Over the weekend, in splashy magazine profiles, two surefire contenders for this year’s lead acting Oscars subtly made their cases for why it makes sense to give them statues next February: Doubt’s Meryl Streep, in the pages of EW, because, thanks to the worldwide success of Mamma Mia!, she’s suddenly a bankable movie star (instead of just a terminal Academy baiter); and The Wrestler’s Mickey Rourke, in Sunday’s Times Magazine, because he’s overcome decades of bad decision-making (plus whatever awful thing happened to his face) to fight his way back into critics’ good graces. In constructing their awards-friendly narratives, though, both actors make unsubstantiated claims that didn’t totally satisfy magazine fact-checkers.
In her heartfelt Oscar pitch, Streep fights through a case of salmon-inflicted food poisoning (“It’s been a rough morning,” she tells EW’s Christine Spines) to remind us that her vaguely unconventional good looks weren’t always an easy fit in Hollywood. She says she tried out for Jessica Lange’s part in the 1976 remake of King Kong, but when she arrived at her audition, producer Dino De Laurentiis, speaking in Italian, said, “Why did you send me this pig? This woman is so ugly! Blech!” Streep, being fluent in the language, purportedly fired back (in Italian): “I’m very sorry to disappoint you.” When asked about it, though, De Laurentiis “flatly denies this exchange, or that the meeting even occurred. He says he did meet Streep, but for a different film.” (For the record, we sort of believe Streep on this one.)
Rourke’s purported lies are slightly more egregious (and way funnier). He tells the Times Magazine’s Pat Jordan the following:
• He grew up in Liberty City, an all-black part of Miami (“We never lived in Liberty City,” says his stepfather, Eugene Addis, when reached for comment. “We lived in a white section near Miami Shores in a brand-new home I got for being a Navy vet in World War II”).
• As a teenager, he protected his younger brother Joey from neighborhood bullies (“Joey was a real horse. If anyone needed protecting it was Mickey,” clarifies Addis). Additionally, he claims he was a Golden Gloves boxer in his teens and won 20 of his 26 fights, 17 of them by knockouts (Addis and the director of Golden Gloves both dispute this. “I don’t think Mickey ever had an amateur fight,” says his former boxing instructor).
• He and his brother were physically abused by his stepfather, a charge which Addis denies (“When I asked him once why he said all those things about me in the press, he said, ‘Aw, Dad, I gotta tell the press something’”).
So will doubts over the veracity of their shilling hurt them at Oscar time? Or will their competitors render these charges moot by telling reporters even crazier, less-true things? Surely Sean Penn will, right?