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Was Nicolas Cage Dropped from the Lead Role in “The Wrestler”?

Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, famously deemed as Mickey Rourke’s comeback movie, centers on the story of former star wrestler’s life, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Alongside Mickey Rourke’s award-winning performance, the film contains almost 40 real-life wrestlers.  

Before Mickey Rourke acquired the role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler, Nicolas Cage first had it. When Cage obtained the movie’s script, he doubtlessly called Rourke as he stated it was written for him. Mickey Rourke went on to win the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Actor and numerous award nominations. 

Mickey Rourke’s Esteemed “The Wrestler” Comeback

Recognized as Mickey Rourke’s comeback, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler follows the life of Rourke’s character, Randy “The Ram” Robinson. In The Wrestler, Randy Robinson is two decades past his prime, working match to match and having a sideline supermarket job to fend for himself.

The former star-wrestler had a heart attack after an intense match. Robinson’s poor health condition forced him to retire, and with that, he ventures to find a life purpose other than wrestling. He soon forms a friendship with Marisa Tomei’s character, Cassidy, a stripper, and even strives to reconcile with Evan Rachel Wood’s Stephanie, Robinson’s daughter.

Played by past-WCW wrestler Ernest “The Cat” Miller, Robinson’s former wrestling nemesis, The Ayatollah, asks for a rematch. With The Ayatollah‘s proposal, Robinson debates whether he would risk his life for his wrestling career. (Source: TV Tropes

In a 2008 MTV News article, Mickey Rourke explains the painful experience of filming for The Wrestler.

I didn’t have a wrestling background. People like to go “Oh, he was an ex-professional boxer – he can do the wrestling.” Wrestling and boxing is like ping-pong and rugby. There’s no connection. These guys really get hurt. You’ve got guys who are 265 pounds throwing you across the ring. They take several years to learn how to land. I landed like a lump of shit. Every bone in my body vibrated.

Mickey Rourke

(Source: MTV News)

The Wrestler features nearly 40 real-life wrestlers from Necro Butcher, Ron Killings, and Ring of Honor. In addition to that, Combat Zone Wrestling and Jersey All Pro Wrestling aided the movie producers in scouting grounds and venues to fully capture the authenticity of wrestling in the movie. (Source: Pro Wrestling Stories

If Not Mickey Rourke, Then Who?

Given Mickey Rourke’s award-winning performance, it’s difficult to imagine anybody else playing Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Before the role made its way to Mickey Rourke, it first landed on Nicolas Cage. Rumors eventually spread that The Wrestler producers dropped Cage from the lead role.

In a 2009 article written for Access Hollywood, the rumored actor addressed the rumors regarding Aronofsky’s hit movie.

I wasn’t quote ‘dropped’ from the movie. I resigned from the movie because I didn’t think I had enough time to achieve the look of the wrestler who was on steroids, which I would never do… The movie was written for Mickey. And, for whatever reason, they couldn’t get the financing for the movie back then.

Nicholas Cage

In the same article, Cage explained that he immediately called Mickey Rourke when he acquired The Wrestler‘s script, asking for his blessing. (Source: Hollywood Access)

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