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Should Oscar voters forgive Mickey Rourke's gay slur?

November 13, 2008 |  4:25 pm

"The Wrestler" star Mickey Rourke sure picked a lousy time to rough up gay people. Just days after California voters shot down gay marriage, he piled on top with an insensitive slam that could have serious impact on his bout for the best-actor Oscar.

Earlier this week, as he squired a leggy blond around town, Mickey Rourke was asked by reporters if he's romantically involved with Evan Rachel Wood, who portrays his daughter in "The Wrestler."


As Elizabeth Snead reports at The Dish Rag, Rourke roared in response: "Do I look like I'm dating Evan Rachel Wood this evening, guys? C'mon, get a grip. She's a good friend, that's about it." Then he shouted a gay slur and a curse word: "Tell that . . . who said all that . . . in the paper, I'd like to break his . . . legs."

Immediately after the outburst, Rourke got slammed right back by rights activists demanding an apology. Rourke issued this statement: "I want to sincerely apologize for the derogatory word I used. It was insensitive and inappropriate of me and I am deeply sorry that I may have offended anyone."

This Oscar year was supposed to be especially gay-friendly, considering "Milk" is in the mix. The biopic starring Sean Penn as gay political martyr Harvey Milk gives academy voters a chance to disprove suspicions that they may be secret homophobes, as many Oscarwatchers claimed after front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" lost best picture to "Crash" three years ago. Instead, Rourke — a longtime Hollywood fixture — may have accidentally expressed the town's secret, if it really exists.

There may be an interesting Emmy parallel to this current Oscar situation. Last year Isaiah Washington lost his job on TV's "Grey's Anatomy" for using this same gay slur to characterize one of his co-stars. He apologized afterward, but many observers didn't believe he was sincere. Washington realized he had little hope of winning an Emmy so he took his name out of the running.

Should Rourke do the same in this Oscar race? Or will voters throw this wrestler out of the ring? Even if he wants to stay in, Oscar voters may choose not to buy his apology. Academy members, remember, are notoriously intolerant of bad boys. Russell Crowe — once an academy darling (best actor winner, "Gladiator," 2000) — hasn't been nominated since his dark side came to light. Crowe was snubbed for "Cinderella Man" and "Master and Commander." The latter oversight was particularly odd, since everybody associated with the film, it seemed, reaped bids except its own master and commander. In 2003, it was nominated for 10 Oscars, including best picture, but not best actor.

Photo: WireImage