Whistleblower has learned from several entertainment industry sources that Mickey Rourke—whose extraordinary comeback performance in The Wrestler is garnering him early praise as a shoo-in for a best actor Oscar nomination—is trash talking his likely toughest competitor, Sean Penn, whose acting in Milk has earned rave reviews.
After his December 23 appearance on David Letterman, Rourke told someone backstage that he was surprised that so many people seemed to think that Penn was his Oscar competition since “I’m not even sure he’ll get a nomination.”
On December 28, a Los Angeles entertainment honcho shared a text message with me that Rourke had sent him: “Look seans an old friend of mine and i didnt buy his performance at all—thought he did an average pretend acting like he was gay besides hes one of the most homophobic people i kno" [sic]
“It’s a shame,” says one veteran Hollywood lawyer. “Mickey should be looking at this as a once in a career chance for a fresh start. But dumping on Penn is not going to win him any friends. It’s not the way to get Oscar votes.”
Rourke’s publicist says “there is no Oscar feud between Mickey and Sean. They have known each other and been friends for a very long time. Mickey attended the New York premiere of Milk to support Sean and only has the greatest respect for him.” She adds that Rourke is ”completely unaware of the text.”
Miami friends of Rourke acknowledge he is brutally honest, even to his own detriment. “Mickey will call a spade a spade,” says a long time acquaintance. “Even if he makes you cringe sometimes with what he says, at least you’ll know he’s not bullshitting you.” Rourke’s bad mouthing of Penn would not be the first instance in Oscar history in which someone trashed the competition. Back in 2002, for instance, there was a nasty feud between Miramax and DreamWorks. Miramax flacks secretly released a steady stream of harsh criticisms of Universal's A Beautiful Mind in order to nab Oscar votes for Miramax's In the Bedroom. Miramax execs counter-charged that executives at the David Geffen-Jeffrey Katzenberg-Steven Spielberg-owned studio had started rumors that Miramax was using only dirty tricks to derail A Beautiful Mind. Animosity between the two studios dates back to 1998, when Harvey Weinstein lobbied so aggressively for Shakespeare in Love, which was up against Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture, that he was reported to have told numerous Oscar voters that Ryan was a mediocre film at best.
But Rourke’s bashing of Penn takes it beyond the studio level and makes it much more personal, especially since the two are friends. It is the first time anyone can recall an actor dissing another actor so openly for the performance.
Gerald Posner is the award-winning author of 10 best-selling books of investigative nonfiction ranging from political assassinations, to Nazi war criminals, to 9/11, to terrorism ( www.posner.com). He also has written dozens of articles for national magazines and newspapers. He is a regular contributor to NBC, CNN, CBS, and MSNBC. Posner lives in Miami Beach with his wife, the author Trisha Posner.