The story of rugby player Gareth Thomas is a fascinating one. The Welsh rugby legend represented his country on 100 occasions, scoring 40 tries and becoming one of the greatest to ever play the game. He had a brief swansong representing Welsh club side Celtic Crusaders, before making a foray into reality television with an appearance on “Celebrity Big Brother” earlier this year. But the remarkable part of the story is that in 2009, after finalizing his divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Thomas announced publicly that he was gay. That made him the first openly gay rugby player, and easily the most high-profile gay athlete in Britain.
Plans for a biopic have been in the works for a couple of years now, and Mickey Rourke had been expected to take on the role of Thomas. Rourke’s first run-in with the sport was when he met some Huddersfield Giants players in a bar in London (the players were subsequently fined by the club for their behavior on said night), and when he heard of Thomas’ story he was fascinated and keen to play him in the mooted movie. Concerns have regularly been raised about the 59 year-old Rourke’s ability to convince as the rugby player – who is only now 37 – but the actor has reportedly been training hard, and even undertaken surgery to more closely resemble Thomas.
Well, today the story got rather confusing, with The Sun originally reporting that Rourke was set to be replaced by Tom Hardy. They quoted Rourke as saying: “the physical thing is harder than I thought, I’m just trying to get fit enough to do it.” Thomas reportedly added: “We’re now talking to other big-name actors who could play the part instead. We had talked about using computer-generated special effects with Mickey but we don’t think that will be as realistic, so it’s time to find someone new.” Suggestions were that that “someone new” would be Tom Hardy (which would be a fantastic improvement), but now The Sun have pulled the article from their website (though Dark Horizons still has the quotes).
The story that has replaced it claims that Rourke is in fact still on board despite Thomas admitting to talking to other actors. The new quote from Gareth Thomas reads: “I teamed up with Mickey because there’s nobody better to take on such a challenging role and nothing has changed.” So, business as usual then? We’re not convinced. Our eyebrows have been raised ever since Rourke first became interested in the role, and Tom Hardy seems to us like a much better pick. Perhaps the inclusion of Hardy’s name on the original piece led to the story being pulled, so maybe he won’t be replacing Rourke, but that’s not to say someone else won’t before filming gets underway in September.