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Mickey Rourke Once Challenged "Crybaby" Robert De Niro to a Fight Over Instagram

Their feud started on the set of Angel Heart and lasted over 30 years.

After breaking out in early roles in '80s films Rumble Fish, The Pope of Greenwich Village, and 9½ Weeks, Mickey Rourke impressed critics with his performances in Barfly, in which he played the writer Charles Bukowski, and Angel Heart, a supernatural thriller in which he worked with one of his acting idols, Robert De Niro.

De Niro had famously played boxer Jake LaMotta in 1980's Raging Bull, while Rourke had trained as a boxer before finding success as an actor. But while the two were working together on Angel Heart, they got into a sparring match of a different sort, sparking a feud that continued for decades—and most recently capped off with a threat delivered via social media. Read on to find out what happened between them and how De Niro responded to Rourke's challenge.

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Rourke lashed out at De Niro over an alleged role in The Irishman.

Al Pacino, Martin Scorses and Robert De Niro in 2019
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI

The most recent skirmish began when Rourke appeared on an Italian talk show in September 2019 to discuss his career. According to an account in IndieWire, the actor told his interviewer that director Martin Scorsese had been circling him for a role in his 2019 mob epic The Irishman but backed off after lead De Niro refused to work with him again.

"Marty Scorsese wanted to meet me for a movie with Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert De Niro," he said on the show. "The casting person told my manager that Robert De Niro said he refused to work with me in a movie."

De Niro took issue with this account, responding via a statement delivered through his representative Stan Rosenfield and quoted by the New York Post's gossip column Page Six in later that month. "According to The Irishman producers, Jane Rosenthal and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and casting director Ellen Lewis, Mickey Rourke was never asked to be in…nor was he ever even thought of, discussed or considered to be in the movie,'" Rosenfield said.

Nearly a year later, in July 2020, Rourke appeared to fire back, hitting back at De Niro via a threatening Instagram post.

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Rourke threatened to "embarrass" the Oscar-winning actor.

Mickey Rourke in 2017
BG020/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

According to IndieWire, Rourke's Instagram post, which he deleted soon after posting, blasted De Niro over the Irishman feud.

"Hey Robert De Niro, that's right i am talking to you, you big [expletive] crybaby," the now-71-year-old actor wrote. "A friend of mine just recently told me that a few months back you're quoted as saying to newspapers 'Mickey Rourke's a liar he talks all kind of [expletive].' Listen Mr.Tough Guy in the movies, you're the 1st person that ever called me a liar and it was in a newspaper."

Rourke went on to outright threaten his one-time co-star, writing, "Let me tell you something, you punk [expetive], when i see you i swear to God on my Grandmother, on my brother and all my dogs, i gonna embarrass you severally [sic] 100%. Mickey Rourke, as God is my witness."

Later, in the post's comments, Rourke added, "I'll b [sic] relocating moving back to NYC in nex [sic] few months this encounter will for sure hapoen [sic]."

Whether it ever did or not is unclear, but no account of such meeting appears in the public record, and neither De Niro nor his representatives have offered a rebuttal or addressed the matter any further.

Their feud had begun decades earlier on the set of another movie.

Robert De Niro in Angel Heart
Tri-Star Pictures

It seems Rourke and De Niro got off on the wrong foot with one another over 30 years before The Irishman came out. As the former explained during his Italian TV interview, while he had long admired De Niro, his opinion changed when they worked together on Angel Heart.

According to Rourke, shortly after he introduced himself to De Niro, a known Method actor, the actor approached him on set and said he didn't believe the two should interact except while on camera, to preserve the dynamic between their opposing characters.

"I think it's better if we don't talk because of our characters in the movie. It's better if we don't say hello, talk or anything," Rourke remembered De Niro saying. He went on to describe several incidents in which De Niro took issue with his acting choices, saying he didn't want Rourke to speak to him or touch him during key scenes in the film.

Rourke said he lost all respect for his one-time idol. "Now, I don't look up to him no more," he said on the show. "Now I look through him."

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Rourke has a reputation for being difficult to work with.

Mickey Rourke in 2016
Michael Bezjian/WireImage

As De Niro hasn't commented on their feud publicly, Rourke's is the only account of De Niro's behavior towards him on Angel Heart. And, throughout his career, Rourke earned a reputation for being difficult to work with. His 9½ Weeks co-star Kim Basinger accused the actor of manipulating her during filming, while Angel Heart director Alan Parker described working with Rourke as "a nightmare" when speaking to People. "He's very dangerous on set, because you never know what he's going to do next."

According to the outlet, Rourke even made threatening phone calls to screenwriter Mark Geldman after the two argued over a prospective project that was never made. "If I were you, I'd be looking over my shoulder," Geldman remembered Rourke telling him. "I just want to warn you: You're [expletive] around with the wrong people."

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Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller is a pop culture writer living in New York. Read more
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