From the NRL to silver screen: Keith Mason's brush with stardom

“I was told I should make a movie about my life”.

The incredible story of Keith Mason’s journey from the NRL to the big screen and how a chance meeting with Mickey Rourke changed his destiny.

By Keith Mason

I was told I should make a movie about my life. A wild child from a council estate shocked straight by the courts, I turned my life around, proving several coaches wrong by making it big in Super League and in the NRL for the Melbourne Storm.

A chance meeting, and lasting friendship, with Hollywood star Mickey Rourke led to a new career as an actor and into my latest adventure, as the creator of rugby league graphic novels that turn real-life rugby league stars like Josh Addo-Carr, Tyson Frizell, Kalyn Ponga, DCE and Andrew Fifita into superheroes.

The movie is coming. Until then, my origin story is there in David King, the main character of Rugby Blood, the first-ever rugby league comic book, and the follow-up Shot Clock.

Meeting Mickey Rourke

In 2009 I was at Huddersfield Giants, playing under Nathan Brown. He was a great coach for me and shook us up, making us a top two team.

We got to the Challenge Cup final against Warrington, had a try wrongly disallowed and they got the win.

Afterwards we scored an invite to a famous bar in Covent Garden, and I was stood at the bar with some teammates when Mickey Rourke walked in, wearing a waistcoat and in good shape.

I’d just seen him in The Wrestler, which was a big hit for him. The guys with me were a bit younger and didn’t recognise him but I was a fan from movies like 9-1/2 Weeks and a few others. He was a massive star in the 1980s and 1990s before he fell off the perch, and The Wrestler was a big return to form.

I introduced myself to Mickey and he looked me up and down. ‘What are you man, a gangster? An athlete?’

We were in our grey Challenge Cup suits with black ties so we may have looked like gangsters. I told him I was a league player and we’d played in the final. He told me he watched the game on TV, and said, ‘wow, I love rugby.’

Former NRL star Keith Mason walked a wild path that ultimately landed him on the silver screen. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

We stayed together most of the night. We went to another bar and The Wrestler started arm-wrestling some of the players.

He whooped one of them and then arm-wrestled a big guy called Darrell Griffin – he’s 19-stone, six-five. Darrell basically tore Mickey’s bicep off his bone.

Because he was so out of his mind on tequila and whatever else, the pain wasn’t as bad right then as it might have been. But you could see it starting to swell straightaway.

If you look at it now, he wears a band around his arm. He went to see Wladimir Klitschko’s doctor to try and fix it but it didn’t work.

During that night I was speaking to Mickey and he was looking at me. Then, no word of a lie, he started crying.

I didn’t know if I’d done something wrong. Mickey just whispered to his bodyguard Derek, who told me, ‘it’s okay Keith, you look like his brother’.

Mickey looked at me and then pointed at the skies. His brother, god bless him, had passed away.

He gave me his phone number and two weeks later he invited me to the GQ Awards. This was mid-week so I had to bunk off a training session. But who wouldn’t bunk off to get looked after by a movie star? He put me up in a 400-pound-a-night hotel for a couple of nights. The guy looked after me.

Star-struck on the way to the top

I rocked up to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and Mickey was awarded the International Man of the Year, presented by Jason Statham.

I was standing at the top of the steps when the awards finished and all these famous people were coming up this escalator – Guy Ritchie, David Haye the boxer, Eva Mendes, one of the Jackson brothers. I’m thinking ‘what the hell?’.

Mickey comes up and I gave him a Huddersfield Giants shirt I’d signed for him. He gave me a big cuddle, put the shirt around his shoulders.

Then Jason Statham comes up for a chat and I’m really made up, being a big fan. He says ‘how you going Keith? Mickey told me all about you.’

Then we had a fantastic night, me, Mickey and Jason Statham. I asked Jason why he never smiles and he said ‘Keith, cos it’d spoil me image, mate.’

It was so bizarre being in the company of these movie stars. I became friends with Mickey and every time he came over I’d go down to London for bites to eat with him.

Read the full story at PlayersVoice