Miami's Mickey Rourke an Oscar favorite

MIAMI -- Somewhere behind Mickey Rourke's mangled mug, there's the fresh-faced kid who ran around Miami Beach filled with crazy dreams of stardom and a bravado everybody saw through even then.

Sunday night, the local bad boy who became a movie star against the odds, squandered fame and fortune, tried to recoup some self-respect as a boxer, and hit sad-sack bottom before making the kind of comeback that even he would have bet against, is favored to go home with an Oscar.

Rourke, 56, has already snatched a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award (the British Oscars) for his quiet, nuanced portrayal of Randy ''The Ram'' Robinson, a broken heap of a wrestler clinging to past glories.

If he wins the best-actor Oscar for the The Wrestler, his late-life miracle, the movie that revived those early comparisons to De Niro and Brando and landed him in all the glossies after he had been all but forgotten, nobody will cheer louder than his homies from Miami Beach.

''Mickey grew up in my garage. He would stay there whenever his stepfather would beat him,'' A-list Hollywood director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) says from Berlin, where he is scouting locations for his next project.

``I'm so proud of him. His story is so inspirational. You can be on top of the world, lose all your relationships and all your clout and, in one pivotal moment, get it all back. Because at the end of the day, talent lasts.''

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