As this year's Best Actor race begins to winnow down toward a Mickey Rourke/Sean Penn face-off, Rourke has cleverly masked his one misstep—calling a journalist a "faggot"—by casting texted aspersions toward his rival.

The Daily Beast reports that Rourke has been talking down Penn's Milk performance all month—a crusade that has culminated in an accusatory text written wholly in Courtney Love-ian hierogylphics.

After his December 23 appearance on David Letterman, Rourke told someone backstage that he was surprised that so many people seemed to think that Penn was his Oscar competition since “I’m not even sure he’ll get a nomination.”

On December 28, a Los Angeles entertainment honcho shared a text message that Rourke had sent him: “Look seans an old friend of mine and i didnt buy his performance at all—thought he did an average pretend acting like he was gay besides hes one of the most homophobic people i kno" [sic]

“It’s a shame,” says one veteran Hollywood lawyer. “Mickey should be looking at this as a once in a career chance for a fresh start. But dumping on Penn is not going to win him any friends. It’s not the way to get Oscar votes.”

Perhaps, but it does dovetail nicely with the recent criticism Penn faced for palling around with anti-gay world leaders. Can Rourke withstand the accusations to open a new front against Penn, or will the combined might of aggrieved Daily Beast readers and a terribly miffed Raul Castro thwart his attempted Ram Jam?

[Photo Credit: AP]