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Tom Folino: On Mickey Rourke, “A Quiet Brilliance”

Tom Folino: On Mickey Rourke, "A Quiet Brilliance"

In honor of his recent comeback, Cinetic Rights Management has unearthed and released the first film starring Mickey Rourke. “Love In The Hamptons” (1976), based on a New Yorker magazine short story, is the tale of a complicated romance between a waiter and waitress. Over 30 years after it was made, this short film is exclusively available on Amazon VOD. Writer/director Tom Folino shares his thoughts on casting a young Mickey Rourke for his short film, and what that experience means today.

One could sense a quiet brilliance in Mickey, even as a kid. He was a young man of few words but palpable sensitivity. When I first met Mickey, I had reached a point of near desperation in casting the lead role of Swede. I had seen nearly 60 young men and none seemed right. About to give up and abandon the project, I got an 11th hour call from a wonderful casting director, Juliet Taylor, who thought she might have the right fellow.

That fellow turned out to be Mickey Rourke! Obviously, Juliet was correct, I knew it the minute I first met him. Although Mickey had not yet done film work, he was already a gifted actor. Since I was under major time constraints, it was essential to find someone for the role who already possessed the attributes of the character, as there was little time for rehearsals and “the discovery process.” To me, Mickey was Swede, a working class kid, the son of a plasterer. A kid with with a tough veneer, but, underneath, an almost naïve optimism and belief that he could “make a difference.” It was a stroke of great good fortune that I got that call from Juliet, just in the nick of time.

A short anecdote reveals just how dedicated this young actor was to living in his character’s skin, the same devotion so alive and well that we see in his performance currently in “The Wrestler.” About a minute before we were to roll camera on a shot of Swede and Sandy waking up at the beach, in the front seat of the convertible, Mickey crouched down and grabbed a huge handful of sand, which he promptly poured into his eyes. Alarmed at the possible damage, I asked him what in the world he thought he was doing. His reply: “your eyes are always gritty when you wake up, aren’t they?”

Mickey was always prepared, always knew his lines and was always eager to deliver. We could never have shot our little picture in the five days we did, had it not been so. And, by the way, he was an incredibly thoughtful and polite guy, and I still see those qualities in Mickey today when I see him interviewed on recent talk shows. It’s a thrill to witness this current resurgence in his career… about time and fully deserved. Congratulations, Mickey, keep up the great work!

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