Bassett brilliantly documented Turner’s rise to fame while engulfed in an abusive relationship with Ike Turner. She recently revealed that it was her most challenging role as an actor.
Angela Bassett says starring Tina Turner was her most challenging role
Prior to Bassett’s role in What’s Love Got To Do With It, she’d already made a name for herself as a serious method actor, being able to transition into the characters. But becoming the iconic Turner proved to be the most difficult and challenging role of her career, even present day.
When asked by People Magazine’s new podcast People Every Day what role was her hardest, Bassett didn’t hesitate to say Turner.
“Definitely, nothing has been as difficult as Tina Turner,” she declared. “Nothing as difficult physically, emotionally, spiritually, vocally. Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
Bassett added that she knew the role could solidify her as an actor and be a gamechanger for her career, telling PEOPLE, “I thought that if I were to get [the part], it would be one of those movies that would cement my face with my name because I was always that actor that was struggling going to auditions or doing guest spots on weekend television shows,” she said. “Whatever happens, whether it works or whether it doesn’t, you’ve got to be memorable.”
Preparation for the film proved to be rigorous. Bassett told The Oklahoman in a 1993 interview that ahead of her audition, a casting director provided her with a compilation video of Turner’s performances, which Bassett watched and studied repeatedly to get her technique down. Once she landed the role, more work was required.
“Basically, I had 30 days before we started principal photography,” she said. “I worked six, sometimes seven days a week, two, two and a half hours a day. Add to that five to six hours of learning to do dance routines for the movie.”
Angela Bassett’s portrayal of Tina Turner received critical acclaim
Bassett’s hard work paid off. The film was released in June 1993 and critics immediately praised Bassett’s performance.
A Variety review of the film notes Bassett’s shine, with the reviewer writing: “Nothing in Bassett’s earlier repertoire suggested the consummate skill she brings to this star-is-born role. It’s a full-bodied, nuanced performance. While her physical resemblance to the subject is glancing, Bassett’s turn is one of the most convincing fictional embodiments of a living performer.”
Bassett was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Though she did not win, she did take home the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture.
Bassett would later admit to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live that she felt she deserved the Academy Award for her role. Cohen shared a comment from a fan who said that Bassett should have won the Oscar. “Yeah, me too,” Bassett responded laughing.