Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox make a striking screen couple in writer/director Mitch Glazer’s Passion Play, the just-wrapped romance about a troubled trumpet player and a winged beauty who rescue each other from dire circumstances. The candid actor checked in from the snowy New Mexico set to discuss his costars and a lesson he learned from Alec Baldwin.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The one paragraph synopsis for this film is a doozy, what with the beautiful circus freak with wings. What about the project caught your attention?
MICKEY ROURKE: We talked about it, oh god, more than 10 years ago. [Writer/director] Mitch Glazer and I went to high school together, and his mother was my English teacher for two years. She was my favorite teacher, and I followed Mitch’s career as a journalist, so we’ve kind of kept in touch over the years.
You play Nate, a down-and-out trumpet player. What sets him on his downward spiral?
He’s got a line in the movie, “I’ve messed up most of my life. I’ve only had two things: my music and my dope, but in the end it’s always been my dope.” And I think the fact that he meets somebody that he has feelings for, who’s different like he is, gives him purpose.
Well, she’s different in a very unique way.
She has wings, so she was sort of an oddity trapped in a carnival act. She’s been a prisoner her whole life, and she has no understanding of trust. She’s very vulnerable and delicate.
That’s a very different side to Megan Fox than the one she’s displayed publicly and in her previous films.
I didn’t know too much about her, except what I read. And I think the pleasant surprise was this girl who’s a world-class beauty turned out to be probably the best young actress I’ve ever worked with. I don’t know if a lot of her films have showcased her acting ability more than, say, being action-oriented, but she really stepped up the plate with this one and was very consistent and professional, beyond her years. At 23, I couldn’t do half of what she’s doing.
The redemptive element of this film, combined with the love of a beautiful woman reminds me, at least a little bit, of The Wrestler. Is that something that resonates with you?
Well, The Wrestler was quite tough. There wasn’t much chemistry there. Uh, that’s a whole other conversation. With Megan and I, there’s a lot of chemistry and a lot of respect. We’re both comfortable with each other. As far as the redemption is concerned, it’s almost fate. It’s not so much that my character is seeking redemption, it’s almost like it falls in my lap by accident. And I try and hold on to it as much as I can.
Bill Murray plays the mobster who has it in for Nate, but when most people think of Bill Murray, they don’t immediately picture a menacing gangster. What was it like working with him in this type of role?
Bill came aboard after another actor pulled out, and I think his unpredictability was a very interesting choice on Mitch’s part. It made me scratch my head in the beginning, but I kind of like the fact that Mitch went against the grain and didn’t use a Hollywood stereotype. Less is more. Bill Murray isn’t your typical scary, spooky guy, and there’s something very unnerving about a guy with a sort of off-the-wall sense of delivery. It’s very unexpected. Some of your worst gangsters are guys who were very low-key.
It’s been about a year since the excitement surrounding your role in The Wrestler. What’s changed for you since then? Has life sped up or slowed down?
Things have sped up. After The Wrestler, I realized I was going to get a second chance to work again after throwing everything away. It’s been a nice ride. I think the lesson I learned was I have to do movies that I respect, with people that I respect, and not for a payday. You know, I was watching this bio on Alec Baldwin the other night, and he did this one movie, The Cooler, and he mentioned how after he did that movie he started to like acting again. I think a lot of us go through a period of time where we don’t. We don’t like it any more, because of whatever reasons — the politics, the game, or just the choices that we’ve made ourselves for monetary reasons or what have you. And I think after The Wrestler, I realized I’ve got to go to work and work with people that I respect. That’s what it’s all about with me now.