Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and legendary filmmaker Spike Lee bring Tyson’s hit one-man stage show to TV in HBO Films’ MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH. Filmed in New York in July, the exclusive HBO presentation debuts SATURDAY, NOV. 16 (8:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT). Raw, honest, powerful and full of humor, the stage production of “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth” features “Iron Mike” recounting his life’s highs and lows in his signature candid style. He opens up about his troubled youth, landmark boxing career, key people in his life, controversies, time in prison, self-examination, family and new beginnings.
“I’m incredibly grateful to HBO for partnering with me and for believing in my story,” says Tyson. “It is an honor and a privilege to be working with them to bring my one-man show, ‘Undisputed Truth,’ to life on the television screen.”
“It was my honor and pleasure to share with Mike Tyson our Broadway debut,” says Lee.
“Mike Tyson’s one-man show is a fascinating journey into his storied life and career, and we are thrilled to have Spike Lee bring it from the stage to the screen for our viewers,” says HBO Programming president Michael Lombardo.
Earlier this year, Tyson wrapped a ten-week U.S. tour of “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth,” which ran on Broadway the previous summer, both directed by Lee. He will perform the show overseas this winter and spring. Tyson performed a similar show that ran in Las Vegas in spring 2012.
Reviewing the stage production, the Los Angeles Times called Tyson “a riveting stage presence with compelling stories to tell” and New York’s Daily News described his show as “entertaining” and “fascinating,” adding that he “is gifted with iron-clad charisma.”
To be published Nov. 12 by Blue Rider Press/Penguin Group, the book “Undisputed Truth,” by Tyson and Larry Sloman, is a first-person account of the elements that have shaped his life.
MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH is executive produced by Spike Lee, Mike Tyson, Kiki Tyson, Jon Kilik and James Nederlander; directed by Spike Lee; written by Kiki Tyson.
Highlights from MIKE TYSON: UNDISPUTED TRUTH:
Tyson begins the film speaking frankly about his tumultuous early life, recalling heartbreaking moments that are essential to understanding his struggles. Raised by a mother who led a street life and struggled with addiction, he didn’t know his father. Though Tyson was told his father was a neighborhood pimp who visited once a year, another man’s name appeared on Tyson’s birth certificate.
“I really don’t know much about my mother,” he says. “I remember her drinking a lot, always angry and fighting. I knew she had dreams of becoming a school teacher. But then she met my father, or the man I was told was my father – the fast-talking, cool-dressing pimp who I always credited with changing the path of my mother’s life. Before long, she was caught up in the street life, which took a heavy toll on her, because at heart she really wasn’t that girl at all. So she drank to cover up the pain. See, I was born with the addictive gene and it still haunts me to this day, ready to creep up on me in my darkest night, ready to rob me of my brightest day.”
Lacking a stable home life, Tyson remembers being raised by the rough streets of Brooklyn, noting, “I came from the gutter, a place where dreams are broken and memories are best forgotten. Welcome to Brownsville. Our motto is ‘Never Run Never Will.’”
He recalls his neighborhood as “the equivalent of being born in Hell…I can still see myself and my friends roaming the streets at all hours day and night. And I hung out with a tough crew of kids, but my street friends were my family, of course. We all knew that no one was going to give us anything. If we wanted anything we’d have to take it, and that’s what we did – a lot.”
Tyson said about his mother and his future, “She never could imagine her boy would make it out of Brooklyn, unless it was in handcuffs or a wooden box.”
Many of Tyson’s street crew ended up in jail, as he did, arrested 38 times by the time he was 12 years old. His time at juvenile detention center was life-changing. While he longed to be in the boxing program there, the coach doubted his commitment and wouldn’t let him join. After Tyson proved his resolve through dedicated training, however, the coach introduced him to Constantino “Cus” D’Amato, who took the young man under his wing and began to shape a career for him.
Most important, D’Amato gave Tyson the home life he’d never had, functioning as a caregiver and offering the structure of a traditional family.
Tyson recalls, “Cus was beautiful. I loved Cus, because I’m a street kid. I didn’t have a mother or father really that close. But he taught me how to read, write. He was very patient with me, he encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on.”
In this nurturing environment, Tyson could focus on boxing, but doubted his skills. D’Amato instilled a strong work ethic and dedication in him, providing guidance with his characteristic tough love and advice.
Tyson recalls, “So one day I’m in Cus’ living room and I’m reading a boxing encyclopedia…great fighters like Sam Lackford, Harry Greib, Jack Britton, Ted ‘The Kid’ Lewis, Willie Pep and the great, legendary Sugar Ray Robinson…you add up all the fights, that’s like 1500 fights. I gave up right there. I said, ‘Cus, I could never be like them, I can’t do this.’
“Then he looked at me in the eye and said [doing an impression of D’Amato], ‘Mike, you gotta read the whole records…We never hear any more about the guys that they knocked out…Know why, Mike? Cause at one point someone knocked them out…But these men you’re reading about, these champs, they never quit. They never got discouraged, you know? And that’s why these [other] guys – their demons will follow them forever, Mike. ‘Cause they had a chance to face their demons and they didn’t…You have to face your demons, you hear me, Mike? ‘Cause if you don’t, they’ll follow you into eternity. And you remember, Mike, be careful how you fight your fights – ‘cause the way you fight your fights, will be the way you’ll live your life.’ Then I never quit again.”