HOLLYWOOD star Mickey Rourke flew in to see Crusaders start the new season in winning form.

The Wrexham-based rugby league club opened their Super League campaign with a convincing 42-12 victory over Salford City Reds.

American actor Rourke, 58, watched yesterday’s match at the Millennium Stadium with boxer Joe Calzaghe and others.

He was in Cardiff to see Crusaders star Gareth Thomas in action as he prepares to portray the former British Lions captain, the first professional rugby player in Britain to come out as gay, in a film.

Rourke told Super League TV: “I am researching, but a little at a time.

“I’m not going to say I can learn something that I know nothing about in a day.

“I’m going to talk to the boys that know the game. We’re not in a hurry to make the movie because we want to make it the right way.”

A former boxer, Rourke is planning a strict fitness regime for when he plays Thomas.

He added: “I’m going to get fit as a fiddle. I’m not going to disrespect the sport.”

Former Great Britain and Crusaders coach Brian Noble has also been signed up by film-makers as an adviser.

Last month Emmanuel Paladino, agent for both Thomas and Noble, told the Leader the plan was for filming to begin at the end of this year. He added: “Mickey has said he wants to see as much of it as possible filmed in Wales.”

Thomas had a quiet game against Salford, despite switching from wing to centre, and was overshadowed on the day by hat-trick hero Michael Witt.

But Crusaders sparkled to ensure a triumphant start to Iestyn Harris’ career as head coach.