Recap Of "The Wrestler" Press Day In Los Angeles, California

Colin Vassallo@wrestlingonlineCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2008 was the only wrestling related website invited to 'The Wrestler' press day held in Los Angeles, CA., on December 10.

During the day, we were given access to round table interviews with director Darren Aronofsky, Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. A one-on-one interview with Aronofsky was also arranged with the interview set to air this Friday at 7PM EST on Ringside Live.

You can listen to the Darren Aronofsky and Mickey Rourke interviews by clicking on the names.

Below is the recap of the press day. Los Angeles correspondent Joseph Palreiro reporting:

As press junkets go, this one went off without a hitch. I've worked a few of these over the years, but I'm usually working the technical end of things, not conducting interviews so this was going to be nothing if not entertaining.

Six days after seeing the film on the lot at 20th Century Fox, we convened at the Four Seasons Hotel, in the heart of Beverly Hills, California. As fate would have it, I was quite ill with the flu, but no matter, there was work to be done!

After checking in and enjoying a quick lunch catered by "Gardens," the hotel restaurant (kudos for the best, and thus far only grilled ahi with caper remoulade sandwich I've ever had), I made my way to one of the four rooms holding the round table interviews.

I introduced myself to the gathered online and radio folk, and was informed that I was the 'wrestling guy'. In fact, was the only media outlet invited to the proceedings that had anything even remotely to do with wrestling. As my punishment, I was given the chair directly next to the talent.

Our series of 20 minute interviews was with the man in charge, director Darren Aronofsky. Darren (I called him Darren, we're tight like that) actually seemed quite pleased to have a "wrestling guy" there. It was a very nice 30 seconds of bonding that would serve me well later.

Darren was very pleasant and patiently answered every question as we made our way around the table. Unfortunately, that made me last in line, so I was relegated to asking about the parallels between the film and the documentary "Beyond The Mat".

I was surprised to learn that the screenplay for "The Wrestler" was actually being written before "Beyond The Mat" was released, and it was only later that there was some concern about the similarities. As it turns out, he was pleased because he thought that would breed some familiarity with the public, making a "wrestling" movie a little "less alien" to them.

(If you listen to the round table interview on the website, you'll notice I sound very drunk, but was, and am currently, just very ill and medicated.)

Next up was Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei, who plays Pam, the single mom by day and Cassidy, the aging stripper by night. She was pleasant enough, but because quite bored after the film questions ended. This is not a giant role, so it didn't take long. Soon the topic switched to Broadway mercifully, she was whisked away.

Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Randy's estranged daughter, made her way to us, and may be the sweetest person I have ever encountered. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to sit next to her for 20 minutes to do without hesitation. We learned of the emotionally draining scenes she had with Mickey, and that the two of them did not meet, at Mickey's insistence, until they shot their first scene.

Again, this is not a giant role, so the topic in this case switched to the Woody Allen movie she had just shot, and Spider-Man The Musical, in which she will be starring next fall on Broadway. This was actually interesting, so it was with great regret that we let her as she was pulled away.

Finally, the star of the show, Mickey Rourke, still carrying around most of the 40 pounds of muscle he put on for the role of Randy "The Ram" Robinson. The menacing demeanor was broken though as he told us about his dog, who had recently suffered a stroke and was resting in his room upstairs.

Mickey Rourke is nothing if not passionate about acting, and especially this role. While he sometimes would wander a bit in mid-thought, it was apparently how important this film, and working with Darren Aronofsky is to him. He was so enrapturing that I hesitated interrupting to ask any actual wrestling questions. I strongly encourage you to either read or listen to his interview.

Hearing of his respect for Darren Aronofsky, his personal tragedies and his letter to Bruce Springsteen that ultimately resulted in the title track to the film produced misty eyes, both from himself and us more than once.

After a quick break, I met once again with Darren Aronofsky for a one on one interview. The first thing I learned? He edited "The Wrestler" in...Malta! (How about that, Colin!) Darren could not have been more accommodating after a very long day, even longer for him than for me.

I had to scramble, as my 15 minutes had been cut to 10, and he stuck with me, even through my sniffling and wheezing. After finding out, surprisingly, that he had actually gone into the ring during filming and worked a match from bump to bodyslam, he encouraged me to 'work the line' at the film's premiere. I haven't heard back about that yet, but I'm hopeful.

Countless thanks to Jeff and the Fox Searchlight publicity team. This could not have been a smoother event. And thanks to Colin for the opportunity. Maybe I'll become the "L.A Guy"!