It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time for Marlene (Mrs. Jerry) when movie director Darren Aronofsky made a spur-of-the-moment decision to cast her in his latest film, "The Wrestler," starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. Her only previous acting experience was as a teenager when she had the lead in her high school play.
"The Wrestler" is the story of Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a 1980s pro wrestler out to reclaim lost glory. Robinson suffers a heart attack during a match, and his doctor warns him to give up smoking, cocaine and wrestling.
Filming took place at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Rahway, NJ where Marlene was working as an intensive/critical care nurse. Initially, she was brought in to help the prop people make the set appear more realistic. But then Aronofsky had the idea to use two real nurses in a scene where Randy "The Ram" Robinson (played by Rourke) becomes a combative patient.
Marlene recruited her colleague, Maryann, and together the two medical professionals essentially played themselves in a scene in which they restrain and sedate "The Wrestler." Their performance drew applause from the cast and crew and created an ongoing stir around the workplace. The nurses-turned-actresses were later featured in a nursing journal.
On October 12, Marlene and a group from the hospital got a chance to see the finished product at the New York Film Festival in Lincoln Center. Marlene's reaction was somewhat Shakespearean.
"Much ado about nothing," she said after the entire hubbub surrounding her debut on the big screen. "The movie only showed my hands injecting him with Diprivan, but you could clearly hear Maryann calling my name to come and help."
"The Wrestler" won the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in September and will be in theaters in December.