In 2009, after years in the Hollywood wilderness, Mickey Rourke staged a spectacular comeback with his critically acclaimed performance in Darren Aronofsky's film The Wrestler. Taking on the role of washed up fighter Randy "The Ram" Robinson required Rourke to transform his body by piling on 27 pounds of muscle.
After finding success in the 1980s with films such as Diner, Nine 1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart, Mickey Rourke turned his back on Hollywood in the 1990s to rekindle his previous career in boxing. He took smaller film roles but gained a reputation for being difficult to work with and his star status plummeted. He returned to mainstream film in 2005 with a role in Robert Rodriguez' Sin City, but it was his role in The Wrestler that left audiences and critics alike convinced that Mickey Rourke was back.
Rourke described his preparation for the film as physically brutal. He added 27 pounds of muscle to his frame through intensive fitness training, and by eating six or seven meals a day. With the help of an ex-military personal trainer, Rourke completed four months of daily weight training sessions and cardiovascular exercise as well as extensive wrestling practice in order to get into shape for the role.
Rourke strongly denied claims that his prior career as a professional boxer helped him in any way with his wrestling training. In an interview with MTV, he likened the two professions to ping pong and rugby, saying there is no connection between them. Rourke trained with professional wrestlers for months in order to make his performance believable. He was injured many times during the process. By the end of filming, Darren Aronofsky claimed that the trainers said he was better than 80 percent of WWF wrestlers.
Rourke's performance garnered critical acclaim across the globe. Reviews described it as powerful and heartfelt and Todd McCarthy of Variety gushed that it "instantly takes its place among the great, iconic screen performances." Rourke won a slew of awards for the role, including a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, as well as his first Oscar nomination.