Hong Kong’s quasi-historical/biographical action film series Ip Man is about to get what would have to be considered the most unlikely of supporting stars. That’s because it’s being reported that notorious boxing legend, Mike Tyson will join the cast of the upcoming third film in the series alongside star Donnie Yen. Yet, as peculiar as that sounds, the casting only gets even odder. Apparently, Tyson and Yen will be joined by a third wheel who has transcended this mortal coil in Bruce Lee. Yes, that Bruce Lee. But at the same time… not.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ip Man series producer Raymond Wong confirms that former boxing champ Mike Tyson will jump on board the upcoming Ip Man 3 for a "significant role" that could likely lead to an "explosive" fight between Tyson and Donnie Yen that will pit the discipline of boxing against kung-fu. However, the film will also be graced by one of the real life Ip Man’s former students in the late, great Bruce Lee… by way of onscreen digital magic that will reproduce the iconic martial artist’s image, allowing him to return in a way never before conceived.
Mike Tyson’s involvement with the project began in an oddly fortuitous way when the boxing great opened an account on a Chinese blog site called Weibo, and posted messages asking about the best fighters in China. The name Donnie Yen would come up and soon enough, and those threads would grab the attention of Raymond Wong - who got in touch with Tyson and pitched the idea for Ip Man 3 pitting him in an epic onscreen battle of styles with Donnie Yen. The idea seemed to gel with the face tattoo-brandishing bruiser, and he has taken the role. In fact, Tyson has expressed his enthusiasm in a statement saying, "Wait for me, I am coming. Thank you for introducing me to Chinese kung fu."
The clash of styles is actually not something new to the film franchise. In fact, 2010’s Ip Man 2 had its own proverbial "Apollo Creed/Ivan Drago" moment when Ip Man’s former rival, Hung Chun-nam (former star of TV’s Martial Law, Sammo Hung), steps into the ring with a British boxer (Darren Shahlavi) who dishonored Chinese and kung-fu culture. Sadly, he is killed in the ring by the pugilist. Ip Man challenges him to a similar in-ring, cross-discipline fight that becomes an intense, mind-blowing devastating donnybrook. Now, imagine this fight with Mike Tyson instead of old-timey, Marquess of Queensberry McGee, and you can see how the possibilities are more than intriguing.
As far as the threequel’s other notable new addition, it is unknown just how much of a role the digitally-resurrected Bruce Lee will have in the film. In the end of Ip Man 2, whose storyline takes place in the early 1950’s, a kid who we learn is a young Bruce Lee, inspired by Ip Man’s Wing Chun style, seeks him out, asking to be taught how to deal with people he doesn’t like. He is told to come back when he is older, clearly teasing the third film. Yet, quick cameos are one thing, but it’s hard to imagine a digital fabrication (even if it’s Bruce Lee) having a central role in the film. It might be a bit sacrilegious to take the role too far.
Regardless, Ip Man 3 with Mike Tyson and digital Bruce Lee is set to release in 3D sometime in the first quarter of 2016. In the very least, it will be one Tyson fight from which Don King won’t get a piece.