Pop Culture

Mike Tyson jokingly threatens to bite TV critics

Frederick M. Brown / Today
Mike Tyson speaks onstage during the "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" panel at the HBO portion of the 2013 summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

Mike Tyson's highly successful Las Vegas and Broadway one-man show, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth," has been filmed by HBO for an upcoming film directed by Spike Lee. In it, the former heavyweight champion of the world opens up about everything--his troubled youth, his boxing career, his family and other relationships, his time in prison, and key things he's learned about himself throughout his life.

To perform on the stage, Tyson said he gets into the mindset of an actor playing a part because, otherwise, he might not be able to handle it.

"What is reckless on the stage is splendor in the ring. And what is sometimes great in the ring is pretty reckless on stage," said Tyson, who appeared with Lee at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Thursday.

"I’m a human being," he continued. "There’s no way I can do my show and really be open and emotionally naked and not feel sorry for myself. I might fall apart on stage. So I have to look at it from that objective. I’m not Mike Tyson. I’m an actor playing Mike Tyson. I’m just portraying this gentleman that went through my life."

Lee became involved with the project after a friend saw the show in Las Vegas last summer and recommended it to him. Lee contacted Tyson and helped him take the show to Broadway, and then to HBO. Tyson's wife, Kiki, wrote the script. The film will air on HBO sometime later this year, executives said.

Lee said he was drawn to the show because of Tyson's honesty.

"Most human beings are not going to display dark parts of themselves, the demons they have to the world," Lee said. "That’s just not human instinct. And when you see this and for people who saw the play, he’s out there on this stage naked sharing his experience, his ups and downs to the audience. And it’s traumatic. And to do that, without thinking about whether people are gonna love me or like me or hate me—he doesn't care about that. It’s the most courageous thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t do it and most people couldn’t do it."

Tyson, looking a bit embarrassed, implored everyone in the room: "Guys, please don’t get carried away. There’s no way I’m Charles Manson but I’m never gonna be Mother Teresa either. So don’t be so quick to understand. Don’t get too close. And be careful, I will bite you, as you may know."

Lee assured the journalists covering the event that "Iron Mike" was joking.

Tyson said he was inspired to do the stage show after he saw Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show, "A Bronx Tale." When asked the similarities and differences between boxing and performing on stage, Tyson replied:

"The similarity is I can’t wait to get my hands on the guy, just like I can’t wait to get on stage. The non-similarity is I don’t have to go to the hospital after I perform ... Just like in a fight, I wanted to kill everybody in the room. With my performance, of course."