April 27, 2010 11:01 PM

Iron Man 2’s hardbodied star Mickey Rourke has a well-known soft spot for dogs, but recently his heart was won over by a cockatoo – so much so that he got his feathered friend a part in the superhero sequel.

Rourke – who in 2009 famously thanked his dogs when he won an Independent Spirit Award and publicly mourned his beloved Chihuahua mix Loki – first suggested to director Jon Favreau that his villainous character Whiplash have a pet to help humanize him, and eventually found himself working with a quirky choice: a white cockatoo named Elvis.

The actor was so taken with his onscreen pal that during a break in filming he purchased an identical bird that he named Sonny. When Rourke returned to shoot more sequences, Sonny was flown in to assume the role of Whiplash’s companion.

“We switched it on the set and then we made a scene about switching the bird,” Favreau said. “That was really Mickey’s bird. Marvel likes to cut costs where they can!”

Rourke had been occasionally spotted around town with Sonny on his shoulder, but the parrot fell ill before Iron Man 2’s big Los Angeles premiere.

“Now I have Sonny, and he’s sick on me. While I’m here, he’s in New York all alone in the hospital,” a worried Rourke told PEOPLE on the red carpet. “He wasn’t receiving enough vitamins, and so he had a vitamin deficiency and he fainted the other day. So he’s in the bird hospital. You could say a prayer for Sonny.”

Sonny’s co-stars are hoping Rourke’s pal pull through – he made a big impression on Robert Downey, Jr., too. “I don’t know why the parrot is not on the movie poster.”

Read more about Mickey Rourke and his love of animals on PEOPLEPets.com:
Mickey Rourke & His Family of Little Dogs
Comeback King Mickey Rourke Thanks His Dogs

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