[Rourke] was such a tricky character to figure out how he works -- he’s such a beautiful character. Everyone, all my friends said, "You cannot make a feature film with Mickey Rourke. No one gives a shit about him, no one’s gonna care to watch him for 90 minutes, he’s an animal, he’s disgusting." But then after the first day I realized that I had an incredible, sympathetic creature, and that was the thing, to show the beauty and the beast.
We wrote “The Wrestler” for Mickey. Very early on his name came up and he just got stuck in my head. When the writer was working on it there was a picture of Mickey over his typewriter.
It was an amazing moment, that sequence -- it was in front of a live audience. We put on actual wrestling events with actual promotions that brought their own wrestlers out, and then in the middle of the show we’d go out and shoot our movie. So we really had one or two takes before the audience would start getting crazy and annoyed with us, because wrestling fans are not very nice people. We got cursed out and screamed at “Get out of here, Hollywood!” ...And this was a 360 shot, so there was nowhere for me to go, I was just standing to the side of the ring screaming at the cameraman telling him where to go, but he couldn’t hear me because the crowd was so loud and he just got in the moment and it became this dance between the two of them. And that’s something that you know you’ve set up and you talk about it beforehand, but really it’s in the hands of the great craftsman and the great actor and sometimes you’re not involved in it, you just let go and it becomes a real thing. That was the one take we did, and it worked out so well.
It’s like a marriage - good at times, mostly bad. We did get a divorce, just before "The Wrestler," and I got remarried… but then we got back together after that. He’s a real artist and he really cares and that’s hard to find. We just finished shooting “Noah” two weeks ago and I’m really glad I don’t have to see him again for a few months. But then when I see him again I know I’ll love him, because we’re great friends. It’s just that we’re both always fighting to get as much as we can, and not everyone’s always happy with what we get, because there’s always limitations on filmmaking.
On “Noah” he just had incredible technical abilities, and they type of things we pulled off -- I think there’s very few people on the planet that could have done what he can do. There were nights when we had six huge cranes -- the type you build skyrises with -- holding up giant rigs of lights and rain rigs and the complication and sophistication of the equipment is just so technically difficult that very few people could have done that. So there are those skills, but he also has the tenderness and sensitivity to look at a performance and see how he can help it.
I haven’t really started to talk about the film yet because I only finished filming two weeks ago, so I really don’t know yet what’s going on and what it’s about.
In the Bible the story is only a couple of pages, and the perception we have of it in the West is more as a children’s toy -- an old man with a long beard and animals two by two on the boat. And there’s so much more to the story than that…there’s a lot of clues there about what the story means. So it was about trying to create a world where the story of Noah could be truthful and could take place, and make it something that could connect to a modern audience. There’s a lot of ideas in that story that actually are very, very relevant to what’s going on right now, so we tried to create a story that would ring true to people both that believe that it really happened and to those who think it’s a story.
His advice to budding filmmakers? Kill your darlings and every rewrite should be a full rewrite.
I could look at a shot and go “that took me 12 hours to do, and it was really hard and it was raining and no one can tell - I can’t take that out, it shows my pain.” But if it means nothing to anyone it has to go. I used to say that a movie’s not done until you’ve cut out your favorite shot and there’s some truth to that, because usually your favorite shot sticks out because it’s somehow more beautiful or more something than everything else, and it usually doesn’t belong.
A big mistake for a lot of writers is they’ll work on the first twenty pages of their screenplay over and over and it’ll be a great twenty pages, but then the next eighty pages is slowly getting worse and worse. It’s like if you were to focus on the hand of a sculpture you were making - the hand might be beautiful, but it would be grotesquely huge as compared to the rest of the body. Each time you do a pass you have to go all the way to the end, is a rule I’ve made.