Smack Down; Aronofsky, Tomei take on Globe-winning Wrestler

The Wrestler, recent recipient of two Golden Globe awards including Best Actor in a Drama (Mickey Rourke) and Best Original Song (Bruce Springsteen), is about Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a has-been professional wrestler (Rourke) who retires from the sport after a severe heart attack.
Feeling like his life is worthless, he looks to reconcile with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and begins an enticing romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei).
I had the opportunity to talk to the film’s director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei, who were on hand for interviews at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Though the screenplay for The Wrestler was written by Robert D. Siegel, the idea was one Aronofsky had been playing with since he graduated film school.
“I wrote down the idea and wondered how come no one has done a wrestling picture in a serious way,” Aronofsky said. “People think that wrestling is a joke, but when we started meeting these wrestlers in their 40s and 50s, a lot of them could not even tie their own shoelaces.”
When it came to casting the lead actor in the film, Aronofsky chose to cast Mickey Rourke in the role.
“I felt in my gut that he was the right guy for the part,” he said.
Tomei got involved in The Wrestler in “the boring usual way,” she heard that Aronofsky was directing a new project with an interesting story.
“I met with him again a couple of months later and got the part a month before shooting began,” Tomei said.
Aronofsky said that casting Tomei in the role of Cassidy was an interesting and unexpected choice.
Both Aronofsky and Tomei had their own difficulties when it came to the shooting. For Aronofsky, it was trying to get his lead actor to be comfortable performing the supermarket scenes where Randy works.
“The supermarket scenes were tough because Mickey connected to the shame of working at the supermarket,” he said. “Mickey can feel the embarrassment and it was hard for him to get in the mood.”
It took Aronofsky a while to understand what Rourke was doing with the character. Rourke said that it was great because the change he was aiming for as an actor poured a little bit into the character.
For Tomei, the most difficult part was auditioning for a play while The Wrestler was in its last week of filming.
“I was audtioning for this intelligent English play with tattoos covering my body and my hair a mess,” she said.
When it came to preparing for filming the movie, Aronofsky told The Beacon that even though Rourke had a boxing background, he had two months to unlearn
everything he knew about boxing and take up the theatrics of wrestling. Tomei prepared for the role by talking to Aronofsky and going through her scenes line by line.
“I went to a bunch of strip clubs, talked to a lot of dancers and watched a lot of ‘Rock of Love,’” Tomei said with a laugh.
Both Aronofsky and Tomei had good things to say about each other after working on the movie.
“Marisa is vey sexy and has a lot going for her,” Aronofsky said.
“I was so lucky to work with Darren, an incredible genius,” Tomei said.
Reel 2 Reel flips movies, reviews and previews every Friday. Email Steve at steve.mesa@fiusm.com.

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