Dispatches From The New York Film Festival: The Wrestler

Ever since Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and inspired one of those famed late-night bidding wars in Toronto, everyone has been all aflutter to see the film. It’s due to close the 46th New York Film Festival on October 12th (and released by Fox Searchlight in theaters in December), but those wrinkled press and industry types got to see the film this morning. Mickey Rourke, who is in practically every scene of the film, turned in as good a performance as promised, playing an aged professional wrestler who still likes to suit up for the ring, and listen to ’80s hair metal as he drives around New Jersey (holla!). People are already talking about an Oscar for Mr. Rourke, and maybe for Mr. Aronofsky, too (which is a far cry from how they responded to his last film, The Fountain).

At the press conference following the film, it seemed clear that Mr. Aronofsky is quite the taskmaster on set. “I won’t say he’s tough, because he doesn’t like that,” said Mr. Rourke. “Relentless. Let’s say relentless.” Indeed, Mr. Rourke trained with a professional wrestler for two hours every day, and he said that his training as a boxer hindered rather than helped him (“it’s like ping-pong and rugby,” he said of the differences between the two). He also said he got hurt more in three months training for The Wrestler than he did in 16 years of boxing, and seemed to have a newfound respect for the plight of the professional wrestler. “When you get hit by a chair, it hurts.”