‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’: Ike Turner Gave Laurence Fishburne This Advice For Playing Him On Screen

The 1993 biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It tells the story of Tina Turner and Ike Turner’s tumultuous marriage, and her eventual escape and rise to global superstardom. Both Ike and Tina were involved with the production of the film, with Tina spending one-on-one time with breakout actor Angela Bassett.

Ike Turner
A 1965 promotional portrait of Ike Turner holding an acoustic guitar | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ is about Ike and Tina Turner’s abusive marriage

Tina and Ike Turner got married in 1962 when she was the lead singer in his band. They began touring the country — and eventually other parts of the world — as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, performing with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, and more.

Tina Turner married rock musician Ike Turner in 1962 when she was a young singer in his band. They touring as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and performed with the likes of The Rolling Stones and other famous groups. 

Behind the scenes, however, Ike physically, verbally, and sexually abused Tina throughout their 16-year marriage. Ike was also unfaithful at points during their relationship.

Ike Turner & Laurence Fishburne
Ike Turner & Laurence Fishburne | Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Laurence Fishburne played Ike Turner in ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’

Laurence Fishburne was an established actor by the early 1990s, but playing Ike Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It would become one of his breakout roles. To this day, it remains his only nomination for an Academy Award.

Fishburne was tasked with portraying every part of Ike Turner’s personality, from his usually amiable exterior to his sinister fits of anger directed at Tina.

According to a 1993 interview with the New York Times, Fishburne took it upon himself to edit the script and give Ike’s character more dimension than a simple evil villain. Bassett said “He saved Ike. Salvaged it. Lifted it. We had to add so much. Reading the script it was just Ike, devil. Tina, silent saint. That’s kind of boring and dumb. He brought out Ike’s dignity. He wasn’t into making an evil Black male stereotype.”

Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne
Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, 2006 | Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Tina Turner Left Her Abusive Husband Ike Turner on This Holiday

Ike Turner gave Laurence Fishburne advice for playing him

While Tina Turner spent time with Angela Bassett to ensure she captured her spirit on screen, Ike Turner had minimal interaction with Fishburne. In the behind-the-scenes documentary The Making of ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’, Fishburne described one day when Ike came to the set where they were filming.

“I did have a brief conversation [with Ike],” Fishburne said. “It was great. He was really charming and a very gregarious kind of individual.”

The Matrix actor went on to describe the small piece of advice Turner gave him to play him on screen. “He said, ‘What are you doing?'” Fishburne recalled. “I said, ‘I’m trying to be you.’ He said, ‘Well, do a good job.'”

“It was nice to meet him,” Fishburne said in a 1993 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Regardless of his actions, he was so much a part of Tina’s life. The movie is about him just as much as her. It’s unfortunate that he wasn’t welcomed, that both of them weren’t around more.”