Humbled Mickey Rourke makes gutsy return to Hollywood

Rourke gets back in the ring with The Wrestler

But The Wrestler is something else entirely—a movie in which Rourke appears in almost every frame of every scene, and where, as German filmmaker Wim Wenders commented upon awarding the film the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, he more than once breaks your heart.

Rourke says his comeback has been "a game of inches." Come February, that game may well land him in the end zone of the Kodak Theatre. But no matter what happens, Rourke says there's no danger that he'll ever revert to his hell-raising ways. "Look, a little time bomb's always gonna be in Mickey Rourke, okay?" he says. "But I used to have bad people around me. Now, I've got people around me who have my best interest at heart. I'm always going to be a volatile cat. If someone disrespects me, it's always going to be on, so I try not to put myself in positions where that's going to happen. I do everything I can to avoid that, because let me tell you...to live in a state of shame for so many years, to be a has-been...it hurts...it really did hurt."

Rourke chokes on those last few words, then takes a deep breath and asks his assistant to re-light his cigarette. "I'm so amazed that I'm getting a second chance," he says. "I said this to somebody recently: God's got a plan for us all. I sure as hell wish I would have looked at his instead of mine."

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