From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
A QUICK KNOCKOUT WOULD HAVE been, at the very least, easier to watch. But the count has been painfully long for actor-boxer, bon vivant Mickey Rourke. His screen career is on the ropes, his forays into the ring as a professional light heavyweight have been booed by fight fans and derided by the press, a bank foreclosed on his Hollywood Hills home, and in July he was admitted for suicidal thoughts to L.A.'s Cedars Sinai hospital and held for observation for 29 hours.

But with all that behind him, the worst may be yet to come: This week, Rourke, 42, known for his sensitive tough-guy roles in 1982's Diner and 1986's 9½ Weeks, is due to stand trial in Hollywood's municipal court on charges that in July he assaulted his estranged wife, model-actress Carre Otis, 25, at the L.A. office of his publicist, Richard Pollmann. "The allegations are that he slapped his wife, pushed her down and kicked her," says city attorney spokesman Mike Quails. "There were bruises."

Otis, who split with her husband of two years and lives in L.A., is not commenting on the case. Her older sister Chrisse, 27, says only that Carre is doing "much better." Rourke, who pleaded not guilty to charges of misdemeanor battery, has also declined to comment publicly. But those close to him say he's not guilty. "Like with any couple, it wasn't peaches-and-cream every day," says Rourke's friend Giuseppe Franco, a Beverly Hills hairstylist. "There were ups and downs"—but not, he and others insist, fistfights. "I can't see him hitting her—or anybody," says Rourke's buddy Richie Palmer, who co-owns the Mulberry Street Cafe in L.A. with his wife, actress Cathy Moriarty. "He's not the type."

Locals on Rourke's home turf in Miami Beach might disagree. In January he stood outside Mickey's, the nightclub to which he lent his name, status and regular presence, and helped bouncers expel a group of unruly patrons. The actor, who often hangs out with a group of Hell's Angels bikers, ended up in a shouting match not just with unwanted customers but with police, who arrested him for resisting an officer. Charges were ultimately dropped (in exchange for community service)—and later so was his name from the nightclub., now called XTC. "His name doesn't draw people anymore," says a local club promoter.

Increasingly his name doesn't count for much in Hollywood either. Alan Parker, who directed Rourke in 1987's Angel Heart, has said, "Working with Mickey is a nightmare. He is very dangerous on the set because you never know what he is going to do." Rourke is on record calling producer Samuel Goldwyn Jr. a scumbag and a liar, and screenwriter Mark Geldman says he received a threatening phone call from Rourke after a falling-out with the actor over a treatment for a road-trip film, The Ride, which was never made. "If I were you, I'd be looking over my shoulder," Geldman says Rourke told him in his trademark menacing whisper. "I just want to warn you: You're f—king around with the wrong people."

Rourke denies he threatened Geldman but has admitted to having a certain street-thug mentality. "I don't talk, I'm action," he said when asked about some of his bad-boy antics, especially displays of jealousy over Otis. "If you're talking about stuff that's sacred to me...I'm not going to talk about doing something, I'm going to do it."

The actor attributes some of his tough-guy tendencies to his stepfather, Gene Addis, a retired cop who married Rourke's mother, Ann, when he was about 10. (They are now divorced.) Along with his younger brother Joey and older sister Patty, and his six stepbrothers and sisters, Rourke was raised in an atmosphere both strict and tense. At dinner children did not speak until spoken to. Rooms were inspected for cleanliness, report cards for respectable grades. "You came home with a D or F you were in trouble," says Rourke's stepbrother Gene Addis, 37, who is in the pool-maintenance business in Miami. Though Addis says his father was not abusive, he says that punishments did sometimes include slaps. "If my hand came on the table and I'd been told to keep it off, I'd get backhanded right off the table," says Addis, who still has a tenuous relationship with his father. "I was scared to death, and Mickey, it wasn't his real father. That made it more terrifying." Rourke adds to the observation: "There's something inside of me I'm still hitting back at," he has said. "Even though it's a ghost."

According to Otis, of course, he sometimes hits more than a ghost. From the moment they met on the Rio set of Wild Orchid in 1990, her friends say, Rourke held a strange sway over the model. The year after they married, Rourke pressed Otis to give up her career—even though she was about to sign a million-dollar-a-year deal with Helena Rubinstein cosmetics. "It was very disappointing at the time," says Marie-Christine Kollock, owner of the Look Model Agency in San Francisco, which represented Otis. "She was doing fantastically well. But you can't tell someone how to run her life." No one could get through to Otis. Says a fellow model: "She used to sit there like a mouse. I think she was scared of Mickey." With Rourke out of her life, at least for now, Otis seems to be getting back on track. A week after filing charges, she called Look and hooked up with them again.

The breakup may prove positive for Rourke as well. He recently accepted the title role in an upcoming film, Bullet, the story of an ex-con's return to the drug world, and is scheduled to star in a western directed by Dennis Hopper. As Rourke's 9½ Weeks director Adrian Lyne sees it, he still has a chance for a future. "He was hugely talented, but he was surrounded by so many creeps," says Lyne. "I often think if he had died after Tasking Angel Heart, he would have been a legend on the scale of James Dean. Maybe he still will be."

CINDY DAMPIER and GREG AUNAPU in Miami and JOHN HANNAH and KURT PITZER in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • John Hannah,
  • Kurt Pitzer.