Update, April 29 at 4:31 p.m. ET: Mickey Rourke’s manager Kimberly Hines denied that the actor came up with specific demands for his “Iron Man 2” character. “Simply not true,” Hines shared in an email to Insider.
Rourke pocketed a Golden Globe Best Actor win for “The Wrestler” before joining the film, and a source close to the actor claims the former 80s heartthrob had a list of demands truly worthy of a comic book villain to play MCU baddie Ivan Vanko.
In a Vulture exposé revisiting the “Iron Man 2” production, which was critically panned, an insider revealed that Rourke wondered “What’s ‘Iron Man 2’? What’s ‘Iron Man’?” before joining the tentpole franchise without reading a script. Rourke also had constructed a fully-realized version of his character, Whiplash.
“I’ll do it, but I have to have my hair in a samurai bun,” the source recalled Rourke telling director Jon Favreau and producer Kevin Feige at the time. “I have to speak in a Russian accent. And I have to have a bird on my shoulder.”
To note, all three of Rourke’s demands were met. However, Rourke’s salary request was not: The “9 1/2” week star was offered only $250,000 for the role.
Lead star Robert Downey Jr. reportedly offered a portion of his $10 million paycheck to help meet Rourke’s quota.
“It was a major sum to get Mickey close, and Mickey took the deal,” the insider continued.
To prepare for the role, Rourke “steeped himself in Russian prison culture, researching mob tattoos and even visiting Moscow’s notorious Butyrka Prison,” Vulture reported. Despite his research, though, Rourke is said to have started filming with “a lot of ambivalence” and became frustrated working with director Favreau, saying he “didn’t have any balls.” Rourke also threw jabs at Marvel Studios, calling the company a maker of “mindless comic-book movies.”
Currently, Rourke seems to be in production in Switzerland on an upcoming Roman Polanski film, calling collaborating with the director a “great privilege” in an Instagram post.
Yet Rourke wasn’t just the only actor to question the trajectory of “Iron Man.” Jeff Bridges allegedly “reconciled himself to making a ‘$200 million student film'” with the original film as Vulture noted, and actor-turned-screenwriter Justin Theroux’s stress on set allegedly manifested into back pain following quick script changes based on Downey’s ad-libbing for the sequel.
“Iron Man 2” raked in $623.9 million at the global box office but landed mixed reviews, with even the late Steve Jobs saying the film “sucked.”