor somewhat being immortal in the fact that the stuff you’re doing today, generation after generation is going to see your work?

The other night I was watching an old movie and I thought all these actors are dead. It’s a little depressing. It’s like the thing of getting your feet put in the [cement]. I’m sure twenty years ago I would have been more excited about it than I am now. I’m honored I guess to a degree, but what I’ve been through in my life it’s anti-climatic.

Just the fact that they’ve let me back, that I’ve gotten back in the business, is reward enough for me. That’s the most honest thing I can say.

Is the reward your body of work, because whatever you’ve been through personally your body of work is always there?

Yeah, it was interrupted for ten years. It’s like when they were going to give me a star on Hollywood Boulevard, I said, ‘Well, put my dog’s name, Loki, on it too.’ They wouldn’t do that, so I said, ‘F-ck it.’ I wouldn’t have been as comfortable or as happy if I didn’t have Loki with me, so Loki’s name needed to be there, it meant the most to me.

My dog was there during that hell. I don’t see what’s wrong with it; Rin Tin Tin’s got a f-cking star!


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.