The Wrestler (2008)

R | 105 or 109-110 mins | Drama | 17 November 2008

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
You may also like these titles from the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, the most authoritative documentation of the First 100 Years of American filmmaking.

Director:

Darren Aronofsky

Writer:

Robert Siegel

Cinematographer:

Maryse Alberti

Editor:

Andrew Weisblum

Production Designer:

Timothy Grimes

Production Company:

Protozoa Pictures
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HISTORY

During “Randy’s” final dive, the camera does not follow him to the mat, but remains focused on where he had been standing on the ropes. The crowd is heard cheering, then suddenly the screen goes black and silent. Several seconds later, the soundtrack music commences, followed by the end credits. The death of Randy is not explicitly shown, leaving the end of the film ambiguous and open to interpretation. Although many viewers felt the ending allowed for the possibility that Randy survived, producer-director Darren Aronofsky confirmed Randy’s death in an interview dated 9 Jan 2009 posted on Film.com.
       The opening credits are shown over a montage of 1980s-style wrestling posters, magazine covers and newspaper articles that depict the fictional Randy’s early career through its peak. The sound of a crowd is heard chanting in time to the soundtrack music, under announcements made by sportscasters. The sequence ends as an announcer calls the final “spots” in the 1989 Randy “The Ram” vs. The Ayatollah match held at Madison Square Garden that is later referenced in the story. According to a 25 Dec 2008 LAT article, the visual montage was designed by Kristyn Hume, who spent a year creating in Photoshop the fictional publicity material for the two-minute sequence, facetiously using the names of her friends and family to create fictitious opponents for Randy. After the montage sequence, the first scene begins with a written statement appearing over the action that reads, "Twenty years later." Later in the film, several highlights from the “Ram vs. Necro Butcher” match appear as brief flashbacks that are interspliced with events occurring fifteen minutes after the bout, as the crew cleans up and ... More Less

During “Randy’s” final dive, the camera does not follow him to the mat, but remains focused on where he had been standing on the ropes. The crowd is heard cheering, then suddenly the screen goes black and silent. Several seconds later, the soundtrack music commences, followed by the end credits. The death of Randy is not explicitly shown, leaving the end of the film ambiguous and open to interpretation. Although many viewers felt the ending allowed for the possibility that Randy survived, producer-director Darren Aronofsky confirmed Randy’s death in an interview dated 9 Jan 2009 posted on Film.com.
       The opening credits are shown over a montage of 1980s-style wrestling posters, magazine covers and newspaper articles that depict the fictional Randy’s early career through its peak. The sound of a crowd is heard chanting in time to the soundtrack music, under announcements made by sportscasters. The sequence ends as an announcer calls the final “spots” in the 1989 Randy “The Ram” vs. The Ayatollah match held at Madison Square Garden that is later referenced in the story. According to a 25 Dec 2008 LAT article, the visual montage was designed by Kristyn Hume, who spent a year creating in Photoshop the fictional publicity material for the two-minute sequence, facetiously using the names of her friends and family to create fictitious opponents for Randy. After the montage sequence, the first scene begins with a written statement appearing over the action that reads, "Twenty years later." Later in the film, several highlights from the “Ram vs. Necro Butcher” match appear as brief flashbacks that are interspliced with events occurring fifteen minutes after the bout, as the crew cleans up and the wrestlers receive medical attention. At one point in the film, the character “Cassidy” mentions the 2004 Icon production, The Passion of the Christ , directed by Mel Gibson. End credits include a list of individuals and companies the producers wished to thank; a list of individuals from the wrestling community “who helped along the way”; and “a very special thanks” to the musician Axl Rose, lead vocalist of the rock band, Guns N’ Roses, from the cast and crew.
       According to an 8 Dec 2008 HR article, in the 1990s, around the time Aronofsky graduated from film school, the idea occurred to him that many successful and significant movies had been made about boxing, but few on the subject of wrestling. In a 22 Dec 2008 Newsweek article, Aronofsky mentioned that he had a brief “romance” with the sport as a child and realized that many of the legendary wrestlers he had admired who had fought at Madison Square Garden were now working for $200-a-night in small venues. Aronofsky’s idea for a wrestling film lingered undeveloped on his computer until 2002, when he read a screenplay by Robert Siegel that convinced him that he had found the correct screenwriter for the project. In a 30 Nov 2008 NYT article, Aronofsky praised Siegel, who is a former editor of the satirical newspaper The Onion , for having the right “combination of humor and drama” and stated that The Onion presented a similar kind of writing that was needed for the The Wrestler , to depict “potentially ridiculous characters…with dignity.” Siegel agreed that, like The Onion , The Wrestler is “strange, it’s dark, it’s deadpan” but that the film is not a “mockery” of the wrestlers it portrays. According to added content material on the 2009 DVD release of the film, Aronofsky realized early in the project that the film could not be set in the mainstream wrestling world, because of costly licensing issues, so set the story in the world of the independent wrestling shows.
       A 24–30 Sep 2008 Village Voice article reported that Siegel developed the script having in mind the Actors’ Studio-trained Mickey Rourke. Like the character Randy, Rourke had a successful career that peaked in the late 1980s, after earning fame and acclaim for his performances in Diner (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984) and the film that drew Aronofsky’s admiration for his work, Angel Heart (1987). However, Rourke, who developed a reputation for being difficult, for walking off a set and for self-destructive behavior, was eventually shunned by producers. According to the Village Voice article, Rourke returned to his hometown of Miami in 1991 and for three years followed a childhood dream of becoming a professional boxer. Although several sources state that Rourke was away from Hollywood for fifteen years, he did make films during the 1990s, but many, as he admitted in the Village Voice article, were of poor quality and done only for much-needed money. The Village Voice article stated that, by the late 1990s, Rourke was living in a studio apartment on $500 a month.
       According to various Nov 2008 DV and Dec 2008 HR articles, Rourke was beginning to turn his career around and had spent several years in therapy when, in about 2005, Aronofsky approached him. The director stated that he realized that Rourke wanted a second chance. Although he had appeared in some significant roles in recent films, such as Buffalo ‘66 (1998), Man on Fire (2004) and Sin City (2005), The Wrestler required that Rourke appear in almost every scene. According to the 24–30 Sep 2008 Village Voice article, Rourke recalled that when he first met with Aronofsky, the director spent the first five minutes telling him how he had ruined fifteen years of his career by behaving badly, to which Rourke said he agreed. Aronofsky then laid out rules of behavior for Rourke, such as following his orders without showing disrespect and not attending clubs late at night during the shooting. According to Rourke, Aronofksy promised that if he followed his orders, he would get an Oscar nomination. In a 22 Dec 2008 Newsweek article, Aronofsky disavowed the statement as being more apocryphal, stating that what he actually said was that if Rourke would “do the work” he would be “recognized.”
       According to the Dec 2008 Newsweek article, Aronofsky spent approximately a year and a half trying to convince financiers to back the project with Rourke as lead, but was turned down because of Rourke’s reputation and the belief that he could not be “sympathetic.” A 16 Dec DV article reported that producer Scott Franklin pitched the movie to nearly every film company in the United States and found that the studio divisions did not feel comfortable with a movie about wrestling. When Aronofsky eventually felt compelled to replace Rourke with Nicolas Cage in order to make the movie, he was immediately given a $12-14 million budget, according to an 8 Dec 2008 HR article. A 22 Oct 2007 DV announced that the film starring Cage was being financed by Frenchman Jean-Luc De Fanti and Jeff Sagansky’s Winchester Capital Partners and that Summit International would handle international rights. In the 24–30 Sep 2008 Village Voice article, Rourke admitted that he was relieved, because the story paralleled his own life so closely that he was aware he could have to revisit difficult memories. However, in a 19 Nov 2008 DV interview, Rourke said that he also sensed that he would get the role back and spent a few months training, resulting in his acquiring the physique of a wrestler.
       Although Aronofsky now had significant funding and a star with box office appeal, according to the 8 Dec 2008 HR article, he still believed that Rourke was important to the film he wanted to make. In an 8 Dec 2008 HR article, Aronofsky stated that Cage, a friend of Rourke, understood Aronofsky’s feelings and bowed out of the role. According to Oct 2008 and Dec 2008 DV articles and an 8 Dec 2008 HR article, when the French sales company, Wild Bunch, was willing to front $6 million dollars to the film with Rourke in the lead, Aronofsky decided to scale down costly scenes, and Franklin slashed salaries, so that the film could be made independently on a $6 million dollar budget.
       Although an HR production chart lists the first day of production as 4 Feb 2008, the DVD added commentary reported that principal photography began near the end of Jan 2008 and ran for eighty-five days until 18 Mar 2008. One way the team found to cut costs was to shoot major scenes in front of real audiences of live wrestling matches, although that left the crew little time to block and light the sets, and forced them to work without a storyboard. The audience in the match scenes were mostly real wrestling fans attending the shows. Most of the wrestlers were playing versions of themselves, for instance, “Tommy Rotten” was portrayed by wrestler Tommy Farra, and wrestler Mike Miller portrayed “Lex Lethal.” Ernest Miller, who portrays “The Ayatollah,” is known in the ring as The Cat and has acted in other films.
       According to the DVD added content material, the troupe shot at matches on the weekends, and during the week shot other scenes. According to the Var and LAT reviews, portions of the film were filmed in New Jersey and Philadelphia, PA. Added content on the DVD release of the film named the following New Jersey locations: Hazlet, Bayonne, Elizabeth, Rahway, Asbury Park, Garfield, Hasbrouck Heights and, for the final match, Dover, NJ. The DVD material also reported that Jersey City, NJ was the site of the supermarket sequence. According to a 6 Jan 2009 Screen International article, Rourke, who had added thirty-five pounds of muscle during training, performed his own stunts. A 19 Nov 08 DV article reported that Aronofsky allowed Rourke to rewrite and improvise his own dialogue and have input into the wardrobe, makeup and tattoos used in creating his wrestling persona.
       The Chicago Sun-Times review, among others, praised the film for its depiction of the “backstage detail” about the wrestling world. Many wrestlers performing in independent shows have no health insurance, benefits or retirement plans and, as shown in the film, must play to survive but must supplement their meager pay with other work. According to the DVD added commentary, Aronofsky and Siegel discovered that few of the wresters they met had stable family lives and two significant themes in the film, the estranged daughter and the strip club being used as a substitute for family and social activity, are frequent circumstances in a wrestler’s life. The film authentically recreates wrestling procedures, such as the players’ pre-game strategizing of the “spots” or moves they will perform in a game. Like Randy’s “Ram Jam”, wrestlers develop a signature move that they use to signal victory and the end of a game. Wrestling terms, such as “heel” and “face” to indicate “villain” and “hero,” respectively, are authentic jargon. The abuse of steroids and pain medication is prevalent and, as reported by a 19 Feb 2009 Wall Street Journal blog news item, an ironic event reflecting the authenticity of the film’s story occurred when Scott Siegel, who appears in the film selling drugs to Randy, was arrested in real life for selling steroids. Another real life event mirroring the story of The Wrestler that occurred after the film was made, was reported in a 19 Jan 2009 Guardian (London) article. The article told about the unexpected death at age thirty-three, presumably from heart failure, of Paul “E. Normous” Fuchs, a 302-pound wrestler who appears in a small role in The Wrestler .
       A few points in the film were criticized as not being authentic. According to wrestler Mick Foley in an online article posted 18 Dec 2008 for www.slate.com, the sequence in which Randy slits his forehead to create blood would not occur in a small, sparsely attended crowd, and a wrestler of Randy’s magnitude, “no matter how faded,” would not go to the extreme of the staple gun sequence that was used to illustrate how far Randy had fallen.
       As noted in a 20 Dec 2008 LAT article, the score composed by Clint Mansell, who was the former lead of the industrial-influenced English rock band, Pop Will Eat Itself, was supplemented with vintage metal rock and an original Bruce Springsteen track. The guitar music in the score was played by Slash of the group, Guns N’ Roses. Springsteen composed the title song, “The Wrestler,” which was heard during the end credits. The 19 Feb 2009 Rolling Stone news item stated that there had been concern among Bruce Springsteen fans that the song, “The Wrestler,” did not receive an Oscar nomination. The article explained the rating system used by members of the Academy’s music branch and quoted Richard Kraft, a music agent, as saying that a song presented as part of end credits tended to have a harder time competing with one heard under a music video.
       The Wrestler had already won the Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival when it became the focus of an all-night bidding war after the screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award, according to a 9 Sep 2008 LAT article. Leading contenders for the U.S. rights of the film were Sony and Lions Gate, but Fox ultimately acquired the rights for $4 to$ 5 million. The North American box office gross for the film was $2,822,431. In addition to being named one of AFI’s Movies of the Year, The Wrestler was nominated for two Academy Awards, Rourke for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Tomei for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film won Golden Globes for Best Actor in Motion Picture-Drama (Rourke) and Best Original Song--Motion Picture (“The Wrestler”), and Tomei was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. The film won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Feature and Best Male Lead (Rourke).
       Among many other national and international critical nods, the film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay by the WGA, for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Leading Role (Rourke) by the SAG, for Excellence in Production Design by the Art Directors Guild, and for Excellence in Costume Design for Film–Contemporary by the Costume Designers Guild.
       Other films about professional wrestling include the 1931 Warner Bros. film, Sit Tight ; directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Joe E. Brown and Winnie Lightner; Swing Your Lady , the 1937 Warner Bros film directed by Ray Enright and starring Humphrey Bogart; and Mister Universe , the 1951 Eagle Lion Classics film starring Jack Carson, Vince Edwards and Burt Lahr and directed by Joseph Lerner. Two films made in the 1970s are the 1978 Paramount production, The One and Only , starring Henry Winkler and directed by Carl Reiner, which was set in the 1950s, and the independent 1975 film, The Wrestler , starring Ed Asner and directed by Jim Westman. A 1999 documentary, Beyond the Mat , explored the world of contemporary professional wrestling. That film was written and directed by Barry W. Blaustein and produced by Blaustein, Ron Howard, Barry Bloom, Brian Grazer and Rosenberg. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Oct 2007.
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Daily Variety
5 Sep 2008.
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Daily Variety
8 Sep 2008.
---
Daily Variety
3 Oct 2008.
---
Daily Variety
14 Oct 2008.
---
Daily Variety
19 Nov 2008.
---
Daily Variety
8 Dec 2008.
---
Daily Variety
10 Dec 2008.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 2008.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 2008
p. 4, 18.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 2008.
---
GQ
Jan 2009
pp. 47-49.
Guardian (London)
19 Jan 2009.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 2007
p. 1, 81.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 2008.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 2008.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 2008.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 2008
pp. 1-2.
Los Angeles Times
9 Sep 2008
Calendar, pp. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 2008
Calendar, p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 2008.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Dec 2008.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb 2009.
---
New York Times
30 Nov 2008
p. 17.
New York Times
17 Dec 2008.
---
New Yorker
15 Dec 2008
pp. 94-95.
Newsweek
22 Dec 2008.
---
Rolling Stone
11 Dec 2008.
---
Rolling Stone
19 Feb 2009
p. 16.
Screen International
12 Oct 2008.
---
Screen International
11 Dec 2008.
---
Screen International
6 Jan 2009.
---
Sun Times (Chicago)
23 Dec 2008.
---
Variety
4 Sep 2008.
---
Variety
8 Sep 2008.
---
Variety
17 Nov 2008.
---
Variety
12 Dec 2008
Section A, p. 3.
Village Voice
24-30 Sep 2008
p. 49, 52, 60.
Village Voice
17 Dec 2008.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Wrestlers:
Opening sequence announcers
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A film by Darre Aronofsky
A film by Darren Aronofsky
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d AD
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy
Best boy
Genny op
Genny op
Gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Rigging elec
Theatrical lighting tech
Key grip
Dolly grip
Key rigging grip
Best boy rigging grip
Stills photog
24 frame playback
Cam intern
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Art prod asst
Art dept intern
Art PAs
Art PAs
FILM EDITORS
Edited on
Conform ed
1st asst ed
Addl asst ed
Post prod PA
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Addl leadman
Set dresser
On-set dresser
Scenic
Prop master
Asst prop master
3rd prop asst
Set PA-background
Key set PA
First team PA
Paperwork PA
Set intern
Set intern
Set intern
Set intern
Set intern
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Set cost
Addl cost
Alterations
Cost intern
Ram belt buckle des
MUSIC
Mus supv
Orig score
Orig score featuring guitars by
Rec and mixed by
Asst to comp
Mix asst
Orch by
E-bow, addl guitar, bass, piano
Percussion
Addl instrumental tracks
Mus supv
SOUND
Sd supv and des
Sd supv and des
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Foley mixer
Boom op
Boom lift op
Addl sd B-unit/Sd utility
Post prod sd services
Dial/ADR supv
Dial ed
Foley ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Machine room op
Foley walker
Dolby sd consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Visual eff
Visual eff
Wrestle-Jam '88' des
Wrestle-Jam '88' des
Still photo compositor
Main and end title des
Imaging and rec
Imaging and rec
Imaging and rec
Restoration
Restoration
MAKEUP
Key makeup
Makeup artist
Asst makeup artist
Key hair stylist
Asst hair stylist
Asst hair stylist
Prosthetic makeup des
Lab supv
Prosthetic Renaissance crew
Prosthetic Renaissance crew
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Extras casting
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Post prod supv
Prod supv
Philadelphia prod supv
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Key loc asst
Loc scout
Unit PA
Loc intern
Loc intern
Asst prod coord
Prod secy
Office PA
Office PA
Office intern
Office intern
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Payroll services provided by
Personal trainer to Mr. Rourke
Wrestling trainer to Mr. Rourke
Asst wrestling trainer
Asst wrestling trainer
Dance consultant to Ms. Tomei
Dance consultant to Ms. Tomei
Asst to Mr. Aronofsky
Asst to Mr. Rourke
Protozoa exec
Transportation capt
Transportation Co-capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Chef
Philadelphia caterer
Philadelphia caterer
Craft services
Craft services
Philadelphia craft service
Philadelphia set medic
Philadelphia set medic
Legal services
Legal services
Insurance
Script clearances
International sales
Condors & lifts provided by
Boom lift provided by
Aerial equipment provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Fire artist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Dailies Telecine
Digital intermediate by
Technicolor adv
DI colorist
DI prod
DI exec prod
Lab adv
Lab timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“(Bang Your Head) Metal Health,” written by Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo, Tony Cavazo and Kevin Dubrow, performed by Quiet Riot, courtesy of Hands On Productions, LLC
“Don’t Know What You Got Till Its Gone,” written by Thomas Carl Keifer, performed by Cinderella, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group by arrangement with Universal Music Enterprises
“Stuntin’ Like My Daddy,” written by Dwayne Carter, Tristan Jones and Bryan Williams, performed by Birdman & Lil Wayne, courtesy of Cash Money Recordings/Universal Records by arrangement with Universal Music Enterprises
+
SONGS
“(Bang Your Head) Metal Health,” written by Frankie Banali, Carlos Cavazo, Tony Cavazo and Kevin Dubrow, performed by Quiet Riot, courtesy of Hands On Productions, LLC
“Don’t Know What You Got Till Its Gone,” written by Thomas Carl Keifer, performed by Cinderella, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group by arrangement with Universal Music Enterprises
“Stuntin’ Like My Daddy,” written by Dwayne Carter, Tristan Jones and Bryan Williams, performed by Birdman & Lil Wayne, courtesy of Cash Money Recordings/Universal Records by arrangement with Universal Music Enterprises
“Dodge It,” written by Samsaya and Eve Nelson, performed by Samsaya, courtesy of Rumblefish
“N2 Sumthin’,” written and performed by Takbir Bashir, courtesy of Bok Music and Beatz n Mash Productions
“Don’t Walk Away,” written by Carl Snare and Bill Leverty, performed by Firehouse, courtesy of Epic Records by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
“Soundtrack to a War,” written by Georg Dolivo, Robert Downes, Brian Forsythe, Stefan Sigerson and Jackie Enx, performed by Rhinobucket, courtesy of Acetate Records by arrangement with pigFACTORY USA LLC
“Nice Guys Finish First,” written by Joey Johnson, performed by Valerie Bisharat, courtesy of Master Source Music Catalog
“8-bit Wrestler,” written and performed by Joel Feinberg, courtesy of Iceberg Music
“Aloha Oe (Queen Liliuokalani),” written and performed by Robert Neary by arrangement with AudioSparx
“Just Let Your Freak Out,” written by Eben Jones and Deesha Saraj, performed by Deesha Saraj featuring Critical Child, courtesy of Critical Child Productions by arrangement with Fine Gold Music
“Hit Da Flo,” written by Joseph Aschalew and Bradley P. Brandon, performed by Trai’d, courtesy of HiTz Committee/Zomba by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
“Her Name Is Alice,” written by Michael Draper, James MacMillan and Nathan Abner, performed by the Days the Nights courtesy of Rumblefish
“Blowin’ Up,” written and performed by Solomon, courtesy of Cash Flo Records
“39 Stars,” written and performed by Peter Walker, courtesy of Dangerbird Records
“Mirror,” written by David Weise, Ari Zablozki, Chris Chin, Santo Liveo and Danny Lawrence, performed by Dead Family, courtesy of 1969 Records
“Black Light,” written by Kenneth Huffman, performed by Macon Greyson, courtesy of Thirty Tigers by arrangement with The Orchard
“Round and Round,” written by Robin Crosby, Warren DeMartin and Stephen Pearcy, performed by Rat Attack, courtesy of Cleopatra Records by arrangement with pigFACTORY USA LLC
“Dangerous,” written by Jeff Blando, Blas Elias, Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum, performed by Slaughter, courtesy of SBT, Inc. O/B/O Slaughter
“The Muscle,” written by W. Hardnett, J. Anderson and J. Lightfoot, performed by Bone Crusher by arrangement with Fine Gold Music
“I’m Insane,” written by Robin Crosby, performed by Rat Attack, courtesy of Cleopatra Records by arrangement with pigFACTORY USA LLCC
“Jump,” written by Madonna, Stuart Price and Joe Henry, performed by Madonna, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc. by arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing
“No Biterz,” written by Tannis Kristjanson and Ari Katz, performed by Miss TK and The Revenge by arrangement with Bank Robber Music
“Balls to the Walls,” written by Peter Baltes, Udo Dirkschneider, Gabriele Hauke, Wolf Hoffman and Stefan Kaufman, performed by Accept, courtesy of Epic Records by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
“Animal Magnetism,” written by Klaus Meine, Herman Rarebell and Rudolf Schenker, performed by Scorpions, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group by arrangement with Universal Music Enterprises
“Jerk It,” written by Omolola Isis Salami & Graham Bertie, performed by Thunderheist, courtesy of Thunderheist by arrangement with Third Side Music, Inc. “Ayatollah’s Theme,” written and performed by Raz Mesinai
“Sweet Child o’ Mine,” written by Steven Adler, Saul Hudson, Duff McKagan, Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, performed by Guns N’ Roses, courtesy of Geffen Records by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment
"The Wrestler," written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
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PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 November 2008
Premiere Information:
Venice Film Festival screening: 6 September 2008
AFI Fest screening: 6 November 2008
New York and Los Angeles openings: 17 December 2008
Production Date:
began 4 February 2008
Copyright Claimants:
Off the Top Rope, Inc. Wild Bunch
Copyright Dates:
19 December 2008 19 December 2008
Copyright Numbers:
PA1613604 PA1613604
Physical Properties:
Sound
dts; Dolby Digital; SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Technicolor by Thomson
Widescreen/ratio
Widescreen
Lenses/Prints
Kodak Motion Picture Film
Duration(in mins):
105 or 109-110
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
France, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
44697
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Twenty years ago, Randy “The Ram” Robinson had been a giant in the professional wrestling world, performing in the country’s top arenas, and inspiring action figures and video games. Now Randy has difficulty paying the rent on a New Jersey trailer home. Between weekend matches held in low rent halls, he works on a supermarket loading dock. Fit with a hearing aid and with a slight limp, Randy’s body is weakened from the use of steroids, physical abuse and aging, but he still has the loyalty of wrestling fans. He also has the camaraderie of other professional wrestlers, whom he calls “brother” off the mat but feigns animosity in choreographed matches. At work, Randy endures his store manager Wayne’s rude remarks and, when his landlord locks him out for nonpayment of rent, Randy sleeps in his Dodge Ram, where admiring, young neighborhood boys awaken him the next morning. At his next match, Randy is paired with Tommy Rotten, a younger wrestler who will portray the villain in the bout. Before the game, as they plan their moves, called “spots," Randy encourages Tommy, telling him that it is only wrestling politics that determines who gets to be the hero in the matches. During their performance, Tommy knocks Randy flat on the mat, allowing Randy the chance surreptitiously to cut his own forehead with a tiny piece of a concealed razor. With blood dripping down his face, Randy rises triumphantly, eventually climbs onto the ropes then dives into Tommy, in a signature, final move he calls the “Ram Jam.” Afterward, Randy agrees to schedule a twentieth anniversary rematch with Bob, a former wrestler who was known in the 1980s ... +


Twenty years ago, Randy “The Ram” Robinson had been a giant in the professional wrestling world, performing in the country’s top arenas, and inspiring action figures and video games. Now Randy has difficulty paying the rent on a New Jersey trailer home. Between weekend matches held in low rent halls, he works on a supermarket loading dock. Fit with a hearing aid and with a slight limp, Randy’s body is weakened from the use of steroids, physical abuse and aging, but he still has the loyalty of wrestling fans. He also has the camaraderie of other professional wrestlers, whom he calls “brother” off the mat but feigns animosity in choreographed matches. At work, Randy endures his store manager Wayne’s rude remarks and, when his landlord locks him out for nonpayment of rent, Randy sleeps in his Dodge Ram, where admiring, young neighborhood boys awaken him the next morning. At his next match, Randy is paired with Tommy Rotten, a younger wrestler who will portray the villain in the bout. Before the game, as they plan their moves, called “spots," Randy encourages Tommy, telling him that it is only wrestling politics that determines who gets to be the hero in the matches. During their performance, Tommy knocks Randy flat on the mat, allowing Randy the chance surreptitiously to cut his own forehead with a tiny piece of a concealed razor. With blood dripping down his face, Randy rises triumphantly, eventually climbs onto the ropes then dives into Tommy, in a signature, final move he calls the “Ram Jam.” Afterward, Randy agrees to schedule a twentieth anniversary rematch with Bob, a former wrestler who was known in the 1980s as The Ayatollah and who since has become a successful used car dealer in Arizona. Later, Randy relaxes at Cheeques, the strip club where his favorite dancer, Cassidy, is employed. Seeing a group of young men reject Cassidy, who is in her forties, for being too old, he comes to her defense, then berates them with vulgar language, causing a scene. Afterward, he pays Cassidy for a private dance and she notices the new cut on his forehead. When he shows her other wrestling scars, she recalls the film, The Passion of the Christ , in which “Jesus” is beaten and wounded, and jokes that Randy is a “sacrificial ram.” In preparation for the next match, Randy buys $995 worth of steroids and other drugs from a muscle-bound dealer. After giving himself a shot, Randy works out, visits a hairdresser and a tanning salon, and lastly a hardware store for props such as mouse traps and aluminum pans. His next wrestling adversary is Necro Butcher, who asks Randy before the game if he can attack him with a staple gun. In a barbed wire ring, Randy and his opponent use other items such as broken glass and a spray can of insecticide against each other. Backstage, they are treated by waiting medics, but in the locker room, Randy unexpectedly vomits and falls unconscious. At the hospital, he undergoes a life-saving heart bypass operation, but afterward his doctor warns him to give up wrestling. Randy cancels future wrestling dates, but then feels lonely. Even the young neighborhood boy who plays Randy’s old Nintendo game that was inspired by his 1989 Ram vs. Ayatollah match has lost interest and prefers a new game about soldiers in Iraq. To Cassidy, Randy confides that he does not want to be alone, but, ignoring his interest in her, she encourages him to seek out his long-estranged daughter, Stephanie, who is bitter over his years of neglecting her. Moved by his need to do something special for Stephanie, Cassidy, whose real name is Pam, helps Randy pick out a present for her. Cassidy also agrees to have a drink with Randy, then unintentionally admits she has a nine-year-old son and plans to move to an area with better schools. Although they playfully agree that 1980s music was the best, Cassidy leaves when Randy tries to get closer. Days pass, and Randy feels the loss of his ring persona, as he is increasingly identified by his real name, Robin Ranzinski. When he asks for more work at the store, he is satisfied to man the deli counter, but unhappy that his name tag identifies him as Robin. However, he keeps a good attitude and, declaring his retirement, cancels “The Ram vs. Ayatollah” rematch. Some time later, when Randy presents Stephanie with gifts and shows her an abandoned amusement park where he took her as a child, she agrees to go to dinner with him the following Saturday. Randy again tries to pursue Cassidy, but she tells him that the club and the real world do not mix, and when he persists, states that he is just another customer. Enraged, he throws money at her, demanding that she pretend to like him, prompting a quarrel. Randy attends his next match as an audience member. Afterward, at a bar, a young woman invites him to share drugs and have sex with her. This encounter causes Randy to sleep so late that the next day he misses his dinner date with Stephanie. When he tries to apologize, Stephanie by now has been hurt beyond caring and says she never wants to see him again. On an especially busy day at the deli counter, Randy is besieged by difficult customers, one of whom recognizes him. Frustrated, Randy intentionally bangs his hand on the meat cutter, spattering blood. A rude reprimand from Wayne prompts him to quit, and on the way out, he chants to himself that he is Randy, not Robin. With no encumbrances in his life, he reschedules and preps for The Ram vs. Ayatollah bout. Just as he is about to leave for the match, Cassidy arrives at his trailer. Even though she admits that he is more than a customer, he acts unconcerned and drives off. That evening, Cassidy leaves in the middle of her main stage performance to rush to the match, where, backstage, she asks Randy about his health. When he claims the only place he gets hurt is in the real world, she tearfully tells him she is “really here.” Just then, Randy’s name is announced and he enters the ring, as the crowd cheers. Taking the microphone, Randy tells the crowd that wrestling is all that he does and adds that, when you play hard, you burn the candle at both ends and pay the price by losing everything you love. He admits that he is not all he used to be, but he is still "The Ram" and tells the listeners that they are his family. Moved by the speech, Bob whispers a compliment to Randy then commences the fight. Although surprised by Randy’s urgency, Bob says that he forgot how much fun wrestling is. Soon, however, Bob realizes the strain on Randy’s heart and states that they have given the crowd what is expected. He suggests that Randy perform his final move, but Randy doggedly continues, prompting even the referee to express concern. Unable to watch, Cassidy leaves, and Randy takes one last look at where she had been. After climbing onto the ropes for the “Ram Jam,” Randy, breathing hard, takes a moment to bask in the crowd’s admiration, then dives for his ultimate triumph. +

Legend
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AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.