This past weekend, Mike Tyson appeared in the film new “Meet The Blacks.” Rather than summarize the movie myself, here’s the synopsis from IMDb, which I don’t think I could improve on (the bolding is mine):
The Black family is getting out of Chicago in hopes of a better life. After Carl Black (Mike Epps) comes into some unexpected funds, he takes his family and leaves the hustling lifestyle behind for something better. Carl, his new wife Lorena (Zulay Henao), son Carl Jr., daughter Allie Black (Bresha Webb) and cousin Cronut (Lil Duval) pack up and move to Beverly Hills. Turns out, Carl couldn’t have picked a worse time to move. They arrive right around the time of the annual purge, when all crime is legal for twelve hours.
This movie’s plot went from being OK to great in one sentence. That is how you write a movie! Based on a careful analysis of the trailer and credits, Tyson will play James Clown, who appears to be one of the purgers. Why is this important? Well, the role dramatically expands Tyson’s dramatic range. Tyson has usually been cast as “Mike Tyson.”
Here’s a list of the people who most frequently play themselves on the big screen, according to the credits1 listed in the the OpusData database:2
|PERFORMER||FILM CREDITS AS SELF|
|Neil Patrick Harris||4|
|Weird Al Yankovic||4|
|James Earl Jones||3|
|LL Cool J||3|
Tyson shows up seven times! Six are comedies — “Play It To The Bone” (1999), “The Hangover” (2009), “The Hangover Part II” (2011), “Scary Movie V” (2013), “Grudge Match” (2013), and “Entourage” (2015) — and one, “Black and White” (2000), is a drama. You may have noticed: The Tysonaissance really kicked off after “The Hangover.”
The rest of the top tier is dominated by late-night comedy show hosts and news anchors. If you wanted a guy to do an in-universe comedy show, Jay Leno appears to be your man. If you need someone to interview a newsmaking character, it seems like Larry King will pick up the phone and work for scale.
Next down the line is Stan Lee, who is the king of cameos in Marvel movies. If you’re like me, you got mad at this list because Lee only appeared six times despite 24 such cameos in Marvel films. But he was credited as “Stan Lee” or “himself” in just five Marvel movies, as well as in “Mallrats.” Lee’s filmography gets us into some thorny existential questions regarding the existence of in-universe Stans Lee.3 who exist along with a suite of Lee doppelgangers holding various odd jobs across America and also Xandar.4
Following Lee, you’ve got several more daytime or late-night hosts — Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Kurt Loder and Whoopi Goldberg — but also athlete Shaquille O’Neal5 and well-regarded in Germany David Hasselhoff.6 So somehow Tyson has appeared on-screen as himself the most of any person who isn’t on a television show.
In fact, there is a compelling argument to be made that perhaps Tyson is the greatest actor of his generation: Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian director who pioneered a seminal method of acting in the early 20th century, said in “An Actor Prepares”:
Always and forever, when you are on the stage, you must play yourself. But it will be in an infinite variety of combinations of objectives, and given circumstances which you have prepared for your part, and which have been smelted in the furnace of your emotion memory.
Give him this, Tyson has mastered a role in a way that would make Stanislavski proud. Tyson is the best in the business when it comes to playing the character of Mike Tyson. He makes Daniel Day-Lewis look like a real chump when it comes to getting inside this role. He’s definitely aware of his skill set, too: Anyone who has seen Tyson on Adult Swim’s “Mike Tyson Mysteries” can tell he knows where his bread is buttered.
My main regret: I wish the dataset went far enough back to fold Tyson’s preferred presidential candidate Donald Trump into this analysis. They’ve got a really interesting history, to say the least.
Based on the database, Trump has appeared as himself in only “Celebrity” and “Zoolander,” but who can truly forget his stunning performance in “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York.”