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The Washington, D.C. Area Critics’ Association got to hobnob with director Darren Aronofsky and actress Marisa Tomei at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown last night, at a prescreening reception to promote The Wrestler, out Dec. 26.

The film is a surprisingly touching story about a washed-up pro wrestler that stars Tomei and an Oscar-worthy Mickey Rourke. Fans of Aronofsky’s, whose previous work includes Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain, may be disappointed to find that The Wrestler is…absolutely straightforward. Linear. No trippiness, no confusion. (Drugs, though…there are drugs.)

But it’s a stellar movie, a standout in a year that’s seen far too few. Here are a few fun facts from the postfilm Q&A:

Bruce Springsteen, a friend of Rourke’s, wrote and performed the film’s closing-credits song for free.

—The screenplay is by former Onion editor-in-chief Robert D. Siegel.

—Aronofsky says he chose Rourke because he’s “kind of into actors that are a surprise.”

—Rourke, gruff, burly, and with his peroxide-blond locks in a hair net, served actual customers in scenes that show Randy working at a supermarket deli counter (which accounts for the shoppers’ mostly befuddled and somewhat amused expressions).

—Aronofsky chose to frequently shoot Rourke from behind because his mentor, The Pope of Greenwich Village director Stuart Rosenberg, told him that “Mickey is so expressive with his back.”

—Tomei was instructed to text the director when she decided whether she wanted the role of Randy’s love interest, a stripper named Cassidy: “rock ‘n’ roll” meant yes, “easy listening” meant no.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper gave the film his blessing, after standing up at a screening and scaring the crap out of Aronofsky and Tomei with a brusquely stammered, “What you guys did…I don’t know where you did your research…”

—When one audience member said that he’s never touched drugs because he saw Requiem for a Dream when he was 14, Aronofsky replied, “I’m really, really sorry about that. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Photos courtesy of Nell “Movie Mom” Minow.

Aronofsky and WAFCA's Kevin McCarthy

Tomei with WAFCA's Nell Minow