Thursday, March 1, 2007

Cinema And The Great What If (Part 1) Mickey Rourke in The Godfather Part Three.

Shortly after completing the underrated Homeboy, which he had also scripted, Mickey Rourke received word that his old friend and mentor Francis Ford Coppola was casting roles for his finale to The Godfather series. The two hadn't worked together since the incredible Rumble Fish which had given Rourke one of his greatest roles in the doomed character of Motorcycle Boy.
Rourke flew out to the Coppola estate to read for the part of gangster Joey Zasa and was expected by nearly everyone to get the role. Something odd happened and when shooting began Rourke was left out in the cold and Joe Mantegna had the role of the flashy villain.
Godfather Part Three would open in 1990 to mostly positive reviews, solid box-office and received 7 Academy Award nominations including best picture. Rourke would appear lost for almost the next decade appearing in some of his worst films and subjecting his once beautiful face to his renewed stab at a boxing career.
Mantegna is certainly a talented actor and he is fine as Zasa but Rourke would have brought something to the role that no one else could have. I feel that the fine, if undervalued, Godfather Three would have felt a little more balanced with Rourke's presence and perhaps the role would have given Mickey back some of the confidence that he had obviously lost.
Coppola would be rumored to regret the decision in not casting Rourke and would gallantly give him a role in 1997's The Rainmaker when no other major studio filmmaker would touch him. Rourke would later be visibly moved, during an interview on the Angel Heart dvd, when re-counting Coppola's casting of him in The Rainmaker. That film and part marked Rourke's slow but substantial return to the great acting he has always been capable of.
Fans often point to Sofia Coppola as the casting mistake in the final Godfather film but to me her presence, despite her inexperience, gave the film an even more substantial claim as the greatest 'family' saga ever. Spiritually Rourke was a part of that family and his absence from Coppola's bravest film has always struck me as a notable omission.

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