Raised in Chicago by his divorced mother, Michael Rooker lived a hand-to-mouth existence until his teens. Rooker successfully auditioned for the Goodman School, and upon graduation, appeared in Chicago-area stage productions. He made a spectacular film debut in the sociopathic title role of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which was filmed in 1986 but not given a general release until four years later. Henry established Rooker as a gifted purveyor of "don't screw with me" roles, such as chief "Black Sox" conspirator Chick Gandil in Eight Men Out (1988). Michael Rooker's more rugged film assignments of the 1990s included Cliffhanger (1993) and Tombstone (1994).