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Interview with Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson on stage

HBO

How did the idea for 'The Undisputed Truth' come about?

Mike Tyson

My wife Kiki and I were driving down I 15 in Nevada and we saw a billboard for Chazz Palminteri's 'A Bronx Tale.' We saw the show and it was breathtaking. After it was over, I said, "Baby, I believe I can do that." I wanted to tell my story from an artistic point of view, like Mr. Palminteri did. We worked on it. I told my wife about my life openly. Then she started putting her uncanny writing touch to it, and it came together.

HBO

How did Spike Lee get involved?

Mike Tyson

Our show opened up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and somebody that worked with Spike came to see it. Then Spike called me and said, "Mike, I'd like to bring you to Broadway with the show." That happened just right out of the blue. I take for granted sometimes that I know him personally. I am privileged to work with him. It's pretty awesome -- people are taking me seriously because Spike put his name on my show.

HBO

What's it like performing on stage?

Mike Tyson

Cus [D'Amato] always believed you have to be in the best psychological and physical shape in order to actually rise to the occasion. I am always at my best when I am performing. I want to be on stage for the rest of my life, if I could. I am the kind of guy that needs to be at war constantly.

HBO

How is being on stage like being at war?

Mike Tyson

I need the audience to bring out the savage in me -- and not necessarily a physical savage -- but an intellectual savagery that you need on stage to be great. I am able to be successful on stage because I feel the energy of the live audience. I couldn't do this if it was just a film. I like applause. That's all I have ever known my whole life.

HBO

Is your experience on stage comparable to boxing?

Mike Tyson

Acting is a form of boxing. It's all about projecting to your opponent what you want him to believe is the truth.

"In life, I believe it's the fighting spirit that keeps us alive. When you give up fighting, you are prepared to die."

HBO

How did your relationship with Cus affect your life?

Mike Tyson

I am just very grateful that I met him, got to know him and had the opportunity to be able to absorb his experience and knowledge. He had a great impact on me not only as a fighter, but as an individual and as a human dealing with life. I learned to bend. I learned to compromise. I learned not to back down.

No one was capable of piercing his or her message deep into my head, my soul, like Cus was capable of doing. He made me so goal-orientated. I compete like my life is on the line. If I don't succeed, I prefer to die. That's my mentality.

HBO

Now that you're retired from boxing, what's the biggest fight you currently face?

Mike Tyson

To make sure I get my kids to school on time. That's what I work on now.

HBO

What do you hope people take away from the film?

Mike Tyson

People who come to my show, I'm sure they are familiar with my life and what's happened to me since I came on the scene in the early '80s. The fact that I'm on stage performing proves that I have come a long way. Thats really what I am trying to convey to people: that no matter what happens in life, you can overcome it. You don't have to lay down and die. In life, I believe it's the fighting spirit that keeps us alive. When you give up fighting, you are prepared to die.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

HBO Films

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