Rourke will join a pantheon of previous recipients that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane.
'America is all about second chances,' the festival's executive director Roger Durling said. 'And so it's appropriate that the American Riviera Award that always goes to a US actor should be given this year to Mickey Rourke, who has shown us with his performance in The Wrestler to never underestimate a true artist and his power to reinvent himself.'
Fox Searchlight will release the film in the US on December 17. Rourke's credits include Angel Heart, Body Heat, Diner, 9 ½ Weeks, Barfly and Sin City. He will next be seen in Killshot and The Infomers.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is set to run from January 22-February 1.