Please update your flash player...

Interview with Spike Lee

Spike Lee interview

HBO

How did 'The Undisputed Truth' come to be?

Spike Lee

A good friend of mine, Kerwin DeVonish, called me up. "Spike," he said, "I just saw Mike Tyson." I said, "Doing what?" He said, "He was on stage & it was amazing." I called Mike and we brought it to Broadway last summer. We ran for 12 performances, and they took it on the road. From the very beginning I knew I wanted HBO to do it.

HBO

How did the show change for Broadway?

Spike Lee

There was a lot of stuff in the original show. It had a band, it had a singer. But it was in Las Vegas, so we had to take the Vegas out. We stripped it down.

HBO

Is this Mike Tyson's whole story?

Spike Lee

Mike doesn't have one story. And Mike's story is not done. I would not be surprised if there is a chapter two, a sequel to this stage production. You might think you know Mike Tyson, but you really don't.

HBO

Was there anything challenging about working with Mike?

Spike Lee

There has not been one challenging thing about working with him. I love Mike Tyson. I mean, we are Brooklyn. He grew up in Brownsville; "Never Ran, Never Will." I grew up in Fort Greene. And in fact, people don't know this: Mike Tyson was born in Cumberland Hospital. You know who else was born there? Ask me.

HBO

Who else was born there?

Spike Lee

Albert King, Bernard King, Mike Tyson, and Michael Jordan, all born in my neighborhood in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

HBO

When did you first meet Mike?

"[Mike] just wants to share his life. When he comes on the stage, he is naked. He just bares his soul clean."

Spike Lee

I met Mike in 1986, after my film, 'She's Gotta Have It,' came out. I was walking up Myrtle Avenue, and he was driving a Rolls--Royce. Driving it badly. Look, we are both from Brooklyn. There is a bond there. We're just two Brooklyn kids.

HBO

What do you think people will take away from the film?

Spike Lee

We, as human beings, put people in a box and are not open-minded. We see someone do something and think, "All right, that's what they can do, and that's it." But Mike Tyson is not like that. And I think the people who saw the show are amazed by Mike. He is an actor. He is an entertainer. And the show is funny as hell, but there are some parts of the show that are really deep. He has had the highest highs and the lowest lows. He is a survivor.

As he says in the play, he's domesticated now. His beautiful wife wrote this. Let's give Kiki some love. She can write. Mike is a family man now and he wants to share. The same fervor that he had coming to the ring -- "I don't want to give people a show where they were disappointed" -- that's the way he is on stage too.

HBO

What was it like working with Mike as an actor?

Spike Lee

Mike is the most -- I am gonna go with a sports term here -- he is the most coachable actor I have ever worked with. That's from Cus D'Amato. You don't have to tell Mike two times, "Mike, can you do this?" He does it. What Mike Tyson does on stage is, for me, amazing. He had no formal training, but he is honest. The courage it takes for a boxer to get in the ring, Mike brings that courage to the stage. He is not holding back. Very few people could get on stage and tell an audience about all the fucked--up things they have done. I can't do that&I'd be embarrassed! You'd be embarrassed. Most people watching this at home would be embarrassed too. He doesn't care. He is beyond that. He just wants to share his life. When he comes on the stage, he is naked. He just bares his soul clean.

HBO

Where does that openness come from?

Spike Lee

Look, when you have been to the bottom at some point, you say, "Fuck it. What's gonna happen to me? I can't get any lower." In a lot of ways, that's like freedom. He is free! He don't give a fuck. What's he gonna lose? The man had $400 million, lost it all. Not a red cent, not a wooden nickel, nothing, nada. And he is the happiest now he has ever been! Think about that.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

HBO Films

Features and Interviews