Some lives are so unbelievable that they are hard to understand until they are turned into a movie. One of these undeniably fascinating lives is that of world famous boxer, Mike Tyson. His story is being prepped to take center stage in a feature film, as director Martin Scorsese (Silence) has been quietly developing a biopic of the embattled athlete. The movie is expected to cover his teenage years through his adult life, and the Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx (Ray) is already committed t0 the starring role.
There has been little talk about the project as of late, though in our interview for the upcoming thriller Sleepless, Foxx opened up about the future biopic. He explained that his passion for bringing Tyson’s story to life came from a friendship formed after he imitated the champion during a stand-up routine, over twenty-five years ago. That uneasy beginning has given Foxx keen insight into Tyson’s psyche and he shared what he hopes to capture about the legendary pugilist in the upcoming biopic:
“I started hanging out with Mike Tyson at twenty-one years old…So I watched his life from that vantage point. I watched his life go [up and down]. Then, I’m sitting with Mike Tyson when we go to pitch the idea, and the difference of Mike Tyson at that time was, when I called him to ask how’s he doing—voice changed, different demeanor, and this is what we wanna capture in the movie. ‘Mike, how you feelin’?’ ‘All praise to Allah, my brother, I’m happy, how are you?’ I said, ‘I’m great man, how are you?’ ‘I’m just happy.’ I said, ‘Why are you happy?’ ‘Cause I don’t have any money no more.’ I said, ‘What?’ ‘I don’t have any money anymore.’ I said, ‘Why are you happy about that?’ ‘It’s cause nobody takes anything from me now. I’m clean, I’m free, no more vultures, no more people in my life trying to take anything. All praise to Allah, my brother, I’m happy.’
“That person is what we want to capture on the screen; the nuance of him. The person who not only lost money, lost his child, but gained this sort of respect now, that when we see him he’s almost like an elder statesmen in a sense. So it’s still in the works, but that’s gonna something that we really take our time and walk it down.”
Tyson was a troubled youth whose unbridled aggression was channeled into becoming one of the most unstoppable forces ever to step into the boxing ring. He went on to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history at only twenty years old while cementing his status as one of the most feared boxers in history. However, his meteoric rise was equaled by his spectacular fall, which included bankruptcy, a felony prison sentence, face tattoos, drug addiction, and ultimately redemption.
Scorsese is currently prepping to shoot The Irishman, which will reunite Robert Deniro and Al Pacino. The director plans on using motion capture technology to digitally de-age the actors so that they can perform as their characters at different ages. It’s uncertain whether or not he will employ a similar technique for the Tyson film, though it would make sense considering the time frame it covers.
There are few actors better suited than Foxx to pull off a performance of Tyson that doesn’t fall into parody or a cheap impersonation. Hopefully, Foxx and Scorsese can use his friendship and intimate, behind-the-scenes knowledge to create another iconic boxing film.
There currently is no set release date for the Mike Tyson biopic.