A very young Iron Man and Iron Mike in 1986. Robert Downey Jr. with Mike Tyson are caught in a photo they’d both laugh at today.
BlackBook talked to director James Toback about Tyson, his new documentary on the heavyweight boxer. During the interview they also talk about Toback’s 1999 film Black and White about a documentary filmmaker played by Brooke Shields who follows a group of white kids as they try to fit in with Harlem’s black Hip-Hop crowd.
Toback discusses an impromptu scene between Robert Downey, Jr. and Mike Tyson:
“When Mike got out of prison, I told him I was starting this movie called Black and White, which I was going to collaborate with the Wu-Tang Clan. He got all excited and wanted to do it. Downey had also just gotten out of rehab or jail. My intuition is that interesting people are more interesting right after they have suffered. It opens them up even further. I felt that both of them would be very good in the movie and good together.
I asked Downey what he wanted to play, and he said, ‘Why don’t I play the gay husband of Brooke Shields?’ I said, ‘Good. Why don’t you play the gay husband of Brooke Shields who hits on Mike Tyson?’ It only occurred to Downey at the last minute to ask whether I had told Mike that he was going to hit on him. I said, ‘No.’ Downey said, ‘What if he gets angry?’ I said, ‘I would assume he would.’ He said, ‘How far do you want me to take it?’ I said, ‘Take it until he responds in the extreme.’
Downey responded, ‘What if he kills me?’ I said, ‘Well, I haven’t thought about that. I think it’s unlikely—no better than a 5% chance. But, at the rate you’re going, you’re going to end up dying in the parking lot of a motel in Culver City. So what would be better … that or dying like this?’ Downey cracked up and proceeded to provoke Mike at great lengths to smack him, choke him, slam him on the ground, and call him a ‘cum drinker.'”