It’s not often that a night like Thursday’s, featuring none other than Clint Eastwood, gets topped. But this year, I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that it did, at the American Riviera Award Tribute to Mickey Rourke. (Um, did I mention that the award was presented to Rourke by Francis Ford Coppola, who directed him in 1983’s Rumble Fish? Yeah.)
Rourke’s incredibly raw, rip-your-heart-out performance in The Wrestler has brought him back into the spotlight - and I think everyone who had the pleasure of listening to him on Saturday night would agree that that’s good news for all of us. Though he ditched out whenever the lights went down for a clip sequence (he claims he can’t stand to watch his performances until at least four or five years have passed) - one time leaving emcee Pete Hammond alone on the stage twiddling his thumbs while awaiting his return - each one reminded us what an incredible talent he is.
In the interview, he was hilarious, blunt, interesting, honest, and remarkably real. He spoke of his life, his success, his regrets (turning down an invitation to meet the Pope, after his performance in 1984’s The Pope of Greenwich Village, among them) with the wisdom of someone who’s screwed up once or twice, but didn’t let it keep him from busting his ass to earn a serious second chance. The two hours flew by, leaving us wanting more.
I had some young guys sitting next to me, and an older couple behind me, and everyone was in awe. “Bravo,” the young guy beside me yelled, over and over (seriously, he said, “Bravo!”), while the lady behind me kept saying to her husband, “My god, he’s just the best. The best.” And The Durls did us all proud with his tear-jerking words. “He was my hero,” he said, “and he let me down. But America and Hollywood are all about second chances, and his goes to show the power of pure artistry.”
The fog had descended by the time the tribute let out, but that wasn’t going to keep me from hitting the after-party, which went down at a neon-lit First Business Bank (oh the irony of partying at a banking establishment in this day and age : ). Nor would a security guard or three keep me from the VIP area, where Rourke was graciously shaking hands and saying “cheese.” Roger introduced me, I snapped a photo of the two of them, I said something profound (along the lines of, blah blah congratulations blah blah awesome blah blah blah), and then he called me “Baby.”
And I challenge the SBIFF to top that.