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By Doug Brunell | April 7, 2005

I stood in the middle of the road, spitting out a mouthful of glass I presumed came from the windshield of the car that was resting on its roof on the other side of the street, its front end kissing a boulder. Something warm and thick was dripping down my face. I didn’t know if it was blood, and I didn’t care.

The cop was telling us we were lucky to be alive and asking why we fled from him. In just about thirty minutes we would be threatened with attempted murder charges, and since the cop before us was the alleged victim of our “plot,” we’d be going away for a “very long time.” Right now, though, the cop was commenting on our miracle and watching the approaching lights of more cops and a fire truck or two.

The night air was filled with the stench of gasoline, which was leaking from the rear of the car. The Exploited still blared from the car’s stereo. My knee was swelling up a bit, but I had yet to feel any pain from it.

Spitting more glass, I thought, “This is how it must feel to live like Mickey Rourke.”

Mickey Rourke is the kind of guy who leads a full, strange life. In Hollywood, however, that isn’t always a good thing, as is apparent by his history with the Land Time Forgot. One minute, he was the darling of New Babylon, the next he was being typecast as himself. Did anyone see “Spun” and not think he brought a little too much of himself to the role?

I like Rourke. “Angel Heart” is a favorite film of mine that gets better with each viewing. Despite all his talent, however, Rourke is a “bad boy.” He’s a real “bad boy,” too. Not one of those made up bad boys like Colin Farrell. Rourke, like James Caan and a few others, is the kind of guy who will take you to task and make sure you never forget it. Frankly, he’s the only actor in Hollywood who scares me. He’s had a troubled past, but people keep giving him second chances. Why?

I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve these second chances. He does. But why do audiences and producers keep putting him in films knowing his past and current lifestyle, which is anything but “normal”? It doesn’t help sell tickets. If anything, it may turn some people off. The answer is simple: He has talent, and we forgive him.

Despite my repeated accusations of cultural bankruptcy and artistic tastes which match that of a rapidly dying wild boar, Americans can be forgiving in the right circumstances. We’ll never forgive O.J. Simpson because he never ‘fessed up (at least in our eyes). But Rourke … well, you know what he is right from the start. When he lashes out, it’s expected, and he usually has a reason. Rourke never really came across as someone trying to pretend to be someone he’s not. He always seemed real (even if he were a bit off kilter), and Americans can accept that.

I always looked at Rourke as a bit of a Greek tragedy with legs. He seemed like a tortured genius in the same way as Robert Downey, Jr., only his genius didn’t quite ruin him the way it ruined Downey. Rourke seemed like he just needed to blow off steam every once and a while. Knock a few heads and then get back into the acting ring. In fact, acting always seemed secondary to knocking heads, and that is something you have to respect.

Rourke embodies that rugged individualism Americans pay a lot of lip service to but don’t really believe in. We live vicariously through him, only he’s a lot more dangerous and real than John Wayne could ever hope to be. Frankly, I think we find that kind of sexy. Wayne may take you, but Rourke will leave pleasurable bruises.

I’m glad we haven’t written him off because there is some excellent work in that man. If we would’ve shunned him like we’ve done to others, we’d be sending one of our finest actors into an exile he could care less about. We’d be hurting ourselves more than him, and that just seems masochistic. Rourke deserves much more than we can give him, but I don’t think that bothers him one bit. He’ll take the roles he believes in and go about his day.

I tip my hat to you, Rourke. You’ve been an inspiration to angry artists everywhere for decades. I’d buy you a drink if I didn’t think you’d kick my a*s for the hell of it. That said, take it easy a bit. It would be nice to have you around for another ten years or so. You’ve got some great roles left in you … and I want to see them.

Spitting glass out of my mouth. Looking for ways to escape the police station. Being threatened with an attempted murder charge. Yeah, it was Mickey Rourke-type night all right.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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