The Oscar for Best Actor of 2008? Up for grabs. Comeback of the Year, the Decade, the Millennium? No contest. Rourke, the cool, smoldering dude of '80s films like Rumble Fish, Year of the Dragon and Angel Heart, the guy who pissed his career away through bad attitude and worse behavior, has returned in triumph as Randy (The Ram) Robinson, a past-his-prime wrestler taking a last shot at redemption. To prove to director Darren Aronofsky that a chancy actor still had greatness in him, Rourke endured months of rigorous conditioning (35 lb. of new muscle) and brutal training (for Randy's patented standing-scissors move). "I wanted Darren to be proud of me, and I wanted the wrestlers to be proud of me," he says. "And after three MRIs, a lot of acupuncture, a lot of chiropractors and a really good doctor, we put the broken pieces together, and we were able to nail it." The rest the acting, the revelation of a tender, broken, resilient soul is what Rourke, 52, used to do superbly, and he brought it again. "I gave Darren everything I had, anything I ever learned about how to get there emotionally or physically. This is what acting is all about, and I love doing it again." And we love watching you do it. Welcome back, champ.
Reported by Rebecca Winters Keegan
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