Extreme Method Acting: Mickey Rourkes 15 year journey through obscurity, rigged boxing matches and tights to prepare for The Wrestler.

I was asked what was the most extreme action by a director on set. My answer focusses on an actor but I can justify this by way of both how outlandish the prep is and that it needed two directors to pull it off.

I would say that Mickey Rourke having a fake boxing career, pretending to be ostracised from the movie industry and perhaps that weird face transplant looking plastic surgery he tragically ruined his face with just to prepare for the wrestler takes the cake.

Sure, this is unsubstantiated but when you research Rourke, the expectation that he would be the next Brando/Dean, his hints in interviews that he was going to do something no one else would have ever done before and other elements and it actually adds up. He worked very closely with Stuart Rosenberg in the movies he before his fall from grace and that guy was Darren Aaronofsky’s mentor. If was billed as the “resurrection of Mickey Rourke” even before release which is an odd description to a movie that could have flopped. His whole sabbatical which was only really noticeable in that he ruined his looks by apparently boxing (I’m an ex-boxing and MMA pundit, that wasn’t boxing) is steeped in weirdness. Strange Kaballa sounding insults to people in interviews add to general oddness.

Most of all though is the connection to The Actors Studio NY, the super exclusive home of extreme method acting. This is where the elite learn their craft and where the ins and outs of their method acting sounds like anything from giving yourself split personality disorder to summoning a spirit into your body. Actors do gush but this is a little hardcore for even them.

What sealed it for me though was the subliminal work put in by Aaronofsky, a masterful director that Rosenberg will be proud to have mentored.

This is both bizare and brilliant….

In one of the expterior shots Randy (Rourke) can be seen heading for a wrestling event with a suitcase obviously containing his equipment. The club is called the pioneer club and here is the location on Google maps….

pioneer club the wrestler location

As can be seen in the above image, a 1950s built house and access to the businesses when you turn right at the next junction.

New Jersey Hasbrouck Heights Pioneer Club

Another angle showing the supposed location of the “Pioneer Club”

This is where the extremely subtle stuff is done. Note that above you have a 1960s house and access to the back of a row of shops. These aren’t newly built, I have checked on this to be sure.

pioneer club actors studio hasbrouck heights new jersey

09:28 Randy can be seen walking to his match. The “Pioneer Club” is CGI with the front awning creating a very effect with the building in the background.

For that particular scene Darren Aronofsky chose to CGI in an entire building with Mickey walking towards…..

Pioneer Club Wrestler Mickey Rourke Actors Studio

The awning of the “Pioneer Club” is the key to the subliminal and the something more obvious subtext of the movie, Rourkes rebirth.

…this combination of the CGI porch of the “Pioneer Club” an entirely fictitious venue and the real rear of the building that’s actually a bank I believe creates a sort of angry bird looking face.

So what’s the point of going to this length for what amounts to around 10 seconds max and 99.99999% of viewers wont notice (or be sad enough to check up like I did)? It’s a subliminal rendering of The Actors Studio building in NY…

the actors studio new york temple brando rourke dean

Hells kitchen is home to the oscar cult, The Actors Studio in New york and is one of the last greek revival buildings to be built in the New York area. Mickey Rourke, Marlon Brando and James Dean were all in this circle when learning their craft and after that also. Looking like an angry owl from the angry birds game, the location was a former Seventh Associate Presbyterian Church, the second church building the Actors Studio has used as its base. The building due to its rare structure being only the second of it kind alongside the Mariner’s Temple NY is subject to a preservation order.

This is Mickey returning home after what I venture is extreme the extreme method acting he went through on the 15–20 year journey he had preparing. Just like Brando and James Dean, also members of this club of acting pioneers (Pioneer club, get it?) who his name is linked to almost exclusively and Robert DeNiro, nothing is too extreme to get the perfect performance.

Further validation of this can be seen when he again is seen walking towards a fictitious location. There is no American Legion Post No.5 in any of the locations the wrestler was made.

american legion hasbrouck heights wrestler

Once again, Mickey is walking towards and image that matches the front of The Actors Studio New York.


Again, that same angry bird looking face of the actors studio…


the wrestler the actors studio

The symbolic reference to The Actors Studio for Mickey to return to as the prodigal son.

Just to confirm this by placing these three together….


Obviously it’s quite easy to call this coincidence and that’s the first place I would run to was it not for the following.

  1. Mickey is a method actor and made clear early on he wanted to push the boundaries and murmurings about Brando and Dean started.
  2. Time and money was invested creating those scenes. Every pixel was calculated and the effort was made to have it look as real as possible to fit in with the docu-drama style camera work in the wrestler. That made it even tougher.
  3. Darren Aaronofsky chose to make those building look as they do. The Pioneer club and the American Legion were not accidental.
  4. Alot is made of Mickeys boxing career and it’s blamed for the unfortunate mess his face became. This is definitely untrue. Boxers after 100 fights don’t suffer those effects (Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez) and his fights were fixed. Guys took dives, it was fake fighting just like wrestling.
  5. His years in the wilderness ostracised from Hollywood are a reflection of Randy who by watching the opening credits is at very least 15 years outside of any stardom. He is forgotten, an outcast who no one even remembers but for the hardcore fan. Remember when Mickey was “Resurected” for The Wrestler? Alot of folks did think him dead.

The reason I took the time to place this here when it’s actually Mickey and not the director is because stunts like this don’t just happen with a single person.Its very likely Mickey will have known Aaronofsky before his sabbatical. Mickey worked with Stuart Rosenberg, Aaronoskys mentor and friend on The Pope of Greenwich village and him and Rosenberg were often seen socialising before and after that shoot.

Between the three of them, and this is a strong hunch…I do get that…they had Mickey Forgotten by Hollywood and operating in fixed fighting to prepare for The Wrestler, a movie about a forgotten talent who worked in fake fighting.

….and here he is Mickey returning home with his suitcase to the mecca of extreme method acting to the private acclaim of members of that exclusive club of pioneers….

Mickey returning home to The Actors Studio NY

Mickey returning home to The Actors Studio NY

actors studio new york temple

A temple in the truest sense of the word with the spiritual links between its selective circle, this small owl looking structure has quietly stood above the hearts and minds of of modern America providing smiles, laughter, tears and entertainment to America below for the better part of 100 years. While others similar in ethos like The New School have emerged in the NY area, the most sought after ticket is still the secretive acting cult that is The Actors Studio


PS: Give it some thought before dismissing it. I would need to, it’s way out there but this is Mad Mickey Rourke we are talking about here.


brando dean rourke connection

Marlon Brando, Mickey Rourke and James Dean were all members of the Actors Studio New York, the highly exclusive secretive spiritual home of method acting.


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