13 Things You Didn’t Know About “The Wrestler” January 29, 2009Posted by skribbel24 in WWE.
Here are ten interesting facts about Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” that you probably didn’t know to give you something to think about when you see the film, or see it again:
THESE FACTS WILL GIVE AWAY PLOT POINTS FROM THE FILM
Lex Luger IS Randy the Ram.
The film opens with a montage of clippings and photos from the heyday of Randy The Ram’s sparkling pro wrestling career before jumping ahead 20 years later to find him the beaten, weathered performer he is today. All of the photos in the montage and other scenes in the film are actually doctored photos of former WCW World champion Lex Luger, acquired by the film from photographer George Napolitano, who has been shooting ringside for decades at major events. When Producers learned of the path Luger’s life took in the years after WCW shut down, the decision to use him as a body model for the Ram made even more sense. Luger was later brought out to the film’s Hollywood premiere.
How Would Those Hair Extensions Have Worked?
Although the story that seems to get told is that director Darren Aronofsky listened to his heart and replaced Nicolas Cage with Mickey Rourke, the reality appears to be something different. Cage actually trained for several days under Afa the Wild Samoan in Allentown, PA. Afa later got word that Cage had departed the project and had to wait for Rourke to come on board, leaving Rourke a scant three months to pick up the physicality of the business. Watching Rourke in the film, one can’t help but wonder how it would have worked with Cage in the role…and whether he would have been anywhere near the Oscars race. Afa was actually suggested by Georgianne Makropoulos of The Wrestling Chatterbox. Rourke still texts Afa daily. Cage, who likely left the project due to the physicality needed, probably doesn’t stay in touch.
Originally, She Came To Him.
In a scene that was later cut from the film (and probably never filmed), Randy the Ram’s daughter Stephanie comes to see him backstage at a show he is wrestling on. In the scene, she is the one who has come to “make amends” as part of her AA program. Ram is half-interested and when fans interrupt their discussion, she comments, “I’m in the middle of something important and you drop it for f***ing wrestling.” Randy then accuses her of showing up to attack him, ending the would-be reunion. Given the level of work from Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood in the film, it would have been interesting to see how the scene may have played out on screen – it also would have shown the effect of Ram’s career on his daughter’s emotional health beyond her anger over his decision to make his career the most important thing in his life.
As Jon Lovitz once said, “ACTING!”
While the story of the film does not stray from Robert Siegel’s script, all of the backstage locker room scenes and the first scene where Randy the Ram works a deli counter were all improvised. In fact, Rourke was serving legitimate customers in that first scene, making his quips to those getting food that much funnier.
Yes, That is the ECW Arena.
Although most fans wouldn’t realize it watching the film, the Combat Zone Wrestling sequence where Randy wrestles Necro Butcher and later suffers his health scare is the former ECW Arena in Philadelphia. The locker room scene where Ram passes out backstage in the venue is actually backstage at the Arena as well, one of the upgrades that have been done on the building since the original ECW collapsed. It was perhaps five feet from where Paul Heyman gave the famous speech in the “Beyond the Mat” documentary. Of the other independent venues shown in the film, only the ROH show in Dover was a venue that was used specifically by the production with ROH working with the producers to fill the theater booked. The WXW and JAPW sequences were filmed at actual events promoted in venues regularly used by those companies.
Who You Should Thank.
In the convention scene, where Randy the Ram is among the stars of yesteryear who sit around waiting to meet a small public, he meets a fan named Evan. In actuality, that fan is longtime Wrestling Then & Now newsletter editor Evan Ginzberg, listed as Associate Producer of the film. Ginzberg handled a lot of the groundwork for Ring of Honor, Jersey All Pro Wrestling and other independent companies to get involved. If you were happy to see this aspect of the business recognized and even happier to see some local talents get a payday, Evan was the person responsible. He also pops up in the crowd of the first wrestling scene. Ginzberg is now working a documentary about his friend Tiger Khan an independent wrestler who is among those that passed away far too young. The themes of that film will have similar ones to “The Wrestler”, except none of it will have been fantasy.
Perhaps it was Russo’s Booking?
In the same scene, while most fans may not recognize him, the veteran that hugs Randy the Ram and is later seen dead asleep waiting for fans that will never come is none other than WWE Hall of Famer and former Tag Team champion Johnny Valiant. Yes, really.
The Ram’s Other Trainers.
While Afa the Wild Samoan oversaw Rourke’s training, it was WXW wrestlers Supreme Lee Great and Tommy Suede who worked inside the ring with Rourke to prepare him for the film. Great appears in the film as a referee while Suede wrestles Rourke in the first match as Tommy Noxious.
Mom, Dad, For The Last Time, Just Do What I Tell You.
In the second deli scene, in which Randy the Ram’s worked and real worlds come colliding together, Darren Aronofsky’s own parents make cameos as the annoying customers that set the stage for Randy’s rage and retreat from the supermarket.
Rourke Really Did Wrestle…Sort Of.
While the mainstream media has been fascinated by the fact that Mickey Rourke performed all his own stunts for the film, that is and isn’t true. Kid USA, a New York area based independent wrestler from the early 1990s, worked as Rourke’s stand-in, as they had a similar build and hairstyle. In many cases, when the matches were filmed, they were shot twice. Once with USA, once with Rourke. The final product in the film is likely the edited sum of those bouts. Rourke really did pull out the flying head scissors and dive over the ropes that you see in the climactic match of the film against The Ayatollah, however.
Hey Ram, You Suck!
When Randy the Ram gives his speech prior to the match that closes the film, the audience is in love with their hero and gives him a huge standing ovation. The reality was that when they first attempted to film the scene, the ROH audience began catcalling the monolouge. It wasn’t until Darren Aronofsky addressed the audience and explained how important the scene was that they got on board, giving themselves a “We f***ed up” chant before setting into the rabid Ram-Lovefest you see in the final film.
If You Are A Hardcore Fan, Sit Through The Credits.
A number of people who worked in and around the wrestling industry were thanked by the production, but you have to wait to the end to see their acknowledgments, including Brutus Beefcake, Greg Valentine, Sabu and Gabe Sapolsky.
The Ending You Didn’t See.
The Wrestler ends with Randy coming off the top rope with the Ram Jam before going to black and playing Bruce Springsteen’s haunting song for the credits. When the match was filmed at a March 2008 ROH event, Ram nailed the move and scored the pin….not that the pinfall truly mattered, as the character had sacrificed everything he tried to regain by returning to the wrestling world.
The Wrestler is an extremely fascinating character study of a performer who is also a walking time capsule, lost mentally and emotionally in what he used to be, with no idea how to grow and accept who he is today. It’s a film well worth seeing.