Mickey Rourke Biography

Actor, Animal Rights Activist, Film Actor (1952–)
American actor Mickey Rourke has earned acclaim for such movies as '9 1/2 Weeks' and 'The Wrestler,' his film career bookending a stint as a professional boxer.


Actor Mickey Rourke was born in New York on September 16, 1952. His work in the film Body Heat (1981) won him notice, and he became a sex symbol with the release of 9 1/2 Weeks (1986). After pausing his acting career in the 1990s to pursue professional boxing, Rourke returned to the big screen with several small roles, eventually reestablishing his star credentials with his performance in the 2008 film The Wrestler.


Early Life

Actor and boxer Mickey Rourke was born Philip Andre Rourke Jr. on September 16, 1952, in Schenectady, New York, to Ann and Philip Andre Sr. During his teenage years, the family relocated to Miami, Florida. At Miami Beach Senior High School, Rourke spent a lot of time playing sports, especially baseball. Although Rourke rarely speaks of his family life growing up, the actor has alluded to rocky relationships with his five stepbrothers and an abusive stepfather.

"I was nuts and angry and ashamed ... and that shame turned into anger," Rourke says of his early life. "I believe it came from when I was a young boy, just a little kid, and I felt a lot of inferiority at home. I was pushed around and I went out into the street believing that kicking ass was what it was all about." 

Rourke's interest in athletics, and his need to defend himself physically, led him to pursue an amateur boxing career. However, he reputedly received a concussion while sparring with former welterweight champion Luis Rodriguez, and, after sustaining another concussion, he decided to retire from the ring.

Notable Film Roles

Rourke caught the acting bug in the late '70s, and headed back to New York to study under the actress Sandra Seacat. In 1979, he landed his first significant part in the Steven Spielberg film 1941. But it wasn't until his role as an arsonist in Body Heat (1981) that Rourke was able to attract critical attention.  

Rourke scored another notable early role in 1982 with the cult hit Diner, directed by Barry Levinson. In Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish (1983) Rourke took on a role as Matt Dillon's elder brother. He was subsequently praised for the energy he brought to the character, enabling him to stand out in a film that also featured Dennis Hopper and Nicolas Cage.

In 1984, The Pope of Greenwich Village earned Rourke more critical acclaim despite its lack of success at the box office. Praised by the likes of Johnny Depp as "perfect cinema," Rourke has cited the film as one of the highlights of his career.

Rourke earned recognition as a sex symbol after steaming up the screen with Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks (1986). The sexually charged film caused controversy but garnered its male lead high critical praise, and Rourke went on to draw more favorable reviews for his work in Barfly (1987).

Professional and Personal Difficulties

It wasn't long before Rourke succumbed to a hedonistic lifestyle, and he earned a reputation for difficult behavior during filming. Director Alan Parker, who worked with the actor in 1987's Angel Heart, was quoted as saying, "Working with Mickey is a nightmare. He is very dangerous on set because you never know what he is going to do."

Rourke also experienced difficulties in his private life, and wife Debra Feuer filed for divorce in 1989. In 1990, Rourke met actress Carré Otis on the set of the steamy thriller Wild Orchid. The couple married in 1992, but the union ended a few years later after an alleged assault landed Rourke in jail. 

His reputation damaged, Rourke made the decision to stop acting and return to the boxing ring. "I had to go back to boxing because I was self-destructing. I had no respect for myself being an actor. So I went back to a profession which really humbled me," Rourke said.

The actor failed to achieve national success in his return to boxing, and he suffered a number of injuries that included a broken nose, toe and ribs. He retired from the sport in 1995, and returned to acting with a newfound determination to succeed.

Animal Activism

Rourke is well known for his love of animals, especially dogs. In fact, he gave credit to his dog Loki for bringing him back from the edge of suicide. He famously refused the Hollywood Walk of Fame star honor because officials refused to let him add Loki's name to the pavement plaque. In 2009, Mickey and his beloved Chihuahua, Jaws, appeared in a PETA ad promoting spaying and neutering and urging people to “[h]ave the cojones to fix your dog. When dogs get knocked up, puppies get put down because there aren’t enough homes for them.”

Career Comeback

The comeback trail saw Rourke appear in such films as Coppola's The Rainmaker (1997). He played a supporting role across from legend Denzel Washington in Man on Fire (2004), and then was among the headliners of the international blockbuster Sin City (2005); his portrayal of an ex-con named Marv earned him a new generation of fans. 

In 2008, Rourke met more critical acclaim with his role as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in the film The Wrestler. Rourke won a Golden Globe for his performance, and was nominated—along with his co-star, Marisa Tomei—for an Academy Award. 

The veteran actor went on to star as the villain of Iron Man 2 (2010), and was also featured in the action films The Expendables (2010) and Immortals (2011). Cementing his return to the top of his profession, he was honored to leave his hand and footprints on the Walk of Fame, outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in 2011.

Rourke has since reprised the role of Marv for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), and starred in War Pigs (2015), a film set in Nazi Germany. He has also been attached to a biopic about gay rugby player Gareth Thomas. He even made a return to the boxing ring, scoring a knockout of 29-year-old Elliot Seymour in November 2014, although Seymour later claimed the match was fixed. 

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!