IT was the most talked about tale in rugby league – and beyond.
The unlikely friendship between Hollywood film star Mickey Rourke and Huddersfield Giants Super League players Keith Mason and Scott Moore hit the headlines when the pair were disciplined for missing training sessions.
But now the real story is out and it seems Hollywood will hit Huddersfield in March next year!
Legendary film star Rourke is planning to watch the Giants in action at the Galpharm Stadium in a 2010 Super League XV fixture.
The 57-year-old star of over 50 Hollywood movies has accepted an invitation to watch the Giants take on Super League champions Leeds Rhinos on March 14 from prop forward Mason.
Unlike many of Rourke’s blockbuster movies, fact can sometimes appear stranger than fiction.
That’s the case when it comes to the bond that has developed between the American superstar actor and the two young rugby league players from the north of England.
It’s been widely reported how Mason and Moore were introduced to Rourke at Stringfellow’s in London on the night of the Giants’ Challenge Cup final defeat to Warrington Wolves on Saturday August 29.
It was then revealed how a second meeting with Rourke a few days later meant the star-struck duo missed a training session and picked up two-match bans as a result.
The players have deeply regretted this ever since and the duo issued a public apology.
But even though the circumstances surrounding the suspensions are something the players are keen to forget, the unlikely friendship has continued, particularly between Rourke and prop forward Mason.
While the 21-year-old Moore has since left Huddersfield to resume a career with St Helens and was part of this Autumn’s Gillette Four Nations campaign, 27-year-old Mason has become even closer to the movie star and even paid a short visit to Rourke’s New York apartment.
And for the first time the Dewsbury-born forward has spoken publicly about their relationship and Rourke’s growing interest in rugby league, with the hope it will help spark even more interest in the game, as well as raise the profile of the Giants.
“What’s happened over the past three months has been nothing short of unbelievable,” revealed Mason.
“On the back of playing for the Giants in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, I’ve now become friends with a famous Hollywood actor and not a lot of Super League players can say that!
“Since those meetings in London, I’ve accepted an invitation off him and visited him in his apartment in New York, which was an incredible experience, and we exchange text messages on a regular basis.
“It’s obviously been fantastic for me, and I’d like to think that, in some small way, it can prove good for rugby league.
“We’ve seen how much extra exposure rugby league has received on the back of Russell Crowe’s involvement with Sydney Roosters in Australia, so why shouldn’t Mickey do the same, particularly now I know how interested he is in our game?
“It was amazing when we were first introduced to him on the Saturday night of the Cup final and he said he recognised us from watching the match that afternoon.
“To be honest, we couldn’t really believe it. It’s hard to imagine a Hollywood actor sitting down in front of the television and watching us playing rugby league, but that’s exactly what he was doing!
“He told us he’d followed the game for decades, ever since he’d seen his close friend Richard Harris star in the rugby league film This Sporting Life in the ’60s.”
Mickey is said to be keen to do a re-make of This Sporting Life if he can get hold of the rights to it.
Mason added: “Mickey told us how he had been impressed by the physical nature of the game. In his younger days he was a decent professional boxer (in his eight fights, he’d won six and drawn two) and saw a lot of similarities in the two sports.
“As a result, he said he was always keen to catch a game when he could, and he watches rugby league clips in his apartment on You Tube.
“In fact, because of our friendship, he’s really keen to come and watch one of our games when he’s next in England in March. Fortunately, we’ve got Leeds Rhinos at the Galpharm on the 14th, and the plan is for him to catch that one if at all possible.
“Obviously, he’s a very busy man and he’s got a lot of projects on the go, so that probably can’t be firmed up until the last minute.
“But I’ll definitely see about getting a box for him, or for the game against St Helens on March 28 if the Leeds game is a non-starter.”
Mickey Rourke began his career in the film 1941, directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1979.
He has since appeared in more than 50 films and in TV roles.
Recent films include Killshot and The Informers and he is due to appear in several films to be released next year, including 13, Iron Man 2, Passion Play and The Expendables.