Hulu announced the production of a limited scripted series about Mike Tyson during its presentation at the Television Critics Association winter tour. And Tyson himself is angry that other people are telling his story.
The eight-episode series will be titled Iron Mike and is being developed by the creative team behind 2017’s Tonya Harding biopic I, Tonya. Screenwriter Steven Rogers created the concept for the series, while Craig Gillespie will direct each episode. Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap production company are executive-producing the project. Karin Gist (Mixed-ish) will be the showrunner and executive producer.
However, Tyson isn’t impressed by the producers’ previous work. He believes he should be the one to tell his story and spoke out against Hulu’s series soon after it was announced.
— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) February 25, 2021
“Hulu’s announcement to do an unauthorized miniseries of my life, although unfortunate, isn’t surprising,” Tyson said in a statement sent to media outlets and posted on Instagram. “This announcement on the heels of social disparities in our country is a prime example of how Hulu’s corporate greed led to this tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of my life story.
“To make this announcement during Black History Month only confirms Hulu’s concern for dollars over respect for Black story rights. Hollywood needs to be more sensitive to Black experiences especially after all that has transpired in 2020. My authorized story is in development and will be announced in coming days.”
It should be noted that Gist is Black and has worked to tell Black experiences in her work on shows such as Mixed-ish and Star, in addition to previous writing work with Black characters on Girlfriends, Grey’s Anatomy, and House of Lies.
Yet Tyson is apparently objecting to the production team not being suitably representative to tell his story. That could be a valid criticism. (And it’s probably also valid to point out that this post is not being written by a Black writer who might offer a different take on this.)
According to Hulu, Iron Mike “will explore the wild, tragic and controversial life and career of heavyweight champion Mike Tyson – one of the most polarizing figures in sports culture.”
With that description, the series will presumably chronicle Tyson’s fast rise as a boxing sensation, leading to him winning a heavyweight title at just 20 years old. He had a three-year reign as undisputed heavyweight champion — holding the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles — before losing to Buster Douglas in 1990.
But Tyson’s downfall is also a major part of his story, and the series is likely to cover that.
Former wife Robin Givens accused him of domestic abuse during the marriage. In 1992, he was convicted of rape and sentenced to six years in prison. Upon being released on parole after three years, Tyson jumped back into the ring and regained the WBA and WBC championships. Then there was the infamous 1997 fight against Evander Holyfield, during which Tyson bit off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear.
The Holyfield incident might particularly appeal to the satirical tone Rogers and Gillespie took with I, Tonya. While the filmmakers didn’t shy away from the realities of Harding’s upbringing and organized attack on Nancy Kerrigan, the movie often took a comedic approach to the story and made the controversial figure skater a sympathetic figure.
Will the series also cover Tyson becoming an accepted pop culture figure, appearing in films like The Hangover, starring in a one-man show on Broadway, and being featured in an animated series, Mike Tyson Mysteries? Tyson’s life provides a whole lot of material, which might be why Iron Mike is slated for eight episodes.
In addition to the project Tyson says he’s developing, Hulu’s series may also be in a race against a biopic starring Jamie Foxx that’s been in the works for nearly seven years. According to Foxx, that film is finally happening and he’s getting in proper shape to portray Tyson. But no director is currently attached to the movie and it’s not clear whether the script written by Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire, The Wolf of Wall Street) is still being used for the production.
Such competition to reach an audience first could be the story for another documentary or miniseries someday.