GQ: What kinds of clothes make you feel powerful?
Tyson: Pink has a lot to do with it. If I’m wearing pink, I’m not going to have an expression like you want to talk to me. ’Cause when I have on pink, I’m very serious. Pink makes me very masculine.
Tyson: I almost want to fight in those clothes. Those clothes make me want to fight a little.
GQ: Do you shop a lot?
Tyson: When I have the time to do it! [Laughs.] But I’m not a healthy shopper. I’m a guy, I might buy something, ten years ago and never wear it.
I have a Versace Marilyn Monroe James Dean shirt [from the designer’s legendary Spring 1991 Pop Art collection]. I must have worn it five times in twenty years. I used to have all these glass shirts with glass beads and everything–$50,000, $70,000 shirts. [Gianni Versace] made me feel so masculine and strong.
GQ: Can you tell me about the experience of making the film?
Tyson: I was having a good time with it, ‘cause I was being a little lascivious, grabbing my crotch and all that stuff. I had a good time! It was all done in fun.
Puglisi: It was great because he knew just what to do. I told him, I don’t want you to act, I want you to be Mike Tyson. There is something pure in Mike Tyson and I like it. There is something really pure in this champion, and I wanted it to come out.
Someone like Mike Tyson is like Andy Warhol–you cannot tell him what to do. You just have to be a good photographer or director to catch that essence. There was a moment where he started to style himself–putting his shirt inside his underwear. It was so elegant, and so elegant, and it reminded me of Pablo Picasso.
When I saw Mike Tyson, I started doing this [he shakes his hands with disbelief]. I had the same effect meeting Jeff Koons at the Met Gala. I have never felt about other artists what I feel for Mike Tyson and Jeff Koons. There is something familiar between Jeff Koons and Mike Tyson.
Tyson: Jeff Koons is the man!
GQ: Wow, that’s great. Can you say more about what they share?
Puglisi: The people that really give me the sense like when you look at the Coliseum in Rome, you feel powerful, but you feel so small. Mike Tyson and Jeff Koons.
Mike Tyson gives me so much excitement. This is America for me: it’s about second chances, third chances. He’s about curiosity, about mixing cultures. A place like America doesn’t exist anywhere. He is a representation of this possibility to be reborn, reborn, reborn!
GQ: Mike, how does it feel to be described as an icon in those terms?
Tyson: I don’t know. I just know one thing: I want to be up more than anybody wants me to be down. And I refuse to be down.
This interview has been edited and condensed.