Standing toe-to-toe with Mike Tyson is not as scary as it sounds. Iron Mike has padded out around the waist since he retired from the ring and is now soft-spoken and gentle. He walks slowly but surely and although the lisp is still there everything he says is measured.
Cannes are used to stars but no one could have expected the reaction which greeted the retired boxer when he entered the cinema before the screening of James Toback’s documentary about him, Tyson. In a departure from normal etiquette the Cannes crowd gave him a five-minute standing ovation just for being there.
The boxer disappeared as soon as the curtain opened and the candid documentary did not disappoint the expectant crowd. The next day Tyson reappeared in a hotel room and spoke about why he decided to reveal all to Toback.
RT: Did the fact that you’d known director James Toback and had appeared in his film Black and White help you decide to make this documentary?
Mike Tyson: That made it pretty easy, yes.
RT: What did you think of the final film?
MT: I haven’t watched the movie; it’s too personal for me. I might watch it one day in my room, but I don’t know when.
RT: Are you a fan of cinema?
MT: I like horror movies. Nightmare on Elm Street is my favourite. I even get scared a little bit watching horror.
RT: Do you watch boxing films?
MT: I watch boxing movies as well. Gentleman Jim starring Errol Flynn is my favourite. Raging Bull is a good film as well although Toback thinks it’s s**t.
RT: This film forced you to think back on your life. Do you have any regrets?
MT: There are not many regrets that I have. There are a few things that I wish I’d changed in my life, but they are not so dramatic that I’d go out of my way to change them. But I go back and think about my life so far periodically in my head.
RT: What was the high point of your career?
MT: I never look at a high point in my career. Everyone thinks about the Spinks fight, but that fight only lasted 91 seconds, so it’s hard to say it defined my career.
RT: What was the hardest part of making this film?
MT: Hardest part was going back and doing retakes. I was in rehab and sometimes the guys wouldn’t let me go, it was against my curfew so I had to explain and talk to them and say I had to do retakes.
RT: Why do this documentary now?
MT: I didn’t have a reason. James said lets do this movie and I never really thought that it would make me seem like a better person to the world. I don’t know, in the United States I don’t think that if I won a Nobel peace prize that it would change how I’m viewed.
RT: Will you get involved in boxing again?
MT: I’m not getting involved in boxing at all, at least at this point in my life.
RT: What’s it like watching yourself box?
MT: I hate it because even though people see the knockouts, I see all the mistakes that I’ve made. Sometimes I have my hand down low, or I don’t move my head and if the opponent wasn’t intimidated then maybe they could have beaten me. If I was fighting myself, I always say that I would kill Mike Tyson but then again I don’t know how hard a punch Mike Tyson can take and I don’t know how hard Mike Tyson’s punch is. I don’t know. For me looking at me, I think I can beat me.