Persuading financiers that Mickey Rourke was the right choice for the lead role in “The Wrestler” was a real challenge for director Darren Aronofsky.
At an after-party for the pic, which closed the 46th annual New York Film Festival on Sunday at Josephina’s Restaurant, the helmer said Wild Bunch was the “only financier in the entire world” who would back the film.
“No one believed that Mickey could be sympathetic, and no one believed that he could carry a film,” Aronofsky said. “So I took what Wild Bunch would give me, which was $6 million, and put on my independent film hat.”
So far the risk seems to have paid off. Pic took home the Golden Lion at Venice, caused an intense bidding war in Toronto and received a standing ovation after the New York Film Festival screening at Avery Fisher Hall.
Rourke, who was hired, replaced and then rehired, packed on 46 pounds of muscle before knowing he had secured the role.
“There was something inside of me that made me feel like I was going to get the part back. It was a terrifying instinct, because when I read the script I went, ‘Oh my God. This is what I’ve lived.’ This is a guy who is living in a state of shame, who was once somebody and is now a has-been. I didn’t know if I wanted to revisit those really dark places.”