"I've been to hell, I'm not going back there," said Mickey Rourke, who defied all odds to come back from the Hollywood wilderness to land a 2009 Oscar nod for his powerful performance in The Wrestler. It was yet another remarkable twist in the life of an extraordinary man.
Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke Jr was born on September 16, 1952, into a family of Irish and French descent. His father Philip Andre Rourke Sr - a professional body builder - left when Mickey was only six, leaving his mother Anne to bring up the youngster, plus his brother Joey and half siblings, alone.
Anne remarried and the family moved to Miami, but Mickey's childhood was not a happy one. He found solace from his troubled home life in the boxing ring, training at the same gym Muhammad Ali had sprung from. He was good, and with an amateur record of 139 wins and three losses he seemed to be on the road to going pro. But then an injury put him out of action and he fell into acting by chance when he agreed to step into the lead of a friend's play after the original actor pulled out.
The acting bug bit - big time - persuading Mickey to leave the world of sport behind and, borrowing $400 from his half sister to finance the trip, head for New York to chase his dream of becoming a screen star. After years of taking classes and holding down part-time jobs to make ends meet, he got his first small part in 1981 film Body Heat
. He was only on screen for a few minutes, but it proved to be the springboard he needed.
He went on to appear in cult classics like Diner
, Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish
and Angel Heart
, opposite Robert De Niro. But it was 1986's 9½ Weeks
, in which he starred with Kim Basinger, which made him one of the most desired men on the planet.
Just when he seemed to have Tinseltown at his feet, things started to unravel. He got a reputation for being unpredictable and difficult to work with, and reports of alcohol and substance abuse, teamed with some bad career decisions, left him broke and unemployed as the Nineties began.
After a brief return to the ring, Mickey began to edge his way back into the acting world with small parts in projects including 2002's Spun
and, the following year, Once Upon A Time In Mexico
. Things finally seemed to be getting back on track in 2005 when he scored a larger role in Sin City
, as bounty hunter Marv, which brought him a handful of awards and renewed respect from his peers.
It wasn't until 2008 that he cemented his storming comeback, however, when he took on the role of washed-up wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson. Critics hailed his portrayal - which brought a slew of accolades, including a best actor Golden Globe and an Oscar nod - as the performance of his career.
Mickey's been without a significant other in his life since his turbulent seven-year marriage to Wild Orchid
co-star Carre Otis ended in 1998. "I won't compromise," he says on the subject of his single status. "Carre was thunder and lightning. If I can't have thunder and lighting then I won't have anything."
Instead, Mickey's constant companions have been his pet dogs, most notably beloved Chihuahua-cross Loki, who even accompanies him on the red carpet. He missed her so much during filming Stormbreaker
in 2006 he paid $5,400 to have her flown to England from the US to be with him. And when he picked up a Golden Globe in 2009 for his first leading role in more than 20 years, it was his pooches to whom he paid tribute. "I'd like to thank all my dogs," he said. "Because sometimes when a man's alone, all you've got is your dog, and they mean the world to me."