15 Years In The Wilderness

Actor Mickey Rourke is an Oscar favourite for his Method role in Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler (2008).  Press coverage focuses on Rourke’s rise-and-fall: how his bad boy image led to onset difficulties in the late 1980s, a bitter breakup with model Carre Otis, and living humiliated, destitute and largely forgotten by the mid-1990s.  Arrogance, self-loathing, and rejecting offers for roles in later blockbusters all played a part in Rourke’s banishment to straight-to-video films.  He has waited 15 years in the wilderness before a career turnaround.

The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr captures this destructive career arc in a poignant interview in which Rourke examines his poor decisions and their impact.  It’s as if Marlon Brando had coauthored Sidney Finkelstein’s study Why Executives Fail (Portfolio, New York, 2003): see Finkelstein’s homepage, the book’s website, and a video lecture.  Rourke admits to many of the communication problems, career-blocking moves and blow-ups that Allen N. Weiner identifies in his book So Smart But . . . (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 2006).
I reflected on Cadwalladr’s profile for a week: Rourke has insights about why star performers can blow-up.  And then Pat Jordan of The New York Times decided to do some fact-checking with others after an interview with Rourke.  What emerges from Jordan’s investigation is a far more nuanced view of Rourke’s anecdotes and self-narratives to Cadwalladr and other journalists.  “He has spent his entire adult life playing not fictional characters but an idealized delusional fantasy of himself,” Jordan observes.  Maybe so, but Cadwalladr and Jordan have both written detailed and emotive portraits of Rourke who now could have a fourth act: following Finkelstein and Weiner on the corporate seminar circuit on how not to make decisions that destroy careers and reputations.