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Mike Tyson, Tye Sheridan hope 'Asphalt City' gives paramedics their due

Mike Tyson, seen with daughter Milan Tyson, plays an EMS Chief in "Asphalt City." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Mike Tyson, seen with daughter Milan Tyson, plays an EMS Chief in "Asphalt City." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

LOS ANGELES, March 29 (UPI) -- Boxing veteran Mike Tyson and Tye Sheridan said they hope their new movie, Asphalt City, in theaters Friday, makes people appreciate the depth of emergency medical services' work.

Tyson, 57, who plays EMS Chief Burroughs, said he heard many stories of patients who clinically died until paramedics resuscitated them.

"They never receive that credit," Tyson told UPI in a recent Zoom interview, calling paramedics "very underestimated people."

Sheridan, 27, plays Ollie, a rookie paramedic who rides with veteran Gene (Sean Penn). Sheridan said he agreed paramedics should be valued and appreciated more, and that the public misunderstands them.

"They're human beings," Sheridan said of paramedics. "They need to be supported by the community, by society, and I don't think that they have the support that they deserve."

Tye Sheridan plays a rookie paramedic in "Asphalt City." File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI
Tye Sheridan plays a rookie paramedic in "Asphalt City." File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI

Asphalt City shows Ollie and Gene on some very dramatic calls. On one, a woman gives birth while overdosing on heroin. On another, a violent boyfriend hinders their ability to treat his girlfriend.

"They're showing up consistently for people at their worst moments," Sheridan said. "To carry that burden through life and the weight of that responsibility takes a really special human being."

Chief Burroughs (Mike Tyson) holds his EMS team together. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions
Chief Burroughs (Mike Tyson) holds his EMS team together. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions

Tyson said he found that most paramedics have no illusions about receiving thanks, observing that most resign themselves to the nature of the job.

"You see a lot of bad stuff and you don't go home expecting a hero's welcome," Tyson said. "I realized you normally don't go home happy."

Ollie (Tye Sheridan) sees some harrowing situations on the job. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions
Ollie (Tye Sheridan) sees some harrowing situations on the job. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions

The cast of Asphalt City received training led by Wyckoff Heights Medical Center EMS director Eric Cardamome. Sheridan said he rode with ambulances three or four nights per week for two months, though never saw anything worse than Asphalt City depicted.

"Then we were spending time in a classroom environment learning how to do CPR, learning how to intubate, learning how to give people IVs," Sheridan said. "We couldn't have been as authentic without them."

Gene (Sean Penn, L) shows Ollie (Tye Sheridan) the ropes. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions
Gene (Sean Penn, L) shows Ollie (Tye Sheridan) the ropes. Photo courtesy of Vertical/Roadside Attractions

Asphalt City shows how the stresses of the job impact Ollie and Gene's personal lives. Gene is struggling with an ex-wife limiting his contact with their daughter, and the tensions on shift lead Ollie to become physically aggressive with his girlfriend.

"It becomes hard to compartmentalize your professional life and your personal life and not let those things overlap," Sheridan said.

At the hospital, Burroughs sometimes has to stand between hostile patients and his paramedics, or defuse conflicts between his staff members. He said he could relate to maintaining a strong demeanor in the face of hostility.

"People will constantly try you and test you, so you always have to represent yourself as the boss," Tyson said. "He shows as much love as my character would permit."

On the set of Asphalt City at Woodhull Hospital in New York, fans recognized Tyson. He said he joked that they'd have to fight him for a photo or an autograph until he realized people would take him up on the challenge.

"They said, 'Come on,'" Tyson said. "I go, 'No, I'm playing, I'll give you a picture.'"

Tyson said he welcomes people approaching him.

"I love people," he said. "People make you who you are."

However, Tyson did not want to be too recognizable as Chief Burroughs, insisting on covering up his famous facial tattoo to blend into the role.

"I don't want to be Mike Tyson," Tyson said. "If I'm not playing Mike Tyson, I said, 'Cover the tattoo.'"

Tyson has played himself in films like The Hangover, Rocky Balboa, Scary Movie V and Tour de Pharmacy, but has been playing fictional characters regularly for more than a decade.

The first time Tyson played a different character was in the 1989 miniseries The Women of Brewster Place. Produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey and Tyson's then wife, Robin Givens, the TV film gave him a small role as a street thug.

"That's where I think I got the bug," Tyson said.

Sheridan began acting as a teenager in the 2011 Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life. He said he discovered his career on a lark after the casting call in Texas.

"I just happened to be one of these kids that got an invitation and went on a whim," Sheridan said. "My parents said, 'You can always tell people you got to audition for a film one time.'"

After a year of auditions, Malick cast Sheridan, who "became enamored with the whole process" once he was on set. Between Tree of Life and Asphalt City, Sheridan starred in movies such as Mud, Ready Player One and The Card Counter.

Tyson said is considering making an autobiographical movie. But, before his next film, he has another boxing match.

Though he could not provide details on his July fight with YouTuber Jake Paul, 27, beyond Netflix's announcement of the bout on July 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Tyson, who has been fighting exhibitions since his official retirement in 2005, assured boxing fans it would be a legitimate bout. Most recently, Tyson fought Roy Jones Jr. in 2020.

"When me and Jake have our exhibition, that's professional," Tyson said. "Everything I do is professional. There's no amateur quality about me."

Assessing his opponent, Tyson said both he and Paul will find out how tough Paul is once the fight begins.

"Everybody's formidable 'til they get hit," Tyson said.