When I used to reside a large portion of my time in Gold's gym in Venice, I would watch some of the professional bodybuilders training in hopes of gaining a secret strategy to emulate the shape of their physiques. By studying Charles Glass train his clients I was able to gain a few of those gems.
Gold's used to, and still does, house many celebrities but only those that were serious about working out. One person that stood out from that crowd was Mickey Rourke.
He would train with the intensity of a professional bodybuilder, throw around large poundage's that would gain stares from other members, but most of all he had a physique that many in that gym envied, which is quite an accomplishment considering this was in Gold's gym in Venice.
Mickey's gym appointments weren't like clockwork but his training schedule was - 1-1 ½ hours of brutal resistance work followed by 30-60 minutes cardio.
One day I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Mickey through his trainer - Mike Ryan. I found Mickey to be a person of great character, very funny and from that day forth very approachable. I had always been a huge fan of Mickey's and watched nearly every one of his movies whether they had been noticed by the box office or not.
Although I didn't share this with Mickey as I didn't want to come across as a star-struck stalker, we did share a couple of brief conversations on bodybuilding. He was very aware of the crop of bodybuilders competing (current and past) and had a very good knowledge on the sport as a whole.
He mentioned that he would've liked to meet Dorian Yates because he respected his hardcore attitude, work ethic and involvement in the sport as a champion, not for recognition.
Being quite close to Dorian, I set up a lunch meeting at the Firehouse the next time Yates was in town. Mickey and Yates hit it off as they conversed on varying subjects. This was in 2006, and as a result, Dorian will be in attendance for Mickey's movie premier of The Wrestler in London in January of 2009.
During the mid to late 1980's, Rourke was considered the largest star in Hollywood. He had starred in the box office hit Nine ½ Weeks, received critical praise in the Oliver Stone penned Year of the Dragon, and also appeared alongside Robert De Niro in Angel Heart. He was as well known for his good looks as he was for his acting roles.
In 1991, Mickey decided to return to boxing as a professional. He once had an amateur career and felt that he had unfinished business to attend to and "had little respect for himself as an actor." That he did for five years and then returned to acting once again.
In 2005 he played the animated hard-hitting Marv in Sin City, which saw the return of Mickey's awesome acting ability that had gone mostly unnoticed over the past 10 years. Then 2008 saw his massive return to the spotlight in the hugely anticipated and critically acclaimed movie - The Wrestler.
The Wrestler is a movie that craved the physical attributes and the personal history of Mickey Rourke in order to play the character Randy "The Ram" Robinson. Not only were the wrestling scenes physically very demanding, so was character.
In the film, similar to his own life, he proves to the world that he is not out of the spotlight just yet, not as long as we don't want him to be. Mickey Rourke's recognition is back, so much so that all fingers are pointing in the direction of an Oscar for his award deserving performance.
Mickey, as devoted as ever to his bodybuilding fans, allowed us to interview him through his busy schedule about his training and how it helped him prepare for The Wrestler.
Although you were at the top of the game as an actor, you turned to professional boxing as you felt more of an accomplishment due to its challenge. Is this why you have stayed in great shape since; because of the physical challenge?
Not necessarily. My return to boxing was due to the fact I had a long amateur career and had never turned pro. It helped me answer personal issues with unfinished business.
Apart from the physical attributes you gain from taking care of your diet and by staying consistent to your weight training regime, what are the mental attributes you feel that you accomplish from this lifestyle?
I think from the boxing, I gained discipline and focus as well as a strict daily regimen to stay in top condition. It is something that you have to be consistent with to constantly take yourself to a higher level.
In your upcoming movie "The Wrestler" you display a physique that is envious of many guys in their 20's and 30's although you are in your 50's. How have you been able to maintain such a lean and muscular physique, given that you have also succumbed too many injuries and broken bones throughout your career as a fighter?
I have always stayed in the gym. I hit the iron for 20 years in Gold's in Venice and enjoyed the company of many athletes who participated in bodybuilding.
I had great times in the old Gold's gym also when it was the Mecca of bodybuilding. I met a lot of great people and used to love to hang out with Lylie Alzedo, Chris Cormier, Flex Wheeler, Dorian Yates, and especially a man who I trained with for some years - the great guru of bodybuilding Charles Glass.
My father was also a bodybuilder and I recall many happy days as a child going to the YMCA and spending time with him in the gyms in New York.
I understand that you had to work arduously with professional wrestlers for your latest movie role and you performed many of your own stunts. Did your bodybuilding regime help or hinder you in these circumstances due to your muscle mass?
The bodybuilding of course helped but what a lot of people don't know and understand is you can't look like the way I do in 6 months. I have been bodybuilding for 20 years and muscle has memory.
It's just a matter of how big you want to get or how cut you want to get, and this all depends on the amount of cardio or the diet you are on. We were on a high protein, low carb diet that included 3-4 protein shakes a day. The cardio was very important as well as my ab work during this period of training.
How much did you weigh in The Wrestler. Was it much different to when you had to prepare for your fights as a professional boxer?
It was very different. As a professional fighter, I weighed around 192 lbs and it would take me 12 weeks to get down to 166, and that was hard. To play the role in The Wrestler I had to put on 30+ lbs.
I really thought putting on the 30+ lbs would be fun and easy; I was terribly mistaken. When I got up to around 217 lbs, I reached a plateau and flattened at that weight.
I still had another 12-13 to gain, and in order to do that we had to reassess and change the workout and diet regimen - more food, heavier workouts.
I know you are quite a bodybuilding fan and I hear Dorian Yates will be attending your London Premier of The Wrestler? Are you likely to have a workout with him whilst you are in the UK?
Yes, I always enjoy working out with the pros; the guys who have been there and done it. There is so much information that the pros know about. They are educated, informed and have been in the trenches so it is nice to get advice from the guys who really know.
We wish you all the best with The Wrestler Mickey, and I hope we can speak again prior to the release of Sin City 2
Thanks so much Kris and I hope you enjoy The Wrestler - it was the toughest movie I ever made!